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Sinead O’Connor and Islam; Convert or Revert?

The emerald isle

You probably know the name Sinead O’Connor, especially if you listened to popular music about twenty years ago. She is one of the most popular entertainers from Ireland, a country that produced U2, and Enya, and if you remember, the Irish Rovers. 

For a small country, Ireland has a huge influence on our popular music. Sinead O’Connor is probably best known for her song “Nothing Compares to You” but she has produced a large volume of music, and she is still active with her musical career.

Sinead O’Connor was also famous for her troubled personal life. She searched for meaning in her life, and recently, apparently in 2018, she converted to the religion of Islam. Now she speaks openly and proudly about her new faith, and she wears a conservative hijab, in Ireland. She also denies that her Islamic faith is new to her.

According to Sinead O’Connor, she didn’t convert to Islam, she reverted. She discovered that she was always a Muslim, when she read the Koran, the Muslim holy book. In her own words “I have been a Muslim all my life and I didn’t realize it.”

Reversion to Islam is not a new idea. If you search the words “reversion and Islam” on the internet, you will find many personal stories, and some discussions of the concept. The idea is, we don’t ‘choose and convert’, we ‘discover and surrender.’

If we believe in one triumphant truth, for the whole world, we believe that everyone should accept and surrender. If God is an all-powerful supreme being, and we are tiny and finite, our personal choice is like an insult to God.

Reversion to the universal truth is a popular idea in modern culture. It’s so popular that you can be accused of a hate crime if you disagree. For example, all the modern issues about sexual orientation are supported by the belief that we are what we are because we were determined from birth. Probably our preferences, including the gender that we identify with, were put in us by our genes. When people accept who they were made to be, other people can be accused of hatred, or they are ‘something-phobic’ if they don’t agree.

Today, people don’t choose, they discover and accept. A few years ago, the common belief was that we chose our actions, and we accepted responsibility for all the consequences.

This change in the way we think is not a small thing, it is big enough to be called a ‘sea change.’ Like when a high tide comes in and the whole world changes. For the other side, we have the famous poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley:

“It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”

These two ideas cannot exist peacefully in the same space:

The English poet told us that he was completely responsible for who he was; he chose.

Others tell us they discovered and surrendered.

Did you know that ideas can be like poison for a Christian, and for our churches? We need to know who we are in this world. Did we choose and are we responsible, or is some universal force directing our lives and are we fated to be Christians? I can find both ideas in Christian churches.

In the Bible, I see people choosing, and bringing consequences on themselves. We all know the story about the conversion of a man named Saul, on the road to Damascus. He was blinded by a light and he fell to the ground, and he received a powerful message from Jesus. (Acts chapter 9)

It doesn’t seem that he had a choice, the experience was so dramatic and powerful. Later, when he talked about that great force that changed his life, he said “I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven” (Acts 26: 19).

The change in Saul’s life was so profound that he changed his name to Paul, and went on to write a large part of the New Testament. He is possibly the most influential Christian in history; and he chose. He was not disobedient, when he had the option to say ‘No.’

There are many stories about Jesus recruiting his followers “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). That was a choice, with consequences. The followers also had the option to leave Jesus, they could choose to quit; “Many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him. So Jesus asked the Twelve, ‘Do you want to leave too?’” (John 6: 67)

For a Christian, God offers; and we accept, or we reject. We are the product of choices that we have made, and we each own our consequences.

So, did Sinead O’Connor revert or convert? I don’t want to comment on Islamic theology, since I am not a Muslim. I know that I chose to follow Jesus. I also own every one of my personal failures; I am responsible and I need to be forgiven.

One identifying mark of a Christian is freedom, and I don’t want to lose that. Among Christians, the conversion-reversion argument is two thousand years old:

This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

Galatians 2: 4 and 5

I recommend this freedom in Jesus to everyone, and I hope you know this experience.

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