On Friday, I was surfing the various blogs that I like to read and I came across a truly enlightening interview between al-Jazeera and Ahmed al Katani- Islamic missionary director. The interview was about the Christianization of Africa. The interview is a mix of arresting sociological insights, abysmal ingorance of the current state of inter-Christian relations and panicky paranoia.
Al Katani makes an arresting sociological insight that you need to create a believer before you build a mosque. It certainly tracks with Michael Aquilina's assessment of Rodney Stark's book on the rise of Christanity
I'll momentarily diagress and praise Michael's blog on the early Church father. He makes patristics come alive and reading his posts underscrores how relevenat they still are as this interview demonstrates
So how come Islam appears to have trouble creating worshippers? After many circumlocutions, he partially answers the question: the rich Arab benefactors are more interested in mosque construction than creating a community of believers. Further, Al Katani complains that 'Arab' problems are imported into Africa which are completely irrelevant to the locale. Like the controversy of growing beards as a sign of piety. This indifference to establish a community of believers is very curious in light of the obligation to provide charity to the poor. One of the 5 pillars of Islam. By contrast, Christians ereate a network of social services: from hospitals to orphanges to coops.
Al Katami is a proported Islamic expert on Christianization; yet he demonstrates such absymal ignorance on the current state of inter-Christian relations. For an expert on the subject, he's obviously never bothered to learn even a modicum of Christanity. For example, he absurdly claims that Orthodox, Catholics and Protestanats don't intermarry? Really? Well that assertion will cause Bent to fall off her chair laughing. She's a Copt who's married to a Latin (rite) Catholic and their daughter is being brought up with a love and knowledge of saints from both Churches. If al Katami were a comptent expert, he'd've informed his listeners that the Catholic canon law both east and west have provisions for couples from different Christian demominations on the rules to marry.
More laughably, he's mostly likely never bothered to inform himself of, say the 1993 Christological statement between the Chaledean Catholic and the Assyrian churches (PDF document) which clears up many of the controversies that originated with the Nestorian controversy or the Evangelicals and Catholics together statement. So while he's quite legimate with his reaction over the divisions in the body of Christ, Christian demoninations taken great steps to reconcilate in varying degrees.
Despite his sense of scandal and the gloating over how blindingly simple Islamic doctrine is in comparasion Christanity's 'contradictions' and complexity, al Katani gripes that still 6 million African Moslems convert to Christanity. Well simply that's Islam's most significant flaw isn't it? If Islamic doctrine is indeed so blindingly easy to grasp and so obvious to a resonable person (a) why do non-Arab Moslems still get it wrong? (b) Why does Islam prohibit its adherents from leaving it under penalty of death? (c) Why do 6 million African Moslems still convert to Christanity after comparaing it to Islam? Michael Barbar's blog on the development of Christian doctrine and biblical studies provides an answer. First, the Church's struggles with the seemingly contraditory and complex issues about the Incarnation, Resurrection, sin, death and the like caused the apostles, church fathers, saints, apologists and theologians to work through signifigance of each issue with the help of both God's grace and human intellect. Second, the ferocious 3 centuries of persecutions by the Roman empire as well as the polemics by non-Christians inspired the Christian apologists to develop sophisticated apologetics from philosophy to demonstrate Christanity's reasonablenes. Michael's posts on the development of Christian doctrine and the establishment of the bible highlight the richness of Christian thought over 2 millenia.
Consequently, Islamic apologtiecs has always been shallow in comparasion because both Islamic religious doctrine is oversimplified so no need to struggle with the signifigance of each element and the absence of persecution never compelled Moslems to grapple with extra-relgious arguments to persuade non-Moslems of Islam's reasonability. There was always the sword, the knife, Omar's pact and dimmitude to enforce belief.
Finally, there's panicky paranoia that veers into bizarrelandia. Al Katani appallingly slanders West over a scurillous obsession to empty Africa of its inhabitants. At the same time there's a lot of involuntary humour: that the World Council of Churches has devious plan to Christianize Moslem countries. That's parody. No serious Christian takes that entity with any seriousness. In fact, one of the Orthodox churches resigned its membership precisely because the World Council has compromised the Gospel to please the prejudices of the age.
Nevertheless, there's no mistaking of the panic during the interview. Al Katani is freaking out that Christianization of Africa is relentless and unstoppable. Worse is that he can't resolve the dilemma precisely for the reasons that I analyzed earlier: Islam can't articulate its reasonability and the unjustifiable ignorance of Islamic experts on Christanity about even its most basic beliefs and history. Nonetheless, Christians needn't gloat as the their divisions between denominations is a grevious scandal and causes unjustified confusion about the Gospel.
J'ai appris que Jean-François Revel est étient à 82 ans.
Les nouvelles m'attristent cependant merci Jean-François pour vos livres et témoinage pour la libérté et contre les totalitarismes. Pour moi, votre style rhétorique m'a profondement influencé et vous m'inspirait à améilorer mon expression écrite.
J'espère que ma génération vous succédera dignement.
Requeiest in pacem