Civil war has erupted in the church. This time it is not over women’s ordination or same-sex marriage. This time it is not between Protestants and Catholics or evangelicals and liberals. The civil war among 21st century Christian leaders is over the immigration of Muslims to the post-Christian West.
The catalyst for the civil war is President Trump’s 90-day moratorium on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries and his preferential option for Syrian Christian refugees over Syrian Muslim refugees.
In Britain, leaders of seven Anglican mission societies have signed a statement expressing their ‘profound concern’ over Trump’s recent executive orders on immigration. Philip Mounstephen of the Church Mission Society, Janette O’Neill of the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, Sam Richardson of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and Mark Russell of the Church Army are among the luminaries leading the Charge of the Left Brigade in the civil war on this side of the pond.
In the US, leaders of eight evangelical mission agencies have written a letter to President Trump and Vice President Pence expressing similar concerns. They include Leith Anderson of the National Association of Evangelicals and Shirley V. Hoogstra of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.
The irony is unbelievable. These are leaders of mission agencies! They claim to be ‘evangelical Christians…guided by the Bible.’ Their raison d’être is to propagate the gospel not to promote Islam! Do they want Mr Trump to welcome Muslims to the US so their agencies can convert them to Christianity? That’s not what they’re telling the churches and the President!
In the rival camp, Christian leaders are telling political leaders to do exactly the opposite. ‘Everyone in Italy and the rest of Europe will soon be Muslim because of our stupidity,’ warns Monsignor Carlo Liberati, Archbishop Emeritus of Pompei in a recent interview. Cardinal Raymond Burke echoes this concern. ‘It is clear that Muslims have an ultimate goal: conquering the world.’
The head of the Czech Roman Catholic Church, Miloslav Vlk, puts his finger on the demographic threat. ‘Muslims in Europe have many more children than Christian families; that is why demographers have been trying to come up with a time when Europe will become Muslim.’
The leader of Catholics in Lebanon, who brings the costly lessons of the Islamisation of Lebanon, supports his concern. ‘I have heard many times from Muslims that their goal is to conquer Europe with two weapons: faith and the birth rate,’ Cardinal Bechara Rai says.
These Catholic leaders are speaking in complete defiance of Pope Francis, who is one of the big guns in the pro-Muslim side of the civil war.
There are two approaches to resolving this civil war. We look at the past and the present. We learn from history and from the “signs of the times.” Both approaches lie at the core of the Christian faith. Hence, both methods should be acceptable to both sides in resolving this civil war. The winner wins on the strength of the evidence from historical and existential arguments.
Christianity is rooted in history. When I taught a course in Islam at Liverpool Hope University, I placed two sets of maps in front of every student. They were shocked to discover that much of the Middle East and North Africa—Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Algeria, Iraq, Armenia, Tunisia, Turkey, Sudan, Libya, Ethiopia, Yemen as well as parts of Iran, Jordan and Arabia were pre-dominantly Christian, Jewish or Zoroastrian before Islam nearly wiped them out.
Efrem Karsh, Director and Emeritus Professor of Middle East and Mediterranean Studies at King’s College, London, documents the relentless march of Islam in his book Islamic Imperialism: A History. Many Westerners assume that “imperialism” is European or American and that Muslims are its victims. ‘Contrary to the conventional wisdom, it is the Middle East where the institution of empire not only originated…but where its spirit has also outlived its European counterpart,’ he argues.
Within a decade of Muhammad’s death a vast Islamic empire, stretching from Iran to Egypt and from Yemen to northern Syria, came into being in one of the most remarkable examples of empire building in history. Here endeth the history lesson.
Christianity is also grounded in the existential present. ‘You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times,’ Jesus tells the Pharisees and Sadducees. What do the signs of the times tell us? Every single European country—be it Sweden, Germany, France or Belgium—that has welcomed large number of Muslim migrants is facing a crisis it cannot handle. Here endeth the existential lesson.
Neither lesson will convince the supporters of Muslim immigration. Neither lesson will resolve the civil war. Why? Many of our Christian leaders are suffering from collective historical amnesia and mass self-delusion. As shepherds, they have begun to speak well of the wolf. As hirelings, they have begun to tear down fences that once protected their flocks.
Monsignor Liberati is echoing the words of the prophet Jeremiah: ‘It’s because our leaders are stupid. They never asked God for counsel, and so nothing worked right. The people are scattered all over.’