Although I am not a Catholic, I admire many of them. And one of my favourite contemporary Catholic thinkers is William Kilpatrick. He has penned numerous important books and articles, and today he is one of the leading Catholic intellects (along with people like Robert Spencer) who actually knows something about the real nature of Islam.
In a time when the political ideology of Islam is unleashing untold damage and harm all around the world, it is refreshing to find a thinker who actually gets it right on the issue of Islam. Sadly too many folks – including too many Catholics – are clueless about the real nature of the Islamic faith. Given this appalling and quite dangerous ignorance, we desperately need authorities like Kilpatrick to come to our rescue. Indeed, he has been doing a valiant job here for many years. Two years ago he came out with a vitally crucial volume on all this.
Entitled Christianity, Islam and Atheism, it looked at the very real threat of Islam – every bit as much of a threat to the West as atheistic communism was – and urges Westerners to wake up to the many dangers we face from Islam. My review of this significant book is here: billmuehlenberg.com/2013/02/26/a-review-of-christianity-islam-and-atheism-by-william-kilpatrick/
All this is well worth majoring on, and for two reasons at least. One, the Pope has just done something never done before, and two, Kilpatrick has a brand new article out further warning about Catholic naivety concerning Islam. As to what Pope Francis just did, it was a world first, and it remains to be seen if this will take things further down the road of capitulation and appeasement to Islam. The story runs as follows:
“For the first time in history, Islamic prayers and readings from the Quran will be heard at the Vatican on Sunday, in a move by Pope Francis to usher in peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Francis issued the invitation to Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during his visit last week to Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority.”
Of course plenty of Christian churches and denominations have been moving in this direction of late, but to have it actually take place in the Vatican with the Pope’s blessing may well be a huge matter of concern. As mentioned, we will have to see how all this plays out.
But given that Islam can rightly be described as the “greatest murder machine in history,” with hundreds of millions slaughtered in the name of Islam, we have every reason to be concerned about Islam. Or we can put it this way, as another piece highlighted: “Thirty-six countries afflicted with Muslim terror in five months”.
And if you need any more reasons as to why we all should be concerned about Islam, the 292 articles I have on this topic on my website might be of help: billmuehlenberg.com/category/islam/
So with all this in mind, the new article by Kilpatrick therefore could not be more timely. While I urge all of you to read the entire piece, I can here promote it with a number of lengthy quotations. He asks us this important question: “Should Christian Leaders Defend Islam?” He writes:
Many Christians still take the attitude that if you’re a religion, you’re part of the family and we’ll stick up for you. As an example, recent popes have been adamant in their opposition to secularism, but have been reluctant to criticize Islam. For them, the major conflict of our age is not between religion and religion but between religion and unbelief. Of course, there is plenty of justification for that view. The struggle between atheism and belief which was the chief preoccupation of Pope St. John Paul II was indeed the defining struggle of the twentieth century. He may have been concerned about Islam, but there was little indication that he saw anything inherently wrong with it—as he did with Nazism and communism. He once kissed the Koran, but one cannot imagine that he would ever have done the same with Mein Kampf or the Communist Manifesto.
As suggested by his Regensburg address, Pope Benedict XVI had a more critical view of Islam than his predecessor, but on the whole he seems to have adopted the position that believers are in one camp and secularists in another….
Pope Francis appears to have an even more positive attitude toward Islam. In Evangelii Gaudium, he asserted that “authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.” More recently, in a talk to refugees, he encouraged them to look to the sacred writings of their traditions: “those that are Christian, with the Bible, and those that are Muslim, with the Qur’an. The faith that your parents instilled in you will always help you move on.”
The view that our commonalities with Islam are more important than our differences is widely shared by Christians and is especially strong among Catholics. But what if this view is mistaken? Not to put too fine a point on it, what if Osama bin Laden’s interpretation of Islam is closer to the original than that of moderate Muslims?
Kilpatrick warns about the appeasement and let’s-just-get-along approach:
The first negative consequence of this stand-by-my-Islam approach is that it creates confusion for many Catholics. The average Catholic who keeps abreast of the news and who is not committed to upholding any particular narrative about Islam will have noticed by now that there is something wrong with Islam. And as more is revealed about Islam and sharia law, it will become more and more difficult for that average Catholic to give credence to the notion that all the many problems with Islam have nothing to do with the real Islam….
Such an approach also tends to devalue the sacrifices of those Christians in Muslim lands who have had the courage to resist submission to Islam. It must be highly discouraging to be told that the religion in whose name your friends and relatives have been slaughtered is prized and esteemed by the Church….
Another unintended consequence of the Catholic tendency to put the best possible face on Islam is that it strengthens the atheist/secularist argument that all religions are cut from the same cloth. The Church is frequently accused by its foes of being totalitarian and intolerant. If Church leaders keep making excuses for a religion that actually is totalitarian and intolerant, those charges may begin to stick.
He concludes with these words:
Catholics need to remind themselves that medieval Christians were not the only ones to make sharp distinctions between different religions or to think that some religions should be rejected. St. Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians, warns against anyone who “comes and preaches another Jesus than the one we preached” (2 Cor 11:4). Jesus himself delivered a similar warning: “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Mt. 7:15).
Of course, Jesus couldn’t possibly have had someone like Muhammad in mind. Or could he? Unless Church leaders are quite certain that the “Prophet” is not included in the warning, they would do well to avoid statements that lend credibility to the Islamic faith. In Nostra Aetate, the council fathers wisely confined their discussion of Christian-Muslim relations to Muslims. No mention is made of Islam, the Koran, or Muhammad. It is one thing to acknowledge that individual Muslims can lead moral lives and that they can have a close relationship with God. It’s another thing to imply, through word or gesture, that Islam is a valid faith and the Koran a reliable guide to salvation.