I have a new phone. My old Motorola still worked well, but it couldn’t accept all the upgrades to the apps loaded onto it; bloatware. My new phone has the capacity, and I am surprised by the huge volume of information that I can get from that small computer in my pocket. I can watch movies, and the news, play video games, or learn a new language, and so much more. When I go to church, I don’t need to carry a Bible; I just click on a Bible app on my phone. There are many of these apps, in most languages, and most are free.
You knew that already, but imagine living in a small town in the conservative Middle East. You belong to the religion of your father, by law, and you can never quit or change to something different. For many the highest education you can achieve is in a Koranic school, where you memorize the holy book. In your lifetime, you might never meet a person who has a different religion than yours, and all life is defined by religion.
And then you get a phone.
If we don’t know this, western culture shouts at the rest of the world. Politics, morals, and entertainment are broadcast in a massive flood, from us to them; and access is cheap and easy. Part of the message is material prosperity. Countries in the Middle East that can pump oil from the ground are wealthy, but other economies are struggling.
Imagine living in a poor area, and watching a Hollywood movie like “Home Alone” where an average middle-class family lives in a large house, with good jobs and material goods, and they decide to go to Paris for Christmas, on a whim. We know that Hollywood exaggerates reality, but imagine the culture shock in that poor place. All your life you have been taught that your religion is supreme and will triumph in the whole world, and then you learn that you are a poor peasant, compared to those unbelievers.
Western culture will shout that message at you, even if it’s not true.
The BBC from Britain sponsored a survey of people in the Arab Middle East, from Morocco in the west, to Iraq in the East.
With high birth rates, and medical care, babies are surviving and growing and populations are mostly young, under thirty. Those populations are being flooded with messages from western culture, and the culture shock is growing. CNN published an article similar to the BBC survey:
- RELATED: 5 signs the Middle East is changing: CNN
So, are Muslims changing? Yes. The whole world is changing, and no-one can isolate themselves from the flood. The environment is changing for Christians, and Hindus, and Communists, and all the rest. No-one can live in a silo anymore; we can’t be isolated and surrounded only by our fellow believers, we are all mixed into one giant human salad whether we like it or not.
I am a Christian, and I believe God makes promises and keeps promises. One promise is “In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations.” (Haggai 2: 6 and 7)
I believe that is happening around us today, and we are just beginning to see it. In parts of the Middle East today, most ‘under thirties’ want to move to another country, and don’t want to be religious anymore. Rejection of the old ways is profound.
No doubt, something new will emerge. We are living in a new world.
Has not the Lord Almighty determined that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing? For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (Habakkuk 2: 13 and 14)
So how are Muslims changing? I believe they are like canaries in a coal mine. Miners looked at the bird in a cage to understand what was happening around them, and we can do the same. If the most conservative and unchanging community in the world is being shaken, the same thing is happening to us all.
I often meet Muslims, and most of them seem to appreciate that I follow Jesus and worship God. In the secular flood, they know that I pray to God; and in personal conversations, I don’t experience much opposition from them. I believe God wants to shine His light into their lives, and most agree.
The Jesus way is one conversation between two people, you and God. I believe a large part of the world is looking for that, in this changing world.
For Christians, the marching orders are the same:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18 to 20)