Archive for January, 2015

The Qu’ran vs. Jesus: 18 January

January 18, 2015

The Qu’ran has always been at odds with Jesus. We need to live Jesus’ way

Sebastian Faulks wrote in the Times a while ago, as I have quoted before:

‘With the Koran there are no stories. And it has no ethical dimension like the New Testament, no new plan for life. It says “the Jews and the Christians were along the right tracks, but actually, they were wrong and I’m right, and if you don’t believe me, tough — you’ll burn for ever.” That’s basically the message of the book.’

The claim that Mohammed is the last and greatest prophet is in clear contradiction to the claim that Jesus is the prophet who is more than a prophet, God’s Son. The Qu’ran was written partly to correct or contradict the Jesus of the Gospels.

The opposition is clear.

The Qu’ran is intolerant of mockery.

Jesus accepted people mocking Him. Jesus said ‘Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.’ Jesus taught people to invite more slaps on the cheek!

The Qu’ran’s enemies are ‘the infidels / unbelievers:’

Jesus’ enemies are not flesh and blood, but unclean spirits, ideologies, systems, ‘principalities and powers in the heavenly places.’

The Qu’ran is militaristic. Before receiving the messages recorded in the Qu’ran, Mohammed was a trader. Afterwards, he became a warrior chief. In the last 10 years of his life, Mohammed either led or sent out 65 military campaigns (according to the Introduction to the English rendition of the Qu’ran published by the UK Islamic Mission Dawah Centre.)

Jesus led no military campaigns. Jesus refused to use violence. Jesus instead allowed himself to be a victim of violence.

The Qu’ran teaches retaliation: ‘There is life for you in retaliation , O men of understanding, that ye may ward off (evil.)’ (2:179) ‘And fight not with them at the Inviolable Place of Worship until they first attack you there, but if they attack you (there) then slay them. Such is the reward of disbelievers.’ (2:191) ‘and fight them until persecution is no more and religion is for Allah.’ (2:192) ‘And one who attacketh you, attack him in like manner as he attacked you.’ (2:194) (Surah 2 is seen by Moslems as a summary of the whole Koran.)

Jesus teaches no retaliation – ever. He tells his followers to love enemies, to pray for those who persecute them, to look to God to bless enemies, change them.

Looking at the history of Christianity and Islam you wouldn’t know that their origins are so different. Christianity followed Jesus faithfully for about 350 years. Then came the great compromise between Christianity and the Roman Empire. Christianity embraced, and restricted, militarism and retaliation. When Islam emerged, it copied and countered a State Religion with a powerful army.

The Christianity of the Crusades, of military retaliation, was far from following the teachings of Jesus. The ‘Christianity’ of the invasion of Iraq, the bombing of IS etc. is far from following the teachings of Jesus.

Christians need to return to the teaching and Spirit of Jesus, especially in responding to terrorist attacks:

No retaliation, ever.

No military response. No relying on weapons, on the ‘security’ industry.

No deeming people evil. People can be infected and misguided by evil but there are no ‘evil people.’

No giving up the freedom to mock and be mocked.

No further restriction on the welcome we give to strangers, despite the differences and the dangers.

Christians need strength, inner strength, not to retaliate, to keep loving. We need strength to fight fear and anger / vengefulness etc. etc.

Christians need to encourage and strengthen each other:

We shall not be moved…

We shall not give up our civic freedoms. We shall not give in to the fear of strangers, of immigrants. We will not cower behind more and more security, more weapons. We will go out into the streets and squares of our towns, lighting candles, carrying pens. We will not be moved from being an open, democratic, welcoming, fair, just society.

Just like a tree that’s standing by the waterside…

To have the strength not to be moved, we need a river to feed into our roots. Europe has never seen a wholeheartedly Christian country, rather various compromises between the State and Jesus. Yet there has been a river flowing from Jesus which has watered, influenced, the roots of Europe. We need to keep drawing from that river.

The Qu’ran has always been at odds with Jesus. We need to live Jesus’ way, now more than ever.

