Commentary: We must recognize we are engaged in a cultural war

*by Bishop Scott Jones

We are all horrified by the terrible violence committed in Paris the evening of Nov. 13. We should be praying for the victims and their families and for the people of France who suffered this evil action.

At the same time, we must pay attention to the larger context in which this attack occurred. We are engaged in cultural warfare. The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America, the bombings in Beirut, the beheadings of Christians in North Africa and now the Paris attacks are all part of a new kind of warfare being waged against Western civilization and mainstream Islam by a small group of jihadists.

Bishop Scott Jones

Bishop Scott Jones

In this battle, the vast majority of Muslims are our allies. We must carefully distinguish our enemies — the jihadists of Dayesh (which calls itself the Islamic State), Al-Qaeda, and the Taliban are the enemy. They believe themselves to be the only true Muslims, and most of their victims have been other Muslims.

Americans need to understand that all Muslims are not alike and that this is first and foremost a battle within the Muslim community. Since the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Muslims have been in a deep quandary. The Quran and its interpreters call for a political and religious leader to unite all Muslims in a unity of religion and state. The leader for this entity has been called a “caliph.” There has been no caliph since the end of World War I and the rise of modern Turkey. Without a caliph, Muslims have no way to make binding decisions about how to adjust their 7th century Scripture and doctrine to the 21st century. The issue is how to live faithfully as a Muslim today, and Muslims lack the governing body to answer their question.

Christians should remember we went through similar and even bloodier changes in the wars of religion from the early 1500s to 1648. During that time, the nation state was invented, and ideas of religious tolerance were developed. At that time Christians were organized into churches with decision-making bodies that could work out how to adapt to the new form of civilization. We had the great advantage that our Lord never sought political power, and the New Testament presumes we are living under pagan authorities. As Christianity developed, other relationships to government developed. There were many years when Christianity was tied to the power of the government, but those days are mostly gone now.

The culture war against jihadist Islam will not be won by military action, though such action is necessary to resist its expansion and to fight against terrorist actions. But we need vigilance and care. The war will be won by our ideas and our behavior in living the kinds of lives that represent diversity, religious freedom and mutual respect.

That is why we must welcome as many Syrian refugees as possible to America and demonstrate to Muslims all over the world the kind of hospitality and mutual respect that is America at its best. We Christians must take the lead in welcoming Muslim refugees, because it is what Scripture commands us (Matthew 25, Leviticus 19, Hebrews 13).

But there is a tactical reason to welcome them. When Western countries mistreat and reject Muslims, it becomes a recruiting tool and propaganda weapon for our enemies. I am deeply disappointed that so many governors (including those of Kansas and Nebraska where I serve) have rejected the idea of receiving refugees. They are pandering to our worst fears and failing to lead us to be our best selves as a nation. They are making a strategic mistake and giving aid to our enemies. This culture war will be won by the Christian values of love, tolerance, mutual respect and hospitality. As a nation and as states, we need to welcome the stranger among us.

 

*Bishop Scott Jones serves the Great Plains Conference, which is comprised of all of Kansas and Nebraska.

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17 Comments on "Commentary: We must recognize we are engaged in a cultural war"

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 
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Rick Carpenter
Guest

Re the cultural war. To try to consider that our actions or beliefs will affect how the jihadis think about us is naive. They have developed an ideology/theology where no matter whether we are ‘good’ or we are ‘bad’, allah will triumph over Yahweh. Nothing, in their minds, will change that. They have put themselves into a position that only one thing will halt that way of thinking.

Robert Smith
Guest

Our president has not yet sold the public on vetting procedures that are planned, so I see it only prudent that governors and the public in general be satisfied with those plans before accepting a population of refugees since the Dayesh has promised to infiltrate those populations.

bthomas
Guest
The current administration has no credibility. It’s ineffectiveness in speaking to the current refugee problem reflects that lack of credibility. The facts of who have been admitted by this administration and the routine and repeated failures of this executive to speak with integrity argue that one cannot now hear him as credible. Legitimate refugees fleeing actual persecution should be helped. Those who simply want to seek greener pastures for better economic opportunities, etc., should be received only as they are able to offer real value to the country and can demonstrate means of supporting themselves. The nation has no obligation… Read more »
Keith A. Jenkins
Guest
Mark, you say, “If ‘in this battle, the vast majority of Muslims are our allies,’ then the Bishop should present facts to back up that contention. He didn’t. Most people familiar with the facts are mystified by this kind of naivete.” It seems more than just a bit disingenuous to accuse Bishop Jones of not presenting hard evidence in support of his views when you make resort to such Trumpean fuzziness as “Most people familiar with the facts.” Which people? Why aren’t you naming names? What facts? Why aren’t you citing references? I have read dozen of statements by Muslim… Read more »
Rick Carpenter
Guest

Keith, can you back up your claim that IS is using words of Republican governors and presidential candidates in their recruitment videos.

