Written by: Abu Ayoub
– Recently, the PBD podcast hosted a discussion featuring two Muslim speakers, Daniel Haqiqatjou and Jake Brancatella, along with Robert Spencer and Rachid Hamami, both known for their controversial views on Islam. Patrick Bet-David, the host, seemed to have a genuine objective: to foster dialogue and identify common ground between Muslims and Christians. However, establishing such commonality quickly proved to be challenging. Spencer and Hamami, who have built their careers around disseminating misinformation and stoking fears about Islam, demonstrated within just a few minutes into the podcast that they were incapable of engaging in a mature conversation about the similarities between the faiths. Instead, the audience was subjected to Hamami’s emotional recounting of past experiences and Spencer’s various arguments asserting moral superiority.
After cordial introductions on the podcast, the Christian guests swiftly shifted the discussion to the topic of apostasy laws and criticized Islam, a religion whose legal system recommends that apostates be put to death. This initial point was ostensibly to establish a sense of Western and Christian superiority over Muslim countries and Islamic law. However, the two Christian speakers quickly found themselves backed into a corner when the Muslims inquired whether the act of killing an apostate was “inherently immoral.” The crux of the matter was that if they agreed, the Christians would then have to concede that the laws mandated by the God of the Old Testament (whom they believe is Jesus) could also be considered evil. After some discomfort from the self-proclaimed Christian scholars, it became apparent that neither had satisfactory responses to these theological inquiries of inconsistency. Remarkably, Robert Spencer seemed willing to misrepresent and discredit his deity for a short-lived victory, even insinuating that his book could be considered “Fables” by some Christian. (Which we’ll deal with shortly.)
Goals behind Islamophobia
Before we proceed, it is imperative that we take a step back and thoroughly understand the overarching objectives of individuals like Robert Spencer and Rachid Hamimi. Post 9/11, the Islamophobia industry was essentially established to amplify fears about Muslims and thereby justify a carte blanche approach to invading Muslim countries. To achieve this, the general populace in America and across Europe had to be convinced that such actions were worth funding through their taxes. Consequently, there exists, and will always be, a motivation to depict Muslims negatively, even if such portrayals are unfounded or hypocritical.
It is crucial to note that these tactics have historical precedents. Propaganda against the enemy has been employed in nearly every major war faced by nations, with both sides utilizing similar strategies. The primary goals include:
- Dehumanization of the Enemy:
- Characterizing the enemy as barbaric, evil, or less than human to diminish empathy and legitimize violence against them.
- Creating a Sense of Urgency and Threat:
- Fostering a perception of imminent danger or existential threat to garner support for extreme measures and prompt action.
- Shaping Public Opinion:
- Influencing the public’s perception of the war, its causes, and its objectives to sustain support and suppress dissent or opposition.
- Demonization and Villainization:
- Depicting the enemy as inherently evil, aggressive, or threatening to validate one’s own military actions and foster a sense of moral righteousness.
- Manipulation of Facts and Information:
- Controlling, distorting, or selectively presenting information to construct a specific narrative, exaggerate threats, downplay setbacks, and underscore enemy atrocities.
- Legitimization and Justification:
- Framing the conflict in a manner that justifies one’s actions, aligns with international norms and values, and secures support from allies and neutral parties.
- Mobilization of Resources:
- Motivating the population to contribute to the war effort through enlistment, labor, financial contributions, and resource conservation.
- Censorship and Suppression of Dissent:
- Regulating or silencing opposing voices, criticism, or alternative narratives that might undermine the war effort or the government’s stance.
Before I begin my refutation and highlight the hypocrisy of certain individuals, I find it essential to clarify a few points for the readers. It is crucial to understand that the actors involved in this discussion may not always have honest intentions. We are dealing with propagandists, individuals with ulterior motives when discussing such subjects. Their primary aim is to propagate false stereotypes against Muslims, a tactic not unfamiliar to historical major conflicts and colonial times.
Creating false stereotypes about opponents through propaganda is a method known as “demonization” or “demonizing the enemy.” This strategy involves depicting adversaries in an extremely negative, dehumanizing, or distorted light to justify one’s actions and gain support for a particular cause or ideology. Below are some historical examples of such demonization in propaganda:
- World War I Propaganda (1914-1918):
- During World War I, both Allied and Central Powers engaged in demonizing their enemies. German propaganda portrayed Allied soldiers as barbaric and inhumane, while Allied propaganda depicted Germans as ruthless “Huns.”
- Nazi Propaganda (1930s-1940s):
- The Nazis, under Adolf Hitler, used propaganda extensively to demonize Jewish people, Romani people, and other targeted groups. They spread false stereotypes and dehumanizing images to justify the Holocaust and other atrocities.
- Cold War Propaganda (1947-1991):
- The Cold War era saw demonization of the Soviet Union and the United States by each other’s propaganda machines. Both sides portrayed the other as evil, oppressive regimes.
Historically, Christian European nations employed a method termed Orientalism, a perspective inherently biased, designed to shape Western viewpoints of Eastern societies to validate colonial ambitions. Simultaneously, the Church sanctioned the “Doctrine of Discovery,” providing colonial powers with the ethical and legal grounds to invade, impose religious conversions, enslave, and eradicate indigenous populations across the globe.
Robert Spencer’s claim that the Bible upholds human dignity and opposes oppression doesn’t quite match up with what history tells us. The debaters might try to say the Bible had nothing to do with European colonial wrongdoings, but history shows us that the Church actually sanctioned such actions through the “Doctrine of Discovery.” This doctrine allowed Christian nations to lay claim to any newly discovered lands outside of Europe, with the prerogative to either enslave or convert the so-called “savage” inhabitants of those territories.
Doctrine of Discovery:
The Doctrine of Discovery is a historical legal concept that played a significant role in justifying European colonialism and the subjugation of indigenous peoples during the Age of Exploration. Its origins can be traced to papal bulls issued by the Catholic Church in the 15th century, particularly during the pontificate of Pope Alexander VI. Here is a more detailed history of the Doctrine of Discovery:
1. Papal Bulls of the 15th Century:
- The Doctrine of Discovery was formalized through a series of papal bulls issued by the Catholic Church. The most notable of these bulls include the Bulls of Donation issued by Pope Nicholas V in 1452 and Pope Alexander VI’s Inter caetera in 1493. These papal bulls granted European monarchs, particularly Spain and Portugal, the authority to claim and colonize lands they “discovered” outside of Europe.
2. Legal Rationale:
- The papal bulls asserted that Christian nations had a divine and legal right to claim lands that were inhabited by “heathens” or non-Christians. This right was based on the belief that these lands were terra nullius, meaning “land belonging to no one.” According to the doctrine, Christian nations could acquire and govern these lands without regard for the rights or sovereignty of indigenous peoples.
