A few thoughts on Islam, Christianity, and the Duke controversy…

“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.” Galatians 5:13-15

Duke Chapel Tower
Duke Chapel Tower
  • It’s a shame when high-profile Christian leaders make prejudicial, false, and inflammatory statements…. but it does gives the rest of us an opportunity to talk about some important stuff.

That said, I’m still not going to thank evangelist Franklin Graham for accusing Duke University of promoting the rape, butchering, and beheading of non-Muslims in the name of religious pluralism (read his full quote in today’s lead N&O article).

Graham also said that using the university chapel tower for the call to prayer is “wrong because it’s a different God.”

In addition to Graham’s rhetoric – and in support of it – the university received hundreds of angry phone calls and emails from “Christians,” messages characterized as extremely vitriolic, and that – ironically – included enough threatening language to raise security concerns.

IMG_3802FEAR: It seems to me that Duke has been working hard to promote understanding and mutual respect, cultivating an atmosphere where mistrust and fear are replaced by cooperation and dialog,..

But maybe that’s exactly the problem for the hate-baiters? Maybe cooperation and understanding threaten the core message, a credo that is evidently fed by fear and mistrust? Maybe it’s not the call to prayer that offends Graham so much as the idea that some people are successfully chipping away at the divisions this view of the world thrives on?

ONE GOD: Then there’s the whole “different God” thing. Christianity, like Judaism, is a monotheistic religion; we believe in One God. Islam is also monotheistic. Graham’s declaration that Muslims worship “a different God,” seems to suggest that he believes there is more than one? That makes no sense at all!

Of course, Christianity and Islam are radically different belief systems; the call to follow Jesus as Lord and Savior is the most essential element of a restored relationship with God. But God is God, and my Muslim brothers and sisters worship God too.

struggling to be a faithful witness
struggling to be a faithful witness

BOTTOM LINE: Here’s what I believe. I believe that it’s critically important that faithful Christians and faithful Muslims take the lead in demonstrating to the world that hatred, manipulation, coercion, marginalization, violence, and the threat of violence are completely unacceptable responses.

We do nothing to compromise God’s reconciling initiative of grace through Jesus when we reach out to other faiths via what we have in common. If the Incarnation is still real, and relevant, then Christ will be alive and evident in us through our eloquent witness to love.

Enough with the vitriol, please; it has nothing of Jesus in it – DEREK 




  1. I think that you have very good things to say here. I must disagree that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. I do not believe that Franklin Graham is insinuating that there are ‘multiple gods’ in his quote, but instead is saying that Muslims worship a ‘false god’. Muslims and Christians both trace their heritage to Abraham. You can read through that story in Genesis to see that there is a prophecy about the Muslim religion that they will have their hand against that of their brothers.

    According to your presupposition, do you believe that Muslims will go to Heaven because they worship the ‘same god’?


    • Helpful observations. Short answer, because of Jesus, I know that the salvation I am experiencing now will continue after I die. That’s one reason I invite everyone to follow Jesus. I do believe Muslims worship God – as do our Jewish brothers and sisters… but I can’t speak for God as to their eternity. But I do “know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”


      • Thank you for taking the time to clarify. I feel like I have a much better understanding of your thoughts. I believe that when Jesus says that , “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the father except through me,” He is expressly stating that He is the sole way to salvation. Sadly, if Muslims do not accept this, I believe that they will not spend eternity in relationship with God. Definitely a reason to share the Gospel without ceasing!


      • While we’re talking… I had a great friend in college, a devout, sincere Muslim from Sudan. He put us to shame in terms of his genuine love for God. He returned to the Sudan to do humanitarian work, and I lost touch with him. “Moose” likely died in the terrible troubles there in the 80’s and 90’s. In my imagination, after he died, he had a brief opportunity to meet Jesus. “Oh there you are,” Moose said to Jesus, “you’re the one I’ve been looking for… but the Christian friends I lived with in college in the USA failed to introduce us properly – I had no idea….” And, in my imagination, God graciously welcomed him home.
        I have no idea how God will handle things – I just know that he loves all his children, that I could do a better job of sharing the Good News, and that Jesus is more gracious than I will ever be,,,,


  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughtful reflections on inter-faith relations, especially between both Christians and Muslims. In reflection highlighting and recognizing where common ground exist of faith based beliefs is beneficial to society and can open an opportunity of creating a respectful environment that invites dialogue and a peaceful tolerance of views between religions. However, the crucial differences between religions also can not be ignored ,especially the fundamental difference between Christianity,Judaism, and Islam. Yet, Interfaith relations can be a reformed with an underlining preferred peaceful approach to understanding the moral values that remain embedded within religious discourse. Pope Francis eloquently yet simply expressed the preferred harmonious efforts for inter-faith relations during a meeting to support a Christian Muslim partnership such as the one below given in Ankara on November 28, 2014. In this meeting Pop Francis mentioned the importance of interfaith tolerance and peaceful co-existence:

    “As religious leaders, we are obliged to denounce all violations against human dignity and human rights. Human life, a gift of God the Creator, possesses a sacred character. As such, any violence that seeks religious justification warrants the strongest condemnation because the Omnipotent is the God of life and peace. The world expects those who claim to adore God to be men and women of peace who are capable of living as brothers and sisters, regardless of ethnic, religious, cultural or ideological differences . . .

    “We, Muslims and Christians, are the bearers of spiritual treasures of inestimable worth . . . Recognizing and developing our common spiritual heritage – through interreligious dialogue – helps us to promote and to uphold moral values, peace and freedom in society” (http://interfaithcenter.org/archives/8090)

    The Popes statements echo the call for a redirection towards a common goal within religious leaders and followers to except the positive role of a peaceful co-existence that stimulates a community of believers towards the preservation of human dignity.
    The reality that most Christians maintain a fueled fire to promote the truth of the Gospel is a beautiful activity that despite the existence of other religion doctrines should continue by it’s faithful. Yet, to neglect expressing the Gospel truth in love and to dismiss personnel and communal prayer will only create an environment that fuels hate, indifference, and eruption of violence with words or otherwise.
    So despite ones’ views about the Pope or Catholicism etc. The content and truth of the words expressed above should ring true in the hearts of all Christians and yes even Muslims to maintain a peaceful existence that doesn’t demote beliefs, but supports the ability of creating an environment where others can express their beliefs freely as well.

    Personally I am confidante that Christianity will be able to maintain its relevance and dominating influence against the most vile vicious assaults to its very existence in this world.


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