Clinton W. Spence
Guest
Mark, you confuse accepting refugees with stopping border-crossers. Even if the report from an anonymous and questionable source were accurate, the eight (8) Syrians are not refugees. (They presumably were caught in the attempt to cross illegally, and the border patrol did its job. Wouldn’t that be good news not bad?) You need to be careful with sources, Mark, because I would bet that you are not supportive of unions; yet, the group that did go on record for BREITHART (Texas) represents border patrol agents as an affiliate of the AFL-CIO (bpunion.com). I suspect that you don’t cite unions to… Read more »
Donnie
Guest

Perhaps you should lead by example and take a few of these refugees into your home. Maybe take a few into your church.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

I’m willing to take refugees at home and in church. As our Bishop said, we’ve had a good number of churches commit to this already.

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Keith A. Jenkins
Guest
As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what it is. Here’s the lead-off paragraph: “Two federal agents operating under the umbrella of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are claiming that eight Syrian illegal aliens attempted to enter Texas from Mexico in the Laredo Sector. The federal agents spoke with Breitbart Texas on the condition of anonymity, however, a local president of the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) confirmed that Laredo Border Patrol agents have been officially contacting the organization with concerns over reports from other federal agents about Syrians illegally entering the country in the Laredo Sector.” Anonymous agents… Read more »
Keith A. Jenkins
Guest

Mark,
If you think citing stories from Daily Mail is compelling, you need to come up for air and reacquaint yourself with the real world. As for the governors, they are clearly grandstanding in an effort to gain headlines and political points, since they have no authority to refuse refugees. Plus, check the party affiliation of all but 1 of those governors, and you will see this is simply more of the same “Whatever the issue is, if Obama’s for it, I’m agin it.”

Wes Andrews
Guest

Wow, this is a perfect example of how our Bishops are really not in touch with reality…. can’t they just speak plainly. Most if not ALL UMs I know CAN tell the difference between those Muslims who are peaceful and those who are radicalized. They actually love people, and don’t need a progressive minded bishop to lecture them….

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

Perhaps the CIA would find your mind-reading abilities to be of use.

Elise Martin
Guest

Drop the doctrine. The invitation is to be in relationship up close and personal with Christ, who had no interest in politics or divisive ideology. He walked in forgiveness and love, and that is the 2000+ year opportunity for human beings.

Keith A. Jenkins
Guest
Hmmm, Elise, I’m not big on quoting scripture as an answer to specific situations, but how do you understand statements like those Jesus made as reported in Matthew 10:34ff? “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever… Read more »
Sandy Wylie
Guest

I believe Bishop Jones couldn’t be any more on target with his comments. He speaks for a great many of us. There was a time in the UMC when comments such as his would have met with resounding approval, but sadly we are past that point.

Kevin
Guest
“But there is a tactical reason to welcome them. When Western countries mistreat and reject Muslims, it becomes a recruiting tool and propaganda weapon for our enemies. I am deeply disappointed that so many governors (including those of Kansas and Nebraska where I serve) have rejected the idea of receiving refugees. They are pandering to our worst fears and failing to lead us to be our best selves as a nation. They are making a strategic mistake and giving aid to our enemies. ” This is little more than an Obama talking point without factual foundation. Everything we do encourages… Read more »
Keith A. Jenkins
Guest
Kevin, Terrorist groups like Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) are able to radicalize and recruit impressionable, marginalized young people all over the world by convincing them that the West is the enemy, and America is the head of the snake. Every time we live up/down to their description of us, their anti-Western propaganda gains a greater ring of truth to these potential recruits. I guarantee you, the words of various America governors and GOP presidential candidates–some only cautious, but others hateful–are echoing across the Internet right now in Daesh recruitment videos, and young people are being convinced to sign up in the battle… Read more »
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