In the early 1970’s Jesus Christ Superstar hit the stage in New York. The rock opera depicts Jesus as a bitter, defeated, sinful man. It suggests he had an affair with Mary. And it casts Judas as a man of principles and wisdom, while the rest Christ’s disciples are the opposite.

JCSS not only blasphemed the Christian faith with its debut run in the 1970’s, it has continued to be recast on various stages and the silver screen these last four decades (a remake just finished a Broadway run this past July). But throughout these past four decades, I cannot find evidence where Christians rioted in large groups in the streets, or of demonstrations that hurt or killed people.

But what’s currently splashing across the news concerning adherents of the Muslim faith?

“The French foreign ministry announced Wednesday [9-19-2012] that France will close 20 of its embassies in Muslim countries this Friday following the publication of controversial Prophet Mohammed cartoons… Major protests in the Muslim world generally take place after Friday prayers. The illustrations, which show the Prophet Mohammed naked and refer to the incendiary US-made film which has been fueling deadly unrest among Muslim communities for over a week…” (1)

The “deadly unrest” is this writer’s reference to last week’s Muslim riots that destroyed property, hurt numerous people and claimed lives at an US Consulate in Libya (US ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three staffers were killed during a concurrent terrorist attack). Furious protests stretched across more than 20 countries: “from Somalia to Egypt to Sudan to Tunisia to Libya to Bangladesh to Indonesia to Pakistan.” (2)

The point? Both faiths have been blasphemed. But compare the Christian response to the Muslim response. There are stark differences because there are stark differences between Christianity and Islam. Let’s consider two of the many.

Difference 1. Why did France close its political embassies over a religious issue? Because Islam is a “political religion” it’s natural for Muslims to target the government.

The holy book of Islam is the Qur’an (Koran). In the Qur’an there are chapters (known as suras). “Islamic authorities of all the major branches of Islam hold that the Qur’an must be read so that the parts written last override the others.” This is the doctrine of abrogation, a unique teaching in Islam that means that the teachings written later in time overrule the earlier. And it’s the suras written later in time that deal with “social legislation and the political and moral principles for constituting and ordering the community.” Whereas Christianity teaches a separation between church and state, Islam combines the two.

Difference 2. Unlike Christians who rely only on the Word to spread the Christian faith, Islam teaches reliance on the sword to advance its faith. Already back in the 1500’s Martin Luther pointed out that Islam included “much glorification of the sword.” In difference to Islam, Luther taught Christians that the government’s duty was limited to protecting its citizens. “The emperor is not the head of Christendom or the defender of the faith,” wrote Luther.

Remember the law of abrogation (mentioned above)? It’s the suras written later in time—these overruling doctrines-- that continue to teach Muslims today to use the sword to replace secular governments with Muslim governments. (Study the current events in Egypt). How different Christianity that keeps the two separate! Jesus taught: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21).

Interestingly, when people seek to “prove” that Islam is a peace-loving religion they point to verses from the suras written earlier. But remember, these earlier suras are overruled by the suras that came later in time—and it’s these later suras that call for the use of the sword to establish Islamic political domination.(3)

“Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors; they are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them for friendship is of them. Verily Allah guideth not the unjust.” Sura 5, verse 51

“Fight and slay the unbelievers wherever ye find them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war. But if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them...” Sura 9, verse 5

“Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Apostle, nor acknowledge the religion of truth, even if they are of the 40 people of the Book, until they pay the jizya [heavy tax] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” Sura 9, verse 29

But greater than these two differences, is this one: Who Is Jesus? Concerning the person and work of Jesus is where we find the greatest difference—a difference as wide as heaven is from hell. Islam rejects that Jesus is the eternal Son of God who became the Son of Man. Subsequently, Islam rejects that by his crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus has paid for the sins of the world, and brings to God all those who trust this to be true.

But it’s not just the Muslim who by his unbelief “stands condemned already” (John 3:16-18). It could also be that 80-year-old widow across the street who feeds the neighborhood cats and double-tips the mailman. And it could also be that clean-cut 16-year-old boy who bags your groceries and always addresses adults with a “Yes, Ma'am” or “Yes, Sir.”

A prevailing notion swirling throughout American society is that “all religions are basically the same.” But you and I know differently. And with our better knowledge, we also have the privilege to share the truth with our fellow Americans. In other words, the Muslim riots provide a great opportunity to witness to the huge differences between the Muslim and Christian faith, as an introduction to getting to a more important conversation: witnessing to others about the Savior Jesus!

In Luther’s day, Muslim Turks were frequently in the news as they threatened to overtake more and more of Europe. Luther understood from Scripture how God sent the Assyrians and the Babylonians to punish his Old Testament people, with the ultimate goal of re-awakening The Faith among drifting believers (i.e., the book of Hosea). So Luther made this pastoral application to his day: God was using the Muslim menace to re-awaken The Faith of spiritually drifting Europeans.

As Luther applied God’s Word to his day, shouldn’t we analyze our current news to see that Christ is using the Muslim menace to re-awaken The Faith among drifting believers?

How many Americans are actually Christians? Only God sees the number. But I can see how God is at work when a Christian rises above political correctness, and uses the current Muslim menace as a conversation starter that moves into witnessing about Christ, the world’s one and only Savior.

Source Material (links may become inactive over time)

1 France24 International News  http://mobile.france24.com/en/20120919-naked-mohammed-cartoons-fuel-muslim-outcry-france-charlie-hebdo-french-paper

2 Atlantic Wire: Maps of Muslim Protests  http://www.theatlanticwire.com/global/2012/09/map-muslim-protests-around-world/56865/

3 “It’s Never Just the Economy, Stupid” by Brian T Kennedy (Imprimis, Jan 2011) http://www.hillsdale.edu/news/imprimis/archive/issue.asp?year=2011&month=01