Christianity within the Context of Historical and Contemporary Expansionism (4)

The Rise of Christianity by Rodney Stark

Conclusion and Inter-Faith Issues:

Some verses in the Qur’an call for treating Christians and Jews with respect as recipients of God’s divine message. In reality, many Muslims found it difficult not to see Christians as polytheists because of the doctrine of the Trinity. Some Christians, traditionally view the Qur’an as fraudulent and Muhammad as an impostor. Old sectarian rivalries play out with severe consequences for minority groups, both Christian and Muslim.

Conflicts in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and elsewhere for much of the 20th century were often labeled as ethnic, political, or ideological perpetuations of long-standing struggles over land, power, and influence. These conflicts tend to be labeled in agreement with the explicitly religious affiliation of their participants. It is difficult to imagine a time when there was a greater need for severe interfaith engagement than now. It is also essential to understand how members of the two communities experience each other in specific areas of the world today, including the United States, taking note of efforts currently underway to advance interfaith understanding and cooperation.

The events of September 11, 2001, and the resulting American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan have led to ugly commentary reminiscent of medieval hyperbole. Right-wing evangelical rhetoric in the United States against Islam has been fueled by incidents of international terrorism involving Muslims. The well-funded Islamophobia industry in the United States has produced and distributed large amounts of anti-Muslim materials. Since the events of September 2011, American Muslims, caught in a painful position, have decried the acts of the 9/11 terrorists and defended Islam as a religion of peace.

By the close of the Middle Ages, hostilities between Islam and Western Christendom were intense, with active warfare for several centuries. Some events served as a transition from the Middle Ages to a new era of international engagement. The fall of Constantinople in the middle of the 15th century and the final expulsion of Muslims from Andalusia at the end of that century illustrate the transition. For some eleven centuries, Constantinople stood as the capital of the Byzantine Empire. Its fall to the invading Turks in 1453 signaled a dramatic change in the power relationships between Islam and Christendom. The specter of a Muslim takeover of all of Europe was raised anew.

Initially, under Christian rule, Muslims were the recipients of a policy of toleration. However, the two communities gradually became segregated entirely, and a rising tide of anti-Semitism had consequences for both Muslims and Jews. The rise of rationalism, a fascination on the part of the West with the cultural trappings of the East, and the necessities of international political and economic exchange soon drew the worlds of Islam and Christendom closer together. At the same time, under the influence of Western missionary agencies, a very negative perception of Islam continued to develop in Europe. For an extended period, Western scholarly research on Islam was dominated by the desire to convert Muslims to Christianity, resulting in analyses of Islam that were apologetic and highly polemical. It is only in the 20th century that more objective scholarship emerged, especially efforts launched following the publication of Edward Said’s epic Orientalism. Umar Habila Dadem Danfulani, in his article[1], highlighted some of the early conflicts in Nigeria. The struggle for political power entails the manipulation of the symbols and beliefs of Islam and Christianity. August 26, 2011, was a sad day for Nigerians as it went down in history as a day that suicide bombing brought the country to international prominence and focused the world on the giant of Africa. [2]

Danfulani quoted[3] that: “It is axiomatic that Christianity and Colonialism introduced values, institutions, and worldviews that were at variance and, therefore, bound to conflict with traditional ones in most of Africa.”

The fundamentalists within Judaism, Christianity, and Islam cause religious conflicts. Therefore, it is crucial to decode the fundamentalist imagery so that one can understand what fundamentalists in all the three ‘Faiths’ are trying to express because these movements express anxiety and disquiet that no society could safely ignore. In conclusion, these conflicts/persecutions that lead to the dispersal of people have a positive effect on expansionism, the primary key to spiritual growth. Christendom has benefitted.

[1] Written in Swedish Missiological Themes, 89, 1 (2001) on Religious Conflict on the Jos Plateau: The Interplay between Christianity and Traditional Religion During the Early Missionary Period

[2] Josephine Olatomi Soboyejo, “A Theological Study of Jesus’ Responses to Conflicts With Select Ethno-Religious and Political Conflicts In Contemporary Nigeria,” Ph.D. Thesis in Crowther Graduate Theological Seminary, April 2014, 1

[3] cf. Nengel 1999,19

[4] see Ruth Marshall, “God is not a Democrat: Pentecostalism and Democratisation in Nigeria,” In The Christian Churches and the Democratisation of Africa, Paul Gifford, ed. (New York: E. J. Brill, 1995) cited in Sunday Babajide Komolafe, “Missiology: An International Review,” Vol. XXXII. No. 2, April 2004, 226

Christianity at the Crossroads: How the Second Century Shaped the Future of the Churchby Michael kruger

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