3. Colonization and Expansion:
- European powers, particularly Spain and Portugal, used the Doctrine of Discovery as a legal basis for their colonial endeavors in the Americas, Africa, and other parts of the world. It provided a moral and legal framework for colonization, conversion to Christianity, and the extraction of resources.
4. Impact on Indigenous Peoples:
- The Doctrine of Discovery had profound consequences for indigenous peoples. It facilitated the dispossession of their lands, forced conversion to Christianity, and the imposition of European systems of governance. Indigenous cultures, languages, and traditions were often suppressed or eradicated.
It’s crucial to acknowledge that Christian colonizers extensively used the Bible to justify their actions. Thus, any claim suggesting that Christianity and the Bible are non-violent, and that Jesus annulled all preceding laws, comes across as quite disingenuous. The truth is, historical Christians didn’t just use the Old Testament to justify their actions, but also repeatedly drew inspiration from its battles to rationalize their behavior.
Old Testament Use:
During the debate, Robert Spencer asserted that the Conquest of Canaan was either considered limited to its time or regarded as mere fables( a point we will address later.) The underlying objective behind this stance is to claim moral superiority over Islam and the Quran. However, history reveals a different story.
The concept of the Conquest of Canaan and the idea of a “Promised Land” significantly influenced the mindset of European colonizers. These colonizers often drew parallels between their actions and the biblical narrative. Many saw themselves as the new “chosen people,” bestowed with a divine mandate to conquer and possess foreign lands, much like the Israelites in the Old Testament. This notion became particularly evident during the colonization of the Americas, where settlers frequently referred to their new territories as a “New Israel” and perceived themselves as fulfilling a divine destiny.
Building on the aforementioned “Doctrine of Discovery,” Pope Nicholas V issued the papal bull Dum Diversas in 1452. This bull granted Portugal the authority to reduce “Saracens, pagans, and any other unbelievers” to perpetual slavery. The bull stated:
“We grant you by these present documents, with our Apostolic Authority, full and free permission to invade, search out, capture, and subjugate the Saracens and pagans and any other unbelievers and enemies of Christ wherever they may be.” [link]
Before we delve further into this historical account, it is imperative to comprehend the mindset of the individuals involved and the backdrop of the world in which they lived. During the era commonly referred to as the “Age of Discovery,” spanning from the 15th to the early 17th century, Christian nations were engaged in an extensive appropriation of lands and natural resources across the globe. In pursuit of these ambitions, these men embarked on heavily armed journeys into what they termed “Savage Lands,” compelling indigenous peoples to submit to their authority. In their perception, they were fulfilling a divine command found in the New Testament, particularly in Matthew 28:19-20, where Jesus instructed his disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations.” Many European colonizers frequently invoked this passage to justify their mission of spreading Christianity globally. [the great commission]
However, achieving this objective often required the use of force. Consequently, instead of seeking sole justification in the New Testament, they turned to the Old Testament for inspiration. It is well-documented that numerous Christian Colonizers drew parallels between the Israelites’ entry into the Promised Land (accompanied by violence) and their own pursuits, viewing themselves as agents of divine destiny in their quest to expand their dominion.
Conquest of Canaan
For those who haven’t been keeping up on their Biblical study, the Conquest of Canaan is found in the books of Joshua and Judges. Therein it explains the Israelites’ military campaign to conquer the land of Canaan, which was considered the Promised Land according to their religious beliefs. This conquest is a fundamental part of the biblical narrative and the history of the Jewish people.
At the core of this narrative, marked by raids, battles, and even sanctioned genocide, lies a divine promise made by (their) Lord regarding the inheritance of these lands. As detailed in the book of Genesis (Genesis 12:1-3) God established the Abrahamic Covenant, wherein Canaan was pledged to Abraham and his descendants. This covenant, an integral cornerstone of biblical history, found reaffirmation with Isaac and Jacob, firmly cementing Canaan as a sacred inheritance.
Subsequently, the narrative delves into the well-known account of the Exodus from Egypt, a tumultuous odyssey guided by Moses, during which the Israelites escaped the clutches of Egyptian oppression and embarked on a forty-year journey through the wilderness.
After some time, the passing of Moses occurred without him being able to attain their sacred inheritance and take over the Promised Land. Following Moses’ death, the mantle of leadership was assumed by Joshua, which is where the fun starts. Joshua, along with the Israelites, then crossed the river Jordan and began a campaign of slaughter throughout the lands of Canaan. These were not the happy, cuddly bedtime story battles your parents might have told you, but rather battles involving complete annihilation at times, including of women, children, and even cattle.
Here is a summary of the key battles and events in the conquest of Canaan:
- Battle of Jericho:
- According to the biblical account in the Book of Joshua (Joshua 6:20-21), during the Battle of Jericho, the city’s walls collapsed, and the Israelites entered the city. The text states that the Israelites “devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.”
- Conquest of Ai:
- After the victory at Jericho, the Israelites attempted to conquer the city of Ai but initially faced defeat due to the sin of Achan. After addressing the sin, the Israelites launched a successful attack on Ai, as described Joshua’s forces “struck down every man in Ai.” (Joshua 8:24)
- Battle of Gibeon:
- The Gibeonites, fearing the Israelite conquest, tricked Joshua into making a treaty with them. When neighboring kings learned of this alliance, they formed a coalition to attack Gibeon. Joshua came to the defense of Gibeon, leading to a battle against the coalition forces, described in Joshua 10.
- Southern Campaigns:
- Joshua and the Israelites continued to campaign in southern Canaan, capturing various cities and territories, including Hebron and Debir. These campaigns are documented in Joshua 10-12.
- Northern Campaigns:
- The northern campaigns saw the Israelites under Joshua’s leadership facing formidable opponents, including the kings of Hazor, Madon, and Shimron. These battles are described in Joshua 11.
- Division of the Land:
- After the conquest, the land of Canaan was divided among the twelve tribes of Israel. This division is detailed in Joshua 13-21.
- Caleb’s Inheritance:
- Caleb, one of the spies who had explored Canaan forty years earlier, was rewarded with the city of Hebron for his faithfulness, as described in Joshua 14.
- Continued Conflicts:
- While the major battles of the conquest are described in the Book of Joshua, the biblical narrative acknowledges that the Israelites faced ongoing conflicts with indigenous peoples in the land.
