“No way!”, you may say, and I agree. But there are many who view them and the religions they founded as essentially the same. This bothers me, especially in light of the simple fact that Jesus taught–and more importantly lived–that the rule of God in the world (his favorite topic) wouldn’t come by physical force (neither his own nor that of his followers), but by overcoming evil with good, by turning the other cheek, by loving our enemies. Muhammed, on the other hand, taught, but more importantly lived the exact opposite. For this reason alone, it doesn’t surprise me when Muhammed’s current followers . . . well, follow him. I don’t see how it should surprise anyone, actually, and it seems to require a denial of simple logic to expect otherwise, like expecting children to do what you tell them to do instead of what you actually do yourself.
Unfortunately, I have to admit that the contrast between Mohammed’s followers and those of Christ is frequently not as stark as between the leading men themselves. This doesn’t really surprise me for the simple reason that Muhammed’s example is more appealing to follow than Christ’s–even for those who believe Christ is the Son of God. Muhammed’s overall story isn’t exactly rare, historically or currently–get passionate about the way you think things should be (based on ideas about God or nature, or something bigger than one person), gather the masses around your zealous ideas, and, using the power you’ve amassed, give your opponents the beating they deserve (then write the bestseller about your opinion on everything). How many times have we seen this story just this century? Wow, if not for the current international politics, Muhammed’s life would make a great and typically American hero movie. It’s a pattern that many have followed and continue to follow.
But that life story isn’t–at all–like Jesus’ story, nor is it what he taught. Jesus’ teaching and example are about showing mercy–even to the point of spilling one’s own blood and money, and even toward those currently smacking you in the face in the name of God or something much less. Jesus’ life and teachings are consistent and forceful on that point. Could this be any more different from Mohammed’s example? Or Donald Trump’s, for that matter? Victory over evil (even evil within one’s enemies) through self-sacrificing, physical-loss-embracing, God-trusting love? Here in America and in other places throughout history, though, we’ve frequently managed to make following Christ about something not centered on this unique focus of Christ’s life and teachings. It’s sounds like quite an accomplishment, but it’s really just a matter of supply and demand. We want to have the option of getting Jesus’ blessings without having to personally trust his ‘costly’ Way of life and love, and such a religion has been supplied. But his example and teachings remain, forever providing the Way to overcome evil in the world and the violence and death it causes. A few actually find and follow this Way, Truth, and Life. And when they do, they don’t act anything like Muhammed acted. They’re not even typical Americans. They’re little Christs, or, at least, that’s the Road they’re on.
+++ God, May we all recognize and follow your narrow Road to Life without end.+++