In Australian society there seems to be a gag on the issue of Muslims living in Australia. Indeed, it is considered politically incorrect to suggest the need for any sort of debate about their immigration and their place in Australian society.
At the heart of it, is the problem of being a “civilised” country—that that kind of issue is beyond debate—and that we should accept anyone and everybody no matter what their beliefs. And yet, with the almost daily reporting of problems in the Middle East, and the extension of terrorism to other parts of the world (including Australia), it is an issue that needs to be debated. Because, no matter what legislation is passed, it is not going to go away.
Now, of course, there is a big difference between people who say they are Muslims and those who actually practice the faith—and that is true of Christians too. Indeed, history tells us of many wars fought in the name of God, or even between different denominations of the one faith. As a consequence, without a debate, and without the different sides being able to tell their stories and share their fears, the division is not likely to improve.
Having said that, from a Christian point of view, there is also a spiritual problem—and the need for the church to keep the Christian faith pure. Because, it is not without reason that when Moses (and Joshua) were leading the people into the Promised Land, they were told to wipe out the local inhabitants.
Now, this aspect of the Old Testament is often considered to be unpopular, and for this reason many people dismiss the God of the Old Testament as being war-like and unacceptable. And from a particular perspective, I can understand their feelings. But dig a little deeper, and we can see that God was a God who loved his people and was prepared to go to extreme lengths to protect them. And, in this particular case, he was concerned about the need to protect the people from false beliefs and straying to other so-called “gods”.
What was at stake was the people’s eternal well-being. As a jealous god, God wanted his people to live with him in eternity. And that wasn’t possible if they rejected him and pursued other beliefs. The matter was serious. So serious, in fact, that Jesus himself, repeated the idea that he was the only way to God, and that all other paths led to eternal destruction.
There was a reason why God did not want Judaism to be mixed with other religions. And we would do well to remember that.
As a consequence, from the church’s perspective, the issue of having Muslims, or people of any other faith in Australia, is a problem. And the immigration of people of other faiths is not a situation that the church should be encouraging.
Christianity (like Islam) is an exclusive religion—it cannot countenance other beliefs—and it should not be providing any legitimacy to other beliefs. And recognition of that fact needs to be included in any debate about the place of Muslims in Australia.
Indeed, living in a secular country, is a big problem for any Christian. The values society holds is very different to those of the Christian faith. Whilst the “civilised” nation may welcome all, the role of the Christian church is to uphold its God given beliefs. So, having other religions existing side-by-side with the church is a real problem, particularly with its responsibility to keep the Christian faith pure and not give credit to the beliefs of other faiths.
But how, then, does the church care for refugees and others overseas in need? How does it show that it cares, whilst remaining true to the faith? Well that is the real challenge for the church today. Because, it does need to find and encourage alternatives to the current practices of integrating people of other faiths. But to do that, it also needs to find its voice—which has been lost for so long—in the halls of our secular governments.
Posted 4th May 2019
© 2019, Brian A Curtis