There are some Biblical scholars propose that such passages may contain elements that are exaggerated or hyperbolic, suggesting that these parts may more be inclined to theological interpretations rather than being historically precise. However, it’s important to recognize that this viewpoint is not universally held among Biblical scholars. In contrast, a substantial number firmly maintain that these passages are entirely 100% accurate and devoid of any form of exaggeration. They advocate for the veracity and historical reliability of the Bible, asserting that it serves as a valid and trustworthy record of past events and should, therefore, be taken at face value. For these scholars, questioning the literal truth of the Biblical passages may undermine the foundational beliefs and principles that the scripture seeks to convey.
Here are a few quotes from scholars discussing the issue:
- John Bright:
- “To insist that the Bible is not history as we understand history today is to set up a false dichotomy. Ancient history and the Bible are one.” [Link]
- N.T. Wright:
- “The Bible is not an ‘alternative’ to ‘historical’ scholarship. It is itself an historical document, and when it is read in that way its value as an historical document is, or should be, clear.” [Link]
- Walter C. Kaiser Jr.:
- “The Bible is a book of history. It is not a book of philosophy or theology or sociology. It is first and foremost an historical document.” [Link]
- F.F. Bruce:
- “The Bible is a historical book, but it is not primarily a book of history in the sense that its primary purpose is to teach history. Its primary purpose is to teach theology, but theology cannot be taught without a historical basis.” [Link]
- W.E. Albright:
- “The excessive skepticism shown toward the Bible by important historical schools of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, certain phases of which still appear periodically, has been progressively discredited. Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details.” [Link]
Here, W.E. Albright highlights the presence of individuals who demonstrate “excessive skepticism” towards the Bible. The focus is not on those who argue that the Bible may contain some exaggerations, but rather on individuals who perceive the Bible to be entirely metaphorical, a perspective Robert Spencer refers to as “Fables.” This viewpoint aligns with what is known as Minimalism, a perspective considered a form of modern heresy by numerous churches.
Minimalism, in the context of biblical studies and Christianity, is a perspective that challenges traditional views of the historical reliability of certain biblical texts, particularly those related to the early history of Israel and the composition of the Old Testament. Minimalist scholars propose that many biblical narratives should be viewed as mythic or legendary rather than as straightforward historical accounts. This perspective has generated significant debate and discussion within the field of biblical studies. Here are some key points associated with minimalism:
1. Chronological Revision:
- Minimalist scholars often propose chronological revisions, suggesting that certain biblical events and figures may have been placed in an earlier historical context than the available evidence supports. For example, they may argue that the stories of the patriarchs in the Book of Genesis were composed at a much later date than traditionally believed.
2. Literary and Theological Interpretation:
- Minimalism emphasizes the need for interpreting biblical texts as literary and theological works rather than purely historical documents. Scholars in this camp suggest that the Bible contains theological and ideological elements that reflect the concerns and beliefs of the communities that produced these texts.
3. Deconstruction of Conventional Narratives:
- Minimalist scholars often deconstruct conventional biblical narratives related to the conquest of Canaan, the exodus from Egypt, and the origins of ancient Israel. They argue that these narratives may not accurately reflect historical events but rather serve as expressions of identity and theological ideas.
4. Influence of Archaeology:
- The minimalist perspective is often influenced by archaeological findings that challenge traditional biblical interpretations. Some minimalist scholars argue that there is limited archaeological evidence for certain biblical events and figures, leading them to question their historicity.
5. Methodological Caution:
- Minimalist scholars advocate for methodological caution in interpreting the Bible’s historical content. They stress the importance of critically assessing the available evidence and considering alternative explanations for the biblical narratives.
Interestingly, during the debate, the Muslims pointed out to the Christians that such beliefs were precisely the reason for the current predicament of Christianity and the West. When individuals are willing to completely forsake their sacred texts in pursuit of feeling morally superior, it essentially opens Pandora’s box, paving the way for various reinterpretations, potentially endorsing immoral acts and diverse sexual preferences.
The ongoing debate between minimalist and more traditional scholars continues to be a pivotal issue in exploring the Bible’s historicity and interpretation. Many Christian scholars have explicitly highlighted the dangers inherent in such an approach to Biblical texts. Here are a few examples:
- William G. Dever:
- “In recent years we have seen the rise of what some call ‘biblical minimalism.’ But this is a view from the ‘ivory tower,’ far removed from the facts on the ground. The fact is, modern archaeology has simply made it impossible to deny the essential historicity of the Bible.”
- Ronald S. Hendel (Critiquing Minimalism):
- “Biblical minimalism is essentially a 20th-century phenomenon. Before that, scholars did not question the historicity of the Bible in the same way.”
- Alan R. Millard:
- “The Bible is rooted in history and is a historical record of an early phase of human culture and religion. That such a position is now controversial is itself remarkable.”
Indeed, it is quite remarkable how individuals who present themselves as scholars of religion, such as Robert Spencer, are quick to disregard their own scripture to gain a temporary advantage in a debate against Muslims. This behavior leads to situations where individuals, like Daniel during the debate, question whether they are engaging with a genuine conservative Christian or encountering a type of new Liberal Christian who selectively adheres to parts of the Bible whenever it suits them.
This method, identified as Minimalist Christianity, has been emerging among numerous Christian debaters who express Islamophobic views. These individuals seem to have adopted the tactics of atheists who debate Christianity. Since atheists often claim to stand for nothing, it becomes challenging for the debater to criticize their beliefs. However, this approach proves futile when applied to Christianity, which boasts a well-established doctrine, a book of beliefs, a rich scholarship, and a long history. Consequently, entering a debate without acknowledging the historical and scholarly context of their faith can be quite disingenuous.
Take, for example, the endeavor to claim Christian moral superiority over Islam, especially regarding the enforcement of apostasy or heretical laws in the faith. It appears both remarkable and audacious for any Christian, with even a slight understanding of their own history, to engage in a podcast and assert moral superiority on such subjects, as if others are uninformed about Christian history. Unfortunately, these types of rudimentary tactics seem more appropriate for impromptu debates in gas station parking lots rather than for discussions on podcasts featuring individuals knowledgeable in these topics.
Nevertheless, guided by our own principles of ethics, we find ourselves obligated to remind our Christian counterparts of their own history, with the intention of instilling a degree of humility when discussing such subjects.
Heresy and the Church
In Christianity, heresy refers to any belief or theory that strongly deviates from established beliefs or customs, particularly relating to the orthodox doctrines of the Christian Church. Heresy is usually characterized by beliefs that are in contradiction with the established teachings of the Church, and a person who commits heresy is known as a heretic. Various inquisitions were established to combat heresy, leading to trials, persecutions, and sometimes executions of accused heretics.
