Saturday, March 20, 2010
Last Friday night a New York Times headline underwent an online transformation. The article formerly known as “A Christian Overture to Muslims Has Its Critics” acquired a new billing: “A Dispute on Using the Koran as a Path to Jesus.”
For my money this was a big improvement, and explaining what I mean will illuminate a dirty little secret: some American Christians are fostering religious strife abroad. They mean well, but the damage they’re doing can be seen all the way from Nigeria, where Christians and Muslims are killing each other, to Malaysia, where Muslims are trying to keep Christians from using the term “Allah” for God.
The Times story is about an outreach technique that some Baptist missionaries use with Muslims. It involves stressing commonalities between the Koran and the Bible and affirming that the Allah of the Koran and the God of the Bible are one and the same.
You can see how a headline writer might call this an “overture.” And certainly the Christians who deploy the technique see it in sunny terms. Their name for it — the “Camel Method” — comes from the acronym for Chosen Angels Miracles Eternal Life.
But a more apt etymology would involve the “camel’s nose under the tent.” The “overture” — the missionary’s initial bonding with Muslims via discussion of the Koran — is precision-engineered to undermine their allegiance to Islam.
These missionaries start out by noting that the Koran depicts Jesus and his mother, Mary, in a favorable light. Indeed, they point out, the Koran depicts Jesus as a great prophet and a miracle worker who can even raise the dead. In contrast, the Koran doesn’t show Muhammad himself doing that sort of thing. Hmmm … kind of makes you wonder who the top prophet is, doesn’t it?
In some cases even the “camel’s nose” image doesn’t do justice to missionary wiliness. “Trojan Camel” might be better; some Christian missionaries call themselves Muslims — or at least muslims — because, after all, “muslim” literally means one who surrenders to God. A few have gone way undercover, growing beards and abstaining from pork. ...