Very recently, in a “town hall” meeting, a citizen questioned the Prime Minister of Canada, and stated that Islam is not compatible with Christianity. People in the audience booed, and I have since read comments aimed at the citizen, about Fascists and Nazis and intolerant people.
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I know the speaker had one big problem. He is an unsophisticated citizen and he was up against a skilled and sophisticated spin-doctor politician. My advice to anyone who disagrees with a professional politician, is to stay away from the microphone. We can’t compete in their arena.
In the case of the Canadian Prime Minister, the citizen with a grievance became a foil. In literature, that means a mirror. If the citizen can appear to be bumbling and unsophisticated, the politician can look like a shining star of reasonableness, in contrast. The citizen’s concern will never be heard, and no-one will try to understand.
Modern western culture is dominated by sound bites, and insulting put-downs, and bitter arguments. In our times, it’s important to win, and it’s important to understand the other side, just enough to defeat them, and to use them to make yourself look better. Otherwise, their opinions are not useful.
Stay out of that dangerous arena.
So, let’s ask the question here. Is Islam incompatible with Christianity?
We should also identify the question we are not asking. Are Muslim people compatible with Christian people? Yes, we are all human, and our identity is more than the religion that we belong to. “Us” and “them” thinking does not take us to a good place.
Most of my career has been as a trainer or a developer of training programs. In my work, I am a specialist at including learners who don’t speak English very well. It’s a big topic, but one result is that I have many Muslims immigrants in my classes. I have a class tomorrow, and probably at least one learner will be named Mohamed.
I am a Christian, and I know there will be no religious strife in the group. If anything starts trouble, I will stop it immediately. This all goes back to when I started teaching at a University. I was teaching academic English to foreign students, and one class included several women from Saudi Arabia. They wore burqas and veils, and they tried to control me, and intimidate me, and get me fired, for the whole term. They also controlled classroom seating, separating men and women, and they made student presentations into long sermons trying to convert us to their religion.
So, how did this problem end? I learned and I changed.
Those women taught me a valuable lesson. I need to act with authority. I also need to overlook petty things that only annoy me. When they were rude, I learned to ignore them and focus on my work. When they interrupted the business of the class, I said “No, don’t do that.” When I developed that maturity, the problem went away, for me. The women stayed with our program for several months, and other instructors learned the same lesson.
Those women were unusually aggressive and rude and other Muslims in the class were embarrassed by them. They did not speak for everyone in their religion. I have met some rude and radical Christians, and they embarrassed me.
Now, when any trouble starts, I just say “Don’t do that, that’s not why we are here.” And that works every time. The answer comes from me.
So back to the first question. Is Islam incompatible with Christianity?
The persecution of Christians by Muslim radicals is a problem in parts of the modern world. You might be able to read this article before it is deleted, but note that it will probably be taken down soon:
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Without choosing sides, at times, compatibility can be an issue.
The lesson I learned in the classroom still applies. I should know who I am, and I should act with that authority. Islam, and any other religion, is only a collection of individuals like me. Each person is able to think for themselves and to make their own decisions, so we can’t judge all Muslims by the actions of some.
Jesus spoke to each one of us when he said “Come unto me, all you that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matthew 11: 28 and 29)
I believe we are moving into a time in history, when identity will be fluid. The younger generation will decide for themselves, and they will change their minds when they want. The unchanging things we thought we knew, are eroding away. We are moving rapidly into a world where compatibility of groups is not a concern for most people. Maybe that’s why the audience booed in the town hall meeting. The speaker’s ideas were strange to them.
The message of Jesus was ahead of out times, two thousand years ago. He spoke to each one of us, and not to groups and communities. The change starts with me, and I invite anyone else to join.
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3: 13 to 17)