For brevity’s sake, I will only lightly touch upon these topics, but rest assured, entire volumes could be written on each. We will explore how apostasy laws or laws against heresy were applied across four distinct eras of Christianity. These eras are as follows:
- Early Christianity: Early theological disputes led to the formation of orthodox doctrines through councils like Nicaea and Chalcedon, which condemned heresies such as Arianism.
- Middle Ages: Heresy, associated with dissent against the Catholic Church, led to the establishment of inquisitions and persecution of groups like the Cathars.
- Protestant Reformation: The Reformation brought a shift in heresy understanding, with reformers challenging Catholicism and forming Protestant denominations, leading to mutual accusations.
- Age of Exploration: Heresy was employed to legitimize broad oppression, presenting it as a religious responsibility to convert non-Christians and thereby facilitating European colonization.
- Modern Era: In the modern era, heresy is less central, especially outside Catholicism, with formal charges becoming rare.
During the early years of Christianity, several theological disputes emerged within the Christian community. These disagreements on core Christian doctrines are a constant interest Muslim apologists, as these various denominations are seen to demonstrate the falsehood of the doctrine of the Trinity. Nevertheless, what we observe is that even during the early days of the Church, there were instances of persecution and, at times, capital punishment for holding beliefs deemed heretical by others, akin to apostasy laws.
Below are a few examples of early Christian heresies and instances where individuals faced persecution or execution for their beliefs:
- Proposed by Arius, a priest in Alexandria, this heresy denied the full divinity of Jesus Christ, asserting that He was created by God and therefore not co-eternal with the Father. Arius was excommunicated and his teachings were condemned at the Council of Nicaea in 325, but he wasn’t executed for his beliefs.
- Gnosticism was a diverse set of beliefs that emphasized dualism, claiming that the material world was evil and the spiritual world was good. Gnostics held secret knowledge that they believed led to salvation. While many Gnostics were excommunicated and their writings destroyed, specific instances of executions are not well-documented.
- Emerging in the 4th century in Roman North Africa, the Donatists argued that Christian clergy must be faultless for their ministry to be effective and their prayers and sacraments to be valid. The sect faced persecution, but there are no well-documented instances of Donatists being executed solely for their beliefs.
- Founded by Mani in the 3rd century, this syncretic religion combined elements of Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, and other religions. It also emphasized a dualistic view of good and evil. Mani was eventually imprisoned and executed by the Persian authorities, not specifically for heresy against Christianity but for his overall teachings.
- Priscillian, a Spanish bishop, was accused of heresy and immorality, which included Gnostic and Manichaean elements. He and several followers were executed in 385, marking one of the first instances of a Christian being executed for heresy by other Christians.
It’s crucial to understand that the prevalent use of excommunication instead of execution for heretics wasn’t primarily out of mercy. Rather, it often stemmed from a lack of clarity and assurance in their own beliefs.
This uncertainty was particularly evident concerning Arianism. Roman Emperors like Constantius II and Valens were sympathetic to the Arian viewpoint and actively promoted Arian bishops within the Church. This support fueled the ongoing Arian controversy and deepened divisions within the Christian community.
Furthermore, we find statements from St. Augustine of Hippo (354–430 AD), a prominent and influential theologian in Christianity, who advocated for the use of coercion against those he regarded as heretics. Augustine’s frustration was particularly directed towards the Donatists, who persisted in their division.
In addressing this challenge, Augustine sought guidance from the Bible. He referenced the parable of the great banquet in the Gospel of Luke, specifically Luke 14:23, where the master commands, “Compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.” Augustine interpreted this verse as a scriptural endorsement for employing coercion to reintegrate heretics into the Church, aiming at their ultimate salvation.
In this context, coercion meant the use of force or pressure to ensure conformity with orthodox Christian beliefs and to suppress heretical views. Augustine’s rationale was centered on the belief that the eternal salvation of individuals was of utmost importance. He argued that if coercion could bring heretics back to orthodox Christianity and save their souls from eternal damnation, it was a merciful and justified act.
Coercion, as endorsed by Augustine, could involve several measures, such as:
- Legal Sanctions: The imposition of fines, property confiscation, or other legal penalties on those who were deemed heretical.
- Physical Force: The use of physical violence or threat of violence to compel compliance with orthodox doctrines. However, it is essential to note that Augustine did not advocate for lethal force or torture; his focus was on the salvation of the heretic.
- Excommunication and Banishment: Excluding heretics from the Christian community and, in some cases, expelling them from a particular territory.
- Social and Economic Pressure: The use of social ostracism and economic sanctions to encourage conformity with orthodox beliefs.
Thus, we observe numerous examples from the earliest stages of Christianity, where, once the religion was officially adopted by a state—with a military and a government to enforce laws—we witnessed the application of Christianity. It’s disingenuous to solely look towards Jesus and his early disciples, who faced persecution, and absolve Christianity of the actions in later ages, based solely on the fact that these individuals were never leaders and, thus, did not have to enforce biblical law.
By the time of the Middle Ages, Christian doctrines had become more established, leading to a more systematic and severe approach to addressing heresy. This era was marked by the initiation of inquisitions and an increase in executions. A discussion on laws related to apostasy or heresy would be incomplete without acknowledging the formidable period of the Church Inquisitions.
The term “Inquisition” refers to a set of institutions within the judicial system of the Roman Catholic Church, tasked with discovering, investigating, and suppressing heresy, as well as enforcing religious orthodoxy and moral discipline. The Inquisition was established to identify and eradicate deviations from Catholic doctrine and was granted the authority to subject accused individuals to trials, interrogations, and various forms of punishment, including execution.
The Inquisition was justified through a variety of means, often by referencing specific Bible passages and theological interpretations that emphasized the importance of maintaining doctrinal purity and opposing heresy. Some of the biblical bases used to justify the Inquisition included:
- Against False Teachings:
- The New Testament contains several admonitions against false teachings and heresies. For example, in Galatians 1:8-9, Paul says, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!”
- Obedience to Church Authority:
- Passages such as Hebrews 13:17, which says, “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority,” were used to assert the authority of the Church and its leaders in matters of faith and doctrine.
- Expulsion of the Unrepentant:
- In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus outlines a process for dealing with sin within the community, concluding with, “If they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” This was interpreted as a justification for excommunicating heretics.
- Combatting False Prophets:
- The Bible warns against false prophets and teachers in several places, such as in 2 Peter 2:1, “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies…”
- Punishment of Blasphemy:
- The Old Testament prescribes severe punishments for blasphemy and idolatry (Leviticus 24:16; Deuteronomy 13:6-11). Although the New Testament does not prescribe a specific punishment for heresy, the severity of Old Testament law was sometimes invoked as a precedent.
