Monday, June 2, 2003

Interesting piece from Reason on The flap over On the Road to Baghdad starring Franklin Graham

(The last joke brought to you in honor of Bob Hope and the late Bing Crosby's 100th birthdays last month)

The evangelical equivalent of the Swine Flu scare seems to have arrived Tuesday, in the form of a Page One article in The New York Times, titled, "Seeing Islam as 'Evil' Faith, Evangelicals Seek Converts." In that story, reporter Laurie Goodstein sits in a how-to-convert-Muslims seminar from Arab International Ministry that sounds like a hybrid of the Two Minutes' Hate and everybody's worst nightmare of an Amway meeting. "You can tell me Islam is peaceful, but I've done my homework," says AIM's mysterious headmaster.

.....But these alarms over evangelical missions in Iraq overlook two points.

The first has to do with religious freedom. Proselytizing, converting, passing out literature, importuning people with your witnessing, even vituperating rival religious beliefs, may all be fairly irritating in practice, but they are also essential to the very concept of freedom of worship. A countryside dotted with motivated, suspiciously cheerful missionaries is a signal that religious liberty is in good shape. Certainly a faith as total and dynamic as Islam can withstand the relatively feeble attractions of a few born again missionaries.

....The second point is less obvious, but will be familiar to anybody who has seen how the evangelization process works in Arab communities: When evangelicals proselytize Arabs, they don't focus on Muslims but on Christians. Specifically, on followers of the traditional eastern churches—Orthodox, Coptic, eastern-rite Catholic, and so on—that occupy small minority positions in the Middle East.

.....That evangelicals may be coming to save their congregants is hardly welcome news to leaders of these churches, who are already occupied trying to make sure things don't get any worse under a newly empowered Shi'a Muslim social order. In interviews for this story, U.S. representatives of the various Iraqi churches, to varying degrees, deplored evangelical efforts among Christians. "They concentrate 100 percent on Christians," says Reverend Ibrahim N. Ibrahim, bishop of the Chaldean diocese in the United States. "They never proselytize Muslims."

Excellent piece .