Christianity through the Eyes of a . . . Muslim?

How do you view Muslims? If you are like many conservatives in America, it’s likely that you see Muslims through stereotypical eyes. That would mean that you don’t really know many—or any—Muslims, but that your perspective is determined by a stereotype that you’ve formed through media exposure, and through conversations with other non-Muslims.

I would guess that many of us view Muslim men as jihadists—heavily armed and hardened fighters beset by a bizarre vision for world dominance. And while these individuals undoubtedly exist in far too large of a number, I would agree with President Obama—please forgive my conservative blasphemy!—that most Muslims are peace-loving people.

Living in a university community, I’ve had the opportunity not only to meet, but also to share meals with several Muslims—and to talk about their cultures. In the eyes of God, no person is good and all are in need of our Savior, but from a human perspective, these are good people. Family oriented. Warm. Inviting. Hospitable. Entirely repulsed by the very thought of terrorism.

In a self-centered existence, all that matters is what we think about them. The love of Christ, however, would compel us to step outside of our own small worlds and into the hearts and minds of “foreigners.” (Actually, we’re foreign to them.)

It would be difficult to provide exact statistics, but I can propose with confidence that a high percentage of Muslims have a highly inaccurate perspective of the Christian faith. Just as it is extremely challenging for us to understand the mindset of a typical Muslim, it may be even more difficult for them to understand us. Here are three reasons why:

  1. Muslim cultures often consider the United States to be a Christian nation. In other words, they see the greed and sexual immorality that run rampant in our country as expressions of the Christian faith.* And while conservative Christians believe that such vices entirely cut against the grain of their beliefs, most Muslims have no way of knowing otherwise.
  2. Western media outlets have more freedom than those in most Muslim nations, but even our media is biased. Can we expect, then, that the limited view of Christianity that most Muslims receive through their highly controlled media outlets to be accurate?
  3. Islam and Christianity are theological enemies. And just as there are Christian apologists who seek to show the true and superior nature of the Christian faith, so too, Muslim apologists and religious leaders seek to invalidate the claims of Christianity. Culturally speaking, these are the people who have a voice in the life of a typical Muslim.

The millions of Muslims scattered across the globe are not our greatest enemies. No, one of the worst foes we face is that of ignorance. How can those who don’t know of the truth and beauty of Christ possibly be saved? And how can those who do know Christ reach the world with His love if they don’t grasp the challenges to their mission? It’s difficult to reach people that you don’t understand; it’s even harder to positively influence those whom you despise. At the very least, we can begin by deliberately pursuing a better understanding of their world.

* I was contacted by a Muslim–Mark–who felt this post was taking a step in a good direction, but that my perspective on this issue was off base. Because of a problem with our comment feature, I am adding some of Mark’s thoughts as an addendum to this post.

“When you say that muslims see ‘greed and sexual immorality that run rampant in our country as expressions of the Christian faith’, you couldn’t be further off base. As muslims, we regard Jesus as one of the most revered prophets. As a matter of fact, Jesus’ name is mentioned in the Quran more often than that of Muhammad’s.

I can assure you that you’d search the world over and still not find a muslim who sees the sins of our American culture as a reflection of Christianity as it was taught by Jesus, peace be upon him. Therein lies the difference between culture and religion.”

Mark would obviously know better than me about this issue. My information came from a friend who interacted with some Muslims in a rural part of the world so it’s entirely possible that someone was ill-informed. I do think, however, that there is a difference between how Muslims view Jesus as opposed to how they view Western Christianity. That being said, I stand corrected and thank Mark for his gracious input.


photo credit: Defence Images via photopin cc