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FIRST-PERSON: Osama bin Laden may know of something we’re missing

EVANSON, Ill. (BP)–Six or seven years ago, I was talking with a gathering of prayer warriors. They observed that a decade earlier there had been two great political opponents to the free spread of the gospel about which they had been praying — communism and Islam, whether authoritarian or totalitarian. To the surprise of most everyone, the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact alliance had broken down and the church was growing dramatically in China despite restrictions. And what of Islam? As one put it, “One down; one to go.”

He was speaking of communism’s collapse from spiritual, economic and cultural pressure, both internal and external. Exhausted by the economics of an arms race they could not maintain, bled by 10 futile years in Afghanistan, humiliated by the popularity of such figures as Pope John Paul II and Lech Walesa and the treachery of such leaders as Stalin and Beria, scorned for their indifference to human rights, exposed by the writings of Solzenitzyn, undermined by the seepage of western popular culture, stripped of excellence and initiative by a discredited economic system, the enterprise collapsed.

Despite all these problems, who could have predicted it? The fall of the Iron Curtain was as astonishing as the collapse of the World Trade Towers. It had the engineers and laymen alike scratching their heads. Hindsight finally caught up with the reality, but it was unthinkable in advance.

Many of us who served in the military spent decades running map scenarios for Germany’s Fulda Gap. What would we do should communist forces mass there for an invasion of Western Europe? We spoke of delays (trading space for time), of enduring hub-to-hub artillery barrages and of going nuclear. We studied their organization, gear and tactics — Motorized Rifle Regiments; AK-47 rifles; Foxbat interceptor aircraft; Spesnatz commandos; BRDM armored vehicles. It was overwhelming. How could we conceivably stand should they unleash their power?

And then it was essentially over. Poof. (Yes, I know they still have weapons of mass destruction, nasty secret agents and such, but there’s no comparison with what we knew and feared.)

We now marvel at Osama bin Laden’s extremism, his fight to the death. Why can’t he just live and let live? Can’t he see that Islam, one of the world’s great religions, is here to stay? Can’t he just let it grow naturally as it will?

But maybe Osama bin Laden senses something we miss. Maybe Islam is on the ropes or on its deathbed, and despite his swagger, he knows it and is desperate to hold back the tide.

Maybe we’ll see the collapse of Islam in our lifetime. Why not? It’s not like poverty or sin, something we’ll have until the Lord returns. It wasn’t even invented until almost six centuries after Calvary. Falsehoods and shackles come and go.

But it’s so big — and growing. So? Is it too big for the Lord to humble or erase in the course of history? Ask mighty Babylon. Ask Assyria. Ask Rome. Ask the worshipers of Horus and Osiris, the devotees of Baal and Astarte. Oh, but Islam is monotheistic. Doesn’t matter if the theos who is monos is bogus. (By the way, America ought also to consider the example of Babylon, but that’s another column.)

Let me list 10 of Islam’s troubles, possible signs of an ideological crackup:

1. Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. How would you like the world’s most cold-blooded terrorist to be spouting verses from the Bible? And even pluralistic sophisticates are chapped that the Taliban blew up the ancient 175-foot Buddhas.

2. Iran. A missionary told me that this cultural disaster was a shock to Muslims in the region. The Ayatollah was their hero when he overthrew the corrupt, westernized Shah to establish a model Muslim state. Today, they’re saying, “Oops.”

3. The Internet. We’re told that Osama uses it to work his evil. But he doesn’t control it. And such images as you find on www.rawa.org flow to all who are interested. See stadium executions of adulterous women. See the man parading about with others’ severed hands and feet.

4. The Holocaust. Look, whatever your Palestinian hurts may be, they pale beside the hurts of Jews. If you can’t cut them more slack than this, you disgrace yourselves.

5. Finland. In a USA Today column, John Omicinski noted that Finland’s 5 million people exported more manufactured goods than the 260 million largely Muslim people who occupy the “arc of crisis” from Morocco to Iran. What’s wrong with this picture? In a military course, I once read that the most destabilizing item you could send to a repressed people was not an exotic weapon but a Sears catalogue.

6. Historians. The History Book Club promotes Ronald Segal’s “Islam’s Black Slaves” as “a groundbreaking study of the Eastern slave trade, which resulted in the buying and selling of as many as 14 million Africans throughout the Islamic world from the seventh century onward.” And though the Crusades weren’t Christianity’s finest hour, how did those constitutionally pacific Muslims get to Jerusalem (and later, Tours, 732, and Vienna, 1683) in the first place? Were they just tourists? Let’s do some background reading.

7. The INS. They’re immigrating to America in droves. The spiritual ball is in our court.

8. Baywatch. The proliferation of such trash weakens them as it weakens America. The unregenerate have unregenerate appetites wherever they are. Even the zealot hijackers had a taste for seamy clubs. They’re learning that righteousness takes more than human resolve and suppression.

9. Oil depletion. Oil money has funded much of the Muslim boom. Where would the Saudis be without it? And where would world Islam be without the largesse of the Saudis and their neighboring fiefdoms? The clock is ticking on their oil supply.

10. Church planting movements. Read David Garrison’s IMB booklet on the explosive multiplication of overseas congregations, even in the Muslim world.

If Islam implodes, will it be Kingdom Come for Christians? Not really. Sin will still reign in most lives. But the implosion should open many doors to the spread of the gospel.

The dream is not the disappearance of Muslims but the disappearance of Islam. We love the former and not the latter.

Some would say such talk is inimical to relational evangelism. On the contrary, Muslim evangelism presupposes this dream. Just as the Church Fathers prayed for the evaporation of Gnosticism, Arianism and Pelagianism, we pray for the evaporation of Islam. Don’t we?
Coppenger is pastor of Evanston (Ill.) Baptist Church. Other reflections by Coppenger can be viewed at www.comeletusreason.com and www.listten.com.

    About the Author

  • Mark Coppenger