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FIRST-PERSON: Pluralism personified

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Adam Yahiye Gadahn — one of seven individuals named in late May as a suspected al Qaeda terrorist — is the latest poster child for the insidious effects of empty-headed religious pluralism. The 25-year-old’s journey from California teenager to FBI fugitive highlights, once again, the enormous impact parents have on their children.

Gadahn grew up in a quasi-Jewish/Christian home, according to news accounts, where his parents taught him to believe in one god. But they were not terribly specific about which one was true and rejected the Trinity. Thus, the bright young man was never rooted and grounded in any kind of truth.

Pluralism is the idea that many religions lead to God, including the mutilated form of belief advocated in the Gadahn household. Pluralism fails because it substitutes “tolerance” for the basic human need for truth.

No matter how popular pluralism becomes, it is logically inconsistent for one reason: Christian theology claims a special place for Jesus of Nazareth which no other religion allows Him, namely that He is God incarnate. Islamic theology, for instance, disagrees and says belief in Christian theology leads to eternal damnation. The pluralists would have us believe that both Islam and Christianity work. But if one takes the claims of Christianity or Islam seriously, one or the other does not lead to God and the whole premise of pluralism (i.e., all religions lead to God) is false.

Adam Yahiye Gadahn was smart enough to realize that pluralism is not a coherent system of thought. So, according to his personal statement on the Internet, he went looking for truth and got into “demonic heavy metal music,” leaving his room a mess and not bathing regularly. Not surprisingly, his parents didn’t approve. That sounds eerily familiar, because that was pretty much me in high school. So why is he mixed up with al Qaeda while I’m two-thirds of the way through a seminary degree?

I firmly believe that my mother’s Christian example and witness have played a large role. I learned more about God from being around her than I did in church, though we were there every time the doors opened.

My mother’s faith was not about example without explanation. For instance, when I was 11 years old I told her I believed in euthanasia. She sat me down and told me that life is a gift from God and we don’t have the right to take away God’s gifts. It stuck with me that she knew what she believed and why. I suspect that Adam Gadahn did not have many moments like that when he was growing up.

Gadahn started going to the mosque at 17. Taking a turn toward militant Islam, he came into conflict with the moderate Muslims he worked for in the U.S. and thus ended up in al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan working as a translator. Now, he stands accused of helping the group of international terrorists responsible for thousands of murders all over the world.

Mama made me go to church camp in Dry Creek, La., where at 16 years of age I accepted Christ. I flirted with the world’s views of success and their value systems as a young man. But when the time came to decide what kind of life to pursue, the choice for me was clear if not easy. I want what the Lord wants for me. My faith in Christ is quite independent of my mother. Anyone who has ever seen us disagree knows I’m not brainwashed by any stretch of the imagination. She never forced me to do anything but go to church and learn basic morality.

Most American children won’t go off and join a terrorist organization. But many of them will reject the Christian message and worldview in favor of materialism, secular humanism and the cult of success which characterizes much of our culture. Parents are the first line of defense in preventing this eternal tragedy.

There are no guarantees that a child raised by strong Christians will follow in his or her parents’ footsteps. But having a strong Christian role model who takes the time to explain important points of the faith makes the path to truth much clearer and sets the choice in bold relief.
Samuel Smith is a student and a newswriter at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

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  • Samuel Smith