- Preservation of the Faith:
- The obligation to preserve and defend the faith against errors was seen as a duty for the Church. Verses emphasizing the truth of Christian doctrine and the dangers of false teachings were highlighted (1 Timothy 4:1, Jude 1:3).
- Duty to Correct and Reprove:
- 2 Timothy 3:16 asserts that Scripture is useful for “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” which was interpreted as an endorsement of the Church’s role in correcting heresy.
During the various Inquisitions that occurred in Europe, including the Spanish Inquisition and the Roman Inquisition, different methods of execution and torture were employed as means of extracting confessions and punishing heretics or those accused of religious crimes. It’s important to note that the severity and methods used could vary over time and across regions. Some common methods included:
- Auto-da-fé (Act of Faith): This was a public ritual that took place during the Inquisition, where those found guilty of heresy or other religious crimes were sentenced. While not a method of torture or execution in itself, it often included the public burning of heretics at the stake, known as “burning at the stake.”
- Burning at the Stake: This was one of the most notorious methods of execution during the Inquisition. Those found guilty of heresy or other religious offenses were tied to a stake and publicly burned alive. It was a cruel and gruesome form of execution intended to both punish the accused and serve as a deterrent to others.
- Strappado: This torture method involved binding the accused person’s wrists behind their back and suspending them from a rope or pulley, often leading to dislocated shoulders or other injuries.
- The Rack: The rack was a torture device used to stretch the accused person’s limbs. The victim was placed on a table with their hands and feet tied to rollers, and then they were stretched by turning the rollers, causing extreme pain and sometimes dislocation or even dismemberment.
- Water Torture: This included various methods of water-based torture. One common method was forcing a cloth into the victim’s mouth and then pouring water down their throat, causing them to feel like they were drowning. Another method involved strapping the victim to a table and slowly dripping water onto their forehead, which could drive them to madness over time.
- Iron Maiden: Although it is often associated with medieval torture, there is limited historical evidence of its use during the Inquisition. The Iron Maiden was a coffin-like device with spikes on the inside that could be closed to impale the victim.
- Thumbscrews: These devices were used to crush the thumbs (or other fingers) of the accused, causing extreme pain and potential permanent damage.
Let’s briefly examine the duration of each Inquisition, each representing distinct phases in the history of the Christian Church’s efforts to deal with perceived heretics. Below, we explore notable Inquisitions and their associated forms of punishment.
- Medieval Inquisition (12th – 14th centuries):
- Focus: Primarily targeted Catharism and Waldensians.
- Punishments: Confiscation of property, imprisonment, penance, and execution through burning at the stake.
- Spanish Inquisition (1478 – 1834):
- Focus: Established by Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile to maintain Catholic orthodoxy, it targeted Jews, Muslims, Protestants, and other perceived heretics.
- Punishments: Torture, forced conversions, confiscation of property, imprisonment, and execution, typically by burning.
- Portuguese Inquisition (1536 – 1821):
- Focus: Aimed at the forced conversion of Jews and Muslims and later expanded to address Protestantism.
- Punishments: Similar to the Spanish Inquisition, including confiscation, imprisonment, forced conversions, and execution.
- Roman Inquisition (Congregation of the Holy Office, 1542 – present, though it has evolved):
- Focus: Aimed primarily at dealing with Protestantism, but also addressed various heresies, magical practices, and later, issues such as modernism.
- Punishments: Imprisonment, house arrest, fines, penance, and execution, though executions became less common over time.
It’s intriguing to note that some individuals in the West, particularly those from Protestant backgrounds who harbor Islamophobic sentiments, often overlook the historical misuse of their own Bibles to justify laws against apostasy. This oversight might stem from historical narratives predominantly using the term “heresy” instead of “apostasy.” Nonetheless, it is an unmistakable fact that, following the 16th-century Reformation initiated by Martin Luther and John Calvin, both Catholics and Protestants used their Bibles to justify violent conflicts with each other, each considering the opposing faction heretical.
Catholic and Protestant Wars:
Bloody conflicts between Catholics and Protestants during the Reformation were sparked by religious disagreements and fueled by political power struggles, leading to devastating wars and long-lasting divisions in Europe.
Starting from the 16th century during the Protestant Reformation and onwards, there was a mutual perception of heresy between many Protestants and Catholics. Each group contended that the other was deviating from authentic Biblical teachings, sometimes leading to a justification for violence against one another.
From the perspective of the Catholic Church:
- Protestant reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin were seen as heretics because they challenged key Catholic teachings and practices, such as the authority of the Pope, the sale of indulgences, and the doctrine of transubstantiation (the belief that the bread and wine in the Eucharist become the actual body and blood of Christ).
- The Catholic Church, through councils and proclamations, condemned many Protestant ideas as heretical.
From the perspective of Protestant reformers:
- They considered certain Catholic doctrines and practices, such as papal authority, the veneration of saints and relics, and the Mass, to be unbiblical and contrary to true Christianity.
- They often accused the Catholic Church of straying from the teachings of the Bible, and as a result, labeled elements of Catholicism as heretical.
It is crucial to note that the Protestant movement built its beliefs not only on New Testament teachings but also on Old Testament principles. This contradicts claims made by individuals like Robert Spencer and other Islamophobes, who argue that the Old Testament has no real influence on people and might be a source of violence and conflict. On the contrary, many of the foundational criticisms that Protestants hold against Catholicism can be traced back to the Old Testament. For instance, certain aspects of Catholicism that Protestants critique can be found in Old Testament scriptures, such as:
1. Prohibition of Graven Images:
- Many Protestant reformers pointed to the Second Commandment, found in the Old Testament (Exodus 20:4-6), which prohibits the making and worship of graven images or idols. They argued that the use of religious images and icons in Catholic worship violated this commandment.
2. Priesthood of All Believers:
- The concept of the “priesthood of all believers” was central to Protestant theology. This idea, based on passages from the Old and New Testaments (e.g., Exodus 19:6, 1 Peter 2:9), asserted that all believers had direct access to God and did not require intermediaries like priests or saints. This challenged the hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church.
5. Rejection of Traditional Practices:
- Protestants rejected certain traditional practices of the Catholic Church, which they believed lacked biblical support. They pointed to Old Testament texts to argue against practices such as the veneration of saints, prayers for the dead, and transubstantiation in the Eucharist.
The incorporation of Old Testament texts stood as a pivotal component within the theological arguments and reforms championed by Protestant reformers. Additionally, the vehement opposition to religious iconography fueled numerous violent conflicts between Protestants and Catholics. Protestant reformers asserted that the veneration of religious images amounted to idolatry, citing the Old Testament’s explicit proscriptions against graven images (Exodus 20:4-6) as the foundation for their stance.