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How British Leaders Ruined the 20th Century: 5 January

January 5, 2015

Two great myths shattered in front of me as I read the Church Times before Christmas.[i]

Myth One:    The Christmas truce of 1914 was only day-long, a spontaneous idyllic but impossibly unrealistic moment in contrast to the real world of warring nations.

Myth Two:     The British have reason to be proud about decently fighting and winning two 20th Century world wars into which they were dragged by other more violent nations.

The Christmas truce of 1914 lasted, in some places, for weeks. One British soldier swapped a tin of bully beef for a German soldier’s spiked helmet. The German soldier then explained that he was on parade next day and would give it to his new mate afterwards, which he did. ‘In some cases … troops contrived to shoot over the heads of their opposite, or simply managed not to engage in warfare at all for considerable lengths of time. Major Buchanan-Dunlop, in a letter to his wife on 3 February 1915, mentions that the fighting where he was based had only just resumed. Captain F. E. Packe, in a letter on 19 March 1915, mentions an “absurdly quiet” time in a spot they had relieved where a truce had taken place.’

Each time the fighting resumed, the British started firing. Sgt George Ashurst, 2nd Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers, recalled chatting with his ‘oppos’ until British artillery started shelling German lines, endangering him and his mates.

The Christmas truce was not entirely a spontaneous outbreak, but part of a serious effort to return to negotiation instead of fighting. Pope Benedict XV, and others, had asked the warring nations to agree to a truce. The Germans and Austrians had agreed. The British, and presumably the French and Russians, had refused. General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien had issued an order explicitly prohibiting Christmas ceasefires. He, and other Generals, knew that ceasefires were a distinct possibility, which they needed to countermand.

The German soldiers who put up Christmas trees for their enemy to see and shouted Christmas greetings and sang Silent Night for their enemies to hear, and were the first to step into no-man’s land, were South German, Bavarian, Catholics. (One German soldier told his new British friend that they were being replaced by North German, Prussian, Protestants, and asked the Brits to give the Prussians hell, because they hated the Prussians too.) It is probable that the German Catholic soldiers’ initiative was an attempt to support the serious diplomatic initiative of the Papacy, most likely with support, or at least acquiescence, by the local German officers and maybe by some of their High Command. One British subaltern drank champagne at the local German HQ, well behind the trenches before returning safely to his own lines.

The Christmas truce was a ‘real world’ initiative. This was a serious opportunity for the nations to negotiate for a while, always able to return to fighting should they consider it necessary. There was a serious, even if slim, opportunity for a negotiated German withdrawal from Belgium. If the Germans were not willing to make compromises, they would not have agreed to the Pope’s initiative. The Crowned Heads of Europe, so interrelated, could have come into their own as natural mediators. The First World War could have finished in December 1914. It could have been all over at Christmas, in the real world.

No Battles of the Somme and the Marne. No Gallipoli. No Russian Revolution. The Communist Bolsheviks took advantage of a Russian population desperate to end the war which the new democratic government was committed to continue. No Stalin. No Hitler. No Second War. It is generally agreed that the humiliation of the ending of the First World War and the punitive demand for Germany to make reparations created the conditions for Hitler to grow Nazism. No Holocaust…

The 20th Century could and should have been hugely different, a Century of evolution towards widening democracy and negotiation of disputes. It would not have been perfect. There may well have been wars, battles, as the old Empires learnt slowly to allow smaller and newer nations to grow strong. But it is unlikely that there would have been slaughter on the scale seen in the First and Second World Wars, in the Soviet forced collectivisation, in the Holocaust.

The German leaders in 1914 were willing to at least talk about the possibility of resolving the dispute by negotiation. The British leaders in 1914 were unwilling. They insisted on fighting. They deliberately re-started the war after Christmas 1914. Far from being the 20th Century’s reluctant, decent, warriors, the British were the original violent militarists, creating the conditions for other aggressive militarists. British leaders ruined the 20th Century for everyone.

[i] Church Times 19/26 Dec 2014 The day the war stood still by Andii Bowsher and Nick Megoran with material from Silent Night: The remarkable Christmas truce of 1914 by Stanley Weintraub