ST. LOUIS (BP)–Christians understand what it is to have the author of their faith maligned. The name “Jesus Christ” is routinely uttered as a curse word. In recent times he has been vilified and slandered in every disgusting manner imaginable.
In the 1988 film “The Last Temptation of Christ,” Jesus was characterized as a masochistic soul full of self-contempt that struggled with fear and doubt over whether or not it was God or Satan who fueled his destiny. He was even portrayed as fantasizing about having sex with one of his followers, Mary Magdalene.
One year later, Andres Serrano vented his contempt for the Son of God by depicting a crucifix immersed in a vat of urine. He titled his “artistic” rendering “Piss Christ.” More recently, the off Broadway production “Corpus Christi” championed a gay Christ-like figure. The play strongly insinuated that Jesus Christ was a homosexual.
Christians patiently endure the attacks on the object of their faith, in part, because they understand the salacious slanders are rooted in someone’s demented imagination and not in fact. Jesus’ life was above reproach. Christ’s followers also seek to obey the teaching of their founder who said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.”
Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, legitimate questions have been raised concerning some of the tenets of Islam. However, unlike the harsh treatment Christianity routinely receives, the politically correct American culture has bent over backward to accommodate the followers of Muhammad. Some public schools have even gone so far as to instruct students on the finer points of the Muslim faith.
In a sermon presented at a pastor’s conference, conducted prior to the annual meeting of the 2002 Southern Baptist Convention held in St. Louis, Mo., one prominent preacher chose not to go along with the P.C. mandate to go soft on Islam. Rev. Jerry Vines declared, “Islam was founded by Muhammed, a demon-possessed pedophile who had 12 wives, the last one of which was a 9-year-old girl.”
Vines, the pastor of First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Fla., and a former SBC president went on to say, “Allah is not Jehovah, either. Jehovah is not going to turn you into a terrorist that’ll try to bomb people and take the lives of thousands and thousands of people.”
The reaction from the Islamic community was swift. The Council on Islamic relations, a national Islamic advocacy group, called on President Bush, other elected officials, and leaders of various faith groups to repudiate the “hate-filled” Islamophobic remarks. According to a report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis attorney Eric Vickers, executive director of the American Muslim Council, said of Vines, “We need to educate him…”
Repudiations may indeed come. However, if education occurs, it will only shed light on the reality of Islam.
While Vines’ observation that Muhammad was “demon-possessed” might be subjective, the truth that Islam’s founder took a child bride and consummated the union is documented. In the Hadith (an authoritative guide of Islam) one discovers that Muhammad was betrothed to his wife, Aisha, at age six and had sexual relations with her at age nine (Hadith 7.64).
Concerning the remark that Islamic teaching advocates the type of suicidal terrorism inflicted on Sept. 11, and that Israel is regularly subjected to, one need only to study the Koran to find the fuel for the terrorist’s fire.
Islam’s highest authority instructs followers of Allah to “fight and slay the pagans wherever you find them…”(Surah 9:5). Further, Muslims are told to “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day” (Surah 9:29). According to Dr. Ergun Mehmet Caner, a former Sunni Muslim and professor of theology at The Criswell College in Dallas, the Koran promises Muslim men who die waging jihad (holy war) passport to a paradise where 70 perpetual virgins will serve them eternally.
While Muslims and purveyors of P.C. may find Vines’ characterization of Islam’s founder distasteful, if they are going to denounce his words, they must also take issue with the very teachings of Islam.
Jesus Christ can be portrayed in a false or negative light and the characterizations are defended under the bountiful banner of free speech. However, teaching from Islam’s own texts can be highlighted and the speaker is deemed a bigoted hate-monger.
Some will question the prudence of Vines’ statements. In America, however, freedom of speech allows for terse observations so long as they stop short of libel or slander. That is, of course, unless the subject is Jesus Christ and then libel and slander are welcomed, applauded and defended.