During the religious conflicts and iconoclastic movements of the Protestant Reformation, several instances of violence and destruction occurred. Precise casualty figures are difficult to ascertain due to limited historical records and variations in the nature of conflicts across different regions. Here, we highlight a few significant events:
1. Beeldenstorm (Iconoclastic Fury) in the Low Countries (1566):
- Description: The Beeldenstorm was a wave of iconoclastic attacks on Catholic churches and religious art in the Netherlands and Belgium, primarily carried out by Calvinist Protestants. They believed that religious images violated the Second Commandment’s prohibition against graven images.
- Casualties: While precise casualty figures are difficult to determine, the Beeldenstorm resulted in extensive damage to religious artwork and artifacts.
2. Iconoclasm in Scotland (16th Century):
- Description: During the Scottish Reformation, which was heavily influenced by John Knox and other Protestant reformers, iconoclastic attacks occurred. Protestant mobs and reformers targeted religious images, statues, and Catholic symbols, as they saw them as idols.
- Casualties: Casualty figures are not well-documented, but acts of iconoclasm were reported across Scotland, particularly in the 16th century.
3. Iconoclastic Riots in England (16th and 17th Centuries):
- Description: In England, particularly during the English Reformation and the English Civil War, there were instances of iconoclastic actions. These included the removal of religious images, statues, and stained glass windows from churches and cathedrals.
- Casualties: Similar to other cases of iconoclasm, casualty figures for these events are not easily quantified, but damage to religious artwork and structures was significant.
4. Iconoclasm during the Reformation in Switzerland (16th Century):
- Description: Iconoclastic movements occurred in various Swiss cantons during the Reformation led by figures like Ulrich Zwingli and John Calvin. Protestant reformers advocated for the removal of religious images from churches and replacing them with simpler decor.
- Casualties: While specific casualty figures are not readily available, these actions resulted in the removal and destruction of Catholic religious art.
These examples highlight instances of iconoclastic movements associated with Protestant reformers and their followers during the Reformation era. These movements often targeted religious images, statues, and symbols they considered contrary to their understanding of biblical teachings.
Age of Exploration:
It’s a common assertion among Islamophobes that the Bible lacks any substantial military doctrine, portraying Jesus as a purely nonviolent figure akin to an all-loving hippie who never wished harm upon anyone. However, this perspective diverges from historical reality and the views held by early Church fathers.
In fact, early centuries of Christianity witnessed Church Fathers addressing Biblical Laws, Moral Laws, and principles of engagement in warfare. One prominent figure among them was St. Augustine of Hippo, credited with the development of the “Just War” theory. This theory aimed to establish ethical guidelines for the moral justification of warfare, drawing inspiration from the Old Testament.
St. Augustine’s perspective on colonizing lands and converting indigenous populations is rooted in his development of the “Just War” theory and his interpretation of the Old Testament. While he did provide a framework for justifiable war, Augustine’s views on colonization and conversion can be summarized as follows:
- Justification of Conquest: Augustine believed that conquest and colonization could be justified if they were carried out with a righteous and moral purpose, particularly if they aimed to spread Christianity and bring salvation to non-believers.
- Conversion through Force: Augustine’s views on conversion were influenced by his belief in the salvation of souls. He argued that, in some cases, the use of force could be morally acceptable if it led to the conversion of indigenous populations to Christianity. He saw the ultimate goal as saving souls from damnation.
- Ethical Limits: While Augustine believed in the use of force for conversion, he also emphasized the importance of ethical conduct in warfare. He advocated for restraint and the avoidance of unnecessary harm to civilians and non-combatants, aligning with the principles of a “Just War.”
I want to highlight St. Augustine’s “Just War” theory to illustrate how he drew inspiration from Old Testament battles. It’s important to note that while St. Augustine aimed to mitigate oppression, he also provided a rationale for these wars based on the propagation of the Christian faith. This justification served as a basis for numerous Christian nations to embark on conquests and colonization.
Here are some examples of how it was used:
1. Spanish Conquest of the Americas:
- Spanish conquistadors, such as Hernán Cortés and Francisco Pizarro, justified their conquests of indigenous empires like the Aztec and Inca by framing them as a Christian mission to convert the “heathen” natives to Christianity. They argued that their actions were consistent with the principles of Just War theory, as they claimed to be acting in self-defense and in the service of spreading Christianity.
2. French and English Colonization:
- European powers, including France and England, invoked Just War theory to justify their colonial expansion in North America. They often portrayed indigenous peoples as “savages” and claimed that colonization was necessary to bring Christian civilization and governance to these regions.
3. Dutch East India Company:
- The Dutch East India Company, involved in the colonization of the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), used Just War theory to justify its actions against indigenous populations. They argued that they were acting defensively to protect Dutch interests and to bring the Christian faith to the region.
4. Portuguese Colonization:
- The Portuguese Empire, particularly in regions like present-day Brazil and Africa, cited Just War principles as a justification for their colonial expansion. The Portuguese argued that they were engaging in legitimate self-defense and that their actions were aimed at spreading Christianity.
5. Papal Bulls and Colonization:
- Papal bulls, issued by the Catholic Church, were sometimes used to legitimize colonial endeavors. For example, the bull “Inter caetera” issued by Pope Alexander VI in 1493 granted Spain the rights to colonize and convert indigenous peoples in the Americas, based on the rationale of spreading the Christian faith.
6. Colonial Conflicts and Justification:
- As conflicts arose between colonial powers and indigenous populations or rival colonial powers, Just War theory was invoked to justify military actions. European colonial powers often claimed that they were acting defensively or in pursuit of just goals, such as securing trade routes or protecting their colonies.
In many instances, Christian colonizers drew parallels between their expansion into native territories and the biblical narrative of Joshua and the Israelites entering the promised land. This perspective led them to view the indigenous populations as “Canaanites,” serving as an indirect justification for their displacement, enslavement, and, in some tragic instances, even genocide.
When Muslims engage in dialogue with individuals who harbor Islamophobic views and encounter claims that the Bible neither poses an existential threat nor promotes or inspires violence among its Christian adherents, it is almost instinctive to step back and reflect with incredulity. A comparison of the world map from the year 1400 CE to today reveals stark differences and a vivid historical trajectory.
It is crucial to acknowledge that all Christian nations today, located outside of Europe, were established with an underlying motive of propagating Christianity and its influence. A significant number of these colonizers and early settlers drew inspiration from the Old Testament. Their ambitions were not solely confined to disseminating their faith, but also to discovering what they believed to be the Promised Land, alternatively termed as “New Israel.”
