A great question came up in our Socrates Cafe discussion last night. (Topic: Muslimerica) The question is, does a Christian have any right to decide who the True Muslims are?
Or the true Hindus? Or the true Buddhists? Do Muslims have a right to decide who the true Christians are? Wouldn’t that bug you, if you’re a Christian, to hear a Muslim pontificating on the “correct” way to follow Christ?
In other words, does anyone have the right to decide the right way to follow a religion that is not their own?
Some Christians will say that Muslims are a peaceful people, with a few bad apple extremists poisoning the well. This would certainly be true if, by “Muslims” they mean “all those who call themselves Muslims.” But other Christians point out that the Koran has many violent mandates, to eliminate those who will not follow the teachings of the Prophet Mohammad. They will tell you that the only “True Muslims” are the ones who take the Koran literally, and do what it says.
But is it appropriate to superimpose an evangelical view of the Bible onto a Muslim view of the Koran? Must all sacred texts have the same role within their respective faith communities? It’s impossible, because many religions have a hierarchy of texts, including semi-sacred writings. Muslims have the Hadith. Jews have the Talmud. And many religions have no monolithic divine work, but rather a collection of revered and renowned writings.
I believe my only chance at understanding how to be a “true” Christian, is in knowing Jesus. Not just knowing about him, but knowing him personally. If many sincere and growing Christians fail often at this, then how could someone know better who’s not even trying to follow Christ?
If we’re careful, we can still make a few blanket generalizations about those people who identify themselves with a certain faith. But I think we’d have to leave it at that.