In the current debate about home-grown Islamic extremism it’s important to point out that the average Australian knows as little about the Bible as they do about the Koran. The culture that was established by the Bible now finds itself a complete foreigner to its pages.
We need to remember this as suspicion and fear surrounding the rise of younger radicalised Australian Muslims increases. I’ve been reading letters in the newspapers calling for a better understanding of the Koran, or at least some understanding at all. And that should give Christians who have a missional/evangelistic heart some food for thought.
We are living in a context in which the West is still supported, albeit precariously, on the rotting timbers of the Judeao-Christian framework. It has, until the recent past, informed our ethical and legal systems. There is, as Flannery O’Connor said, “a Christ-hauntedness” in our culture. Now, the spectre is not as visible here in hard secular Australia (and least of all in even harder secular Western Australia), as it is in the USA for example, but it is there, although slowly fading.
And what reason is given for the sudden need for our community to understand the Koran a little better? The extreme difference in values between Islam and the West. Now I say “extreme” not in the specific sense of “extremism”, but in the large gulf in how Islam sees the world compared with how the average Westerner sees the world. The West naively thinks it can appropriate Islam under its late modern umbrella and that Muslims, when they understand it, will come to see that that is a good thing. By and large they don’t. And, as a Christian, I think that by and large they are right.
Ok, ok, so we have democracy and separation of powers, and iPhone6 on tap and Krispy Kremes. But we have hard-core porn on tap too, and hard core self-focus, hard-core marital breakdown and a whole lot of other hard-core things that the Muslim world is astonished and dismayed by. That’s why when I hear people say “If they could just understand our way of life better, the more extreme Muslims would come around.” My answer is that perhaps they do understand our way of life – better than we do because they are newcomers – and they don’t like what they see. They see a vacuousness to the culture that churns up a restlessness that is never satisfied. They see a godlessness in our culture that mocks the sacred and celebrates the profane. They see family breakdown on a colossal scale and a drive for selfish individualism in which “being true to me” is the highest goal.
And here’s the point Christian. We’re just not shocked enough by that. We’re just not mourning enough in a world in which not only do we see all that, all too often we want it, desire it, and baptise it with spiritual terminology to own it. Christians are to behave extremely. Christians are to present such a challenge to the current Western framework that it shocks and offends the culture. In a very real way we should be known as extremists. Not because of extreme acts of violence, but because of extreme acts of peace. Not because of extreme hatred and isolation, but because of extreme love and integration.
Letters should start appearing in newspapers demanding the general populace get to know what is actually in the Bible in order to understand why Christians have become so radicalised. Attempts should be made to make us fit in more. People should be so shocked by our extremism that they start to mine down into what this final prophet Jesus actually said and did, and what he might mean still today. Current affairs programmes should have spirited debates about why Christians are failing to integrate properly, failing to buy into the Western consumer narrative, failing to conform to the social and sexual mores of the culture. Rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth shock jocks should be declaring us a danger to society. So extreme that perhaps even a Muslim in need of the grace of the gospel might pick up the Bible and read it and meet the most extreme man who ever lived.