Up until the 18th century, the predominant Christian belief did not recognize God’s promise to His people as pertaining to a specific geographical location. The narrative of the Old Testament God promising the land of Palestine to the Israelites and, consequently, authorizing Joshua and his followers to enter the land and eradicate the Canaanites, who were deemed pagan and immoral, was largely considered obsolete with the advent of the New Covenant. In fact, numerous Church Fathers have articulated that “Israel” is symbolically represented by the Church and its believers. This perspective is known as supersessionism.
Supersessionism, also called replacement theology, states that the Christian Church has succeeded the Israelites (Jewish people) as God’s chosen people and is now the inheritor of the promises documented in the Scriptures. This theological stance has its roots in early Christian thought and has undergone evolution across centuries.
Below is a detailed exploration of its historical development:
1. Early Christian Period:
- Distinction from Judaism: Early Christians sought to distinguish themselves from Judaism. As Christianity grew and spread among Gentile populations, tensions arose over issues such as observance of the Jewish law.
- New Covenant: Early Christian writings, including the New Testament, emphasized the idea of a “New Covenant” through Jesus Christ, which was seen as superseding the Old Covenant made with Israel.
2. Church Fathers:
- Writings of the Church Fathers: Many Church Fathers, such as Justin Martyr and Augustine, wrote on the relationship between Israel and the Church, often interpreting the Church as the “True Israel” or “Spiritual Israel” and allegorizing Old Testament promises as applying to the Church.
- Destruction of the Temple (70 AD): The destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans was interpreted by some early Christians as divine punishment and evidence that God had rejected the Jews and transferred His favor to the Christians.
3. Middle Ages:
- Widespread Supersessionism: During the Middle Ages, supersessionism was the prevailing view within Christian theology. Jews were often marginalized, subjected to restrictions, and portrayed as being in perpetual exile for rejecting Jesus.
- Disputation and Polemics: Theological disputations and polemical writings against Judaism reinforced the idea that Christianity had replaced Judaism.
4. Reformation Period:
- Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Reformation emphasized “Sola Scriptura” (Scripture Alone), leading to varied interpretations of biblical texts concerning Israel and the Church.
- Literal Interpretation: Some Reformers, while maintaining supersessionist views, also paid closer attention to the literal meaning of biblical texts, laying the groundwork for future Christian Zionist interpretations that recognized a continuing role for Israel in God’s plan.
5. Modern Period:
- Shift in Theology: The Enlightenment, the rise of historical-critical methods of biblical interpretation, and changing political circumstances contributed to a re-evaluation of supersessionism.
- Christian Zionism: The development of Christian Zionism, particularly in Protestant circles, challenged supersessionist theology, emphasizing the continuing significance of the Jewish people and their eventual restoration to the Land of Israel.
6. 20th Century to Present:
- Nostra Aetate (1965): The Second Vatican Council’s declaration, “Nostra Aetate,” marked a shift in Catholic teaching, affirming the ongoing validity of God’s covenant with the Jews and condemning anti-Semitism.
- Covenant Theology: Several Christian denominations and theologians have re-emphasized the concept of a dual-covenant theology, recognizing the enduring covenant between God and Israel alongside the New Covenant in Christ.
- Continued Debate: While supersessionism has been challenged and rejected by many Christian theologians and denominations, it still persists in various forms within some Christian communities.
The rationale behind shedding light on this subject, even succinctly, emerges from the substantial influence that the interpretations of the Old Testament have wielded on the world beyond the followers of Christianity. Numerous communities have been significantly affected by differing views on what is regarded as the “Israel of the Church” and the actual geographical location of Israel.
Over the centuries, numerous native communities have faced an influx of Christian missionaries who viewed themselves as moral judges and a “shining light on the hill.” This perspective granted them the authority to lay claim to any perceived “unclaimed land” worldwide. Essentially, as long as those individuals planted their flag and incorporated Christian teachings, regardless of the presence of an indigenous population, that area and its emerging Christian community were identified as the “New Israel.”
Here’s a few examples of such practices in effect:
1. North America (United States & Canada):
- Puritans: In the early 17th century, English Puritans settled in what is now the United States, believing they were establishing a “New Israel” or “City upon a Hill.”
- Manifest Destiny: In the 19th century, the ideology of Manifest Destiny propelled the westward expansion of the United States, justifying the annexation of territories and displacement of Indigenous peoples.
- Canada: In Canada, missionaries played a key role in colonization efforts, aiming to convert and assimilate Indigenous populations. The notion of spreading Christianity was used to legitimize land claims and settlement.
2. South America & the Caribbean:
- Spanish Conquistadors: Spanish colonizers, driven by the desire for gold and resources, also carried a mandate to convert Indigenous peoples to Christianity. The spread of Christianity and the establishment of Spanish rule were deeply intertwined in the colonization of South America and the Caribbean.
- Portuguese Colonization: Similar to the Spanish, the Portuguese also sought to spread Christianity in Brazil, with Jesuit missionaries playing a prominent role in converting Indigenous populations.
3. Australia & New Zealand:
- Australia: British colonization of Australia was primarily driven by the desire for territorial expansion and the use of the continent as a penal colony. However, missionaries also sought to convert and “civilize” Indigenous Australians, often leading to cultural erasure and dispossession.
- New Zealand: In New Zealand, the interaction between British settlers and the Maori was initially characterized by trade and missionary activity. The Treaty of Waitangi (1840) was intended to establish a legal framework for land purchases and protect Maori rights, but differing interpretations and breaches of the treaty led to land conflicts and dispossession.
Moreover, various other sects within Christianity also turned to the Old Testament of the Bible, seeking inspiration to discover their own version of the “New Israel.” This practice was not exclusive to a single group but was instead embraced by several distinct Christian communities, each interpreting the scriptures in a way that fueled their aspirations and shaped their spiritual journey. Here are a few notable examples to shed light on the diversity and breadth of such interpretations within Christian denominations:
- Mormon Pioneers: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) also has a history of seeking to establish a Zion. After facing persecution in the eastern United States, the Mormon pioneers, led by Brigham Young, migrated westward to establish a settlement in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. They referred to this as building Zion, a place of unity, righteousness, and peace.
- Boer Trekkers in South Africa: The Boers, descendants of Dutch settlers in South Africa, embarked on the Great Trek in the 1830s and 1840s to establish independent Boer republics inland. Although not explicitly seeking to create a “New Israel,” there were elements of viewing themselves as chosen people and drawing parallels between their journey and the biblical exodus of the Israelites.
- Russo-Siberian Movement: In Russia, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a movement called the Spiritual Christian Molokan Jumpers, along with other Spiritual Christian sects, sought to escape persecution and establish communes that they referred to as “Zion.” Many migrated to Siberia, Central Asia, and eventually to the United States and other countries.
So claiming that the stories from the Old Testament have not played a role in shaping historical oppression around the globe is, in reality, a case of revisionist history.
Some might perceive the story of Abraham, who was promised a land by God that would be purged of pagan and immoral practices, as too simplistic to inspire oppression or sanction wars. However, the reality is quite the contrary. The measures Joshua employed to liberate the lands, engaging in continual wars and purging the lands of the Canaanites, with the goal of establishing a utopian Godly nation (aka Zion), should not be taken lightly. This narrative has been, continues to be, and will always serve as a source of inspiration for some Christians aspiring to establish their utopian land on earth.
Israel the place:
The Reformation of the 16th century laid the groundwork for another tragedy that would unfold a few centuries later. As previously stated, many Church Fathers and Biblical Scholars subscribed to the notion that the Church was to be regarded as the New Israel. However, the Reformation introduced the concept of “Sola Scriptura” (Scripture Alone), encouraging direct and literal interpretation of the Bible. This development reignited interest in Old Testament prophecies and their potential fulfillment, including those concerning the land of Israel and the Jewish people.
Whether one attributes blame to Muslims initially acquiring the lands of Israel—despite many Muslims living there being converts who can trace their ancestry back multiple generations, even to Jewish roots—the reality remains that various communities have faced the direct repercussions of Old Testament teachings.
Some Christians subscribe to a particular interpretation of end-time prophecies, envisioning the gathering of Jews in Israel, the re-establishment of the Third Temple, and the ensuing Battle of Armageddon, all leading to the Second Coming of Christ. This interpretation is derived from teachings found in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.
- Genesis 12:1-3
- “Go from your country… to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you… I will bless those who bless you…”
- Genesis 17:7-8
- “I will establish my covenant… The whole land of Canaan… I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants…”
- Isaiah 66:8
- “Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children.”
- Ezekiel 37:21
- “I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land.”
- Zechariah 12:3
- “I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves.”
- Matthew 24:32-34
- “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that it is near…”
- Revelation 11:1-2
- “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, with its worshipers. But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles.”
It is also widely recognized that the support of Christian Zionists for Israel harbors ulterior motives, primarily the belief in the Second Coming of Christ. Consequently, there are specific political and military policies that Christians are reluctant to support, based not on what they deem best for the Jews residing there, but rather on Biblical prophecy.
Consequently, we observe numerous Christians in political office today, responsible for shaping policies in the Middle East, expressing their unequivocal lack of support for initiatives such as a two-state solution or a peace treaty between Palestinians and Israelis. This stance is grounded in the following considerations:
- Biblical Promise: Christian Zionists often cite scriptures asserting that God promised Israel to the Jews, referencing passages like Genesis 12:7 and 15:18-21. They believe dividing the land contradicts this divine promise.
- End Times Prophecy: Many adherents believe in a specific sequence of events from Revelation leading to the Second Coming of Christ, involving Israel’s undivided control over the land, especially Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2). A two-state solution is seen as disrupting this prophetic timeline.
- Jerusalem’s Significance: Jerusalem’s religious importance, as highlighted in 2 Chronicles 6:6 and Psalm 122:6, leads many Christian Zionists to advocate for its undivided control by Israel, based on historical and spiritual significance.
- Unilateral Right: Based on Biblical narratives like 2 Samuel 7:10, some believe Jews have an exclusive right to Israel, leading to opposition to Israel relinquishing land.
Even in contemporary times, the world experiences the profound effects of both Old and New Testament teachings. The conflict in Israel has been ongoing for 75 years, showing no imminent signs of resolution. We continue to observe unwavering political support for Israel, influenced by biblical teachings, with provocative actions like relocating the American embassy to Jerusalem adding fuel to the fire. To suggest that Christians do not employ the Old Testament for political motives appears almost humorous from the Muslim perspective.
Returning to the initial discussion on the PBD podcast, Robert Spencer and Rashid Hamimi made an attempt to establish a perceived moral superiority by asserting that Jesus’s arrival nullified the laws of the Old Testament. As noted by Daniel during the debate, what we were witnessing right there, was the seeds of Christian very own destruction.
Post 9/11, a segment of Christians have chosen to align with the Atheist Left, ostensibly seeking a moral superiority against Islam, and in doing so, have gradually abandoned their own Christian doctrines. This shift has given rise to the creation of theological arguments that threaten to nullify foundational Biblical laws and teachings. The intense and fervent aversion towards Islam has rendered them oblivious to the fact that numerous Christian Islamophobes today are perceived to harbor heretical beliefs, as was evident when both Robert Spencer and Rashid Hamimi indirectly advocated for the nullification of the Old Testament Law.
One only needs to step back and assess the world before 9/11 to ask, “Are we, as conservative and religious people, better off today?” I’m confident the answer is no. While we have advanced in technology, we observe a decline in adherence to moral laws and religious dedication across all faiths. Additionally, we witness our institutions being demonized and closed down. Indeed, it started with Muslims, as we were the easy targets. We have been demonized, labeled criminal for our faith, and subsequently, many of our adherents have conformed to Atheist beliefs to avoid repercussions from the State. In many ways, it was an Atheist-style Inquisition, supported by the Christian Right for ulterior motives. This brings to mind the famous quote by the prominent Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller:
“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Essentially, the War on Terror, fueled by anti-religious establishments in America and Europe, was facilitated by the Christian Right. This campaign intensified fear and hostility towards Islam and its adherents. Persistent media portrayal painted religious figures as ignorant and backward, spotlighting isolated incidents to cultivate public stereotypes against Muslims and rationalize ongoing wars.
But once the well ran dry in the Islamic world, and it became apparent that the post-9/11 Bush agenda wasn’t going to bear any fruits, these instruments of destruction were then turned towards their creators. As the narrative often unfolds, individuals who fail to uphold their own values and standards ultimately fall victim to their own policies.
Islam has withstood over two decades of immense pressure from Western media and military forces, confronting potentially one of the most intense propaganda campaigns in human history. Still, the faith remains steadfast. This resilience is attributed to Muslims holding firm to their ideals amidst the ongoing onslaught.
This unwavering adherence to principle is what we encouraged our Christian brothers and sisters to embrace. Regrettably, what we observed in the debate were self-defeating tactics, which have contributed to a significant loss of ground for Christians in the West.
In the words of Alexander Hamilton, “He who stands for nothing will fall for anything.”