Sunday, September 17


Allah is not Akbhar

Nun shot, killed in Somalia.

Three times, in the back, at a Children's Hospital.

It wasn't by animists.

It occurred to me the other day that the Christian God is not "Great." To say that God is Great ("Allahu Akbhar") is NOT, as it is in Islam, the central tenet of our religion.

The Christian God is **Good**. He is the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, as it were. God is not "Great," however; not great in that solely transcendant, utterly inscrutible, and stainlessly reverenced manner of greatness which Islam claims for Allah.

And Goodness can take on the form of Good Friday and a death on the Cross. The Crucifixion, and the theology and spirituality of the Cross, is what Islam so desperately needs. Because Allah is "Great" and can suffer no dishonor, no harm, Allah's prophets, likewise, can suffer no dishonor. This is why the Muslims are uber-sensitive about Mohammed. It is also why the Muslims abhor the idea that Jesus Christ was Crucified: they believe Jesus Christ existed as some manner of prophet, and because Christ was a prophet, could absolutely not have suffered the ignomity of the Cross.

However, we "lift high the Cross," promclaming "Christ crucified, foolishness to the Gentiles and a stumbling block for the Jews." (1 Cor 1:23) In Jesus Christ, we see that God is Love (Deus Est Caritas), for in Jesus Christ the Divine Son is absolutely poured out for us, as an icon of the inner life of the Trinity (that the Son proceeds from the Father in the love of the Holy Spirit, One God), and also as a testimony of God's absolute love for us.

The Christian God can, and does, suffer ignomity, dishonor, and shame for the sake of love in the person of Jesus Christ. Muslims, rather, are quite insistent that God is not Love; Allah is Great, and if in Allah's determination Allah saves some human souls, it is less out of love than mercy. Whatever the motive, Allah is not constituted by love. But the Christian God IS, in His essence, Love: that is what the doctrine of the Trinity summarizes, that the One God fully exists (the Father), fully knows Himself (Logos or the Son), and fully loves His Infinite Goodness (the Holy Spirit). The Christian God IS love, not simply "loving," and therefore can relate to humanity only through Love. The Christian God not only can therefore, when He takes on human flesh, suffer dishonor and shame, but for the sake of loving a human race which does not respect love, God must suffer the ignomity of unrequited love.

Just as the Muslim prophet is expected to share in the fundamental greatness of God, the Christian can hope to share in the fundamental love of God. This means that, while the Muslim cannot suffer offence for his religion, the Christian life is constituted in a large part by suffering the misunderstanding and the love which Christ Himself, as God-Man, endured because of His Sacred Love. Christ's fate is our fate.

Yet, again, Christ's fate is our fate. Christ was crucified, but in this death the people of the world saw not only that He was God, but that He loved. Once put to death, Christ destroyed by the witness of His strength and love the lie of human hatred, the rejection which human hearts had of God's love. It cannot be doubted, then, that Christians, that the Church itself, will also be crucified by those who cannot understand the humility of Divine Love, but rather mock and reject it. However, once put to death, that very same death destroys the lie of God's remote, untarnished, indifferent Greatness: God is not Great, God is love.

I cannot but believe that the degree to which our Church continues to be burned and put to death will, ultimately, by the degree to which Islam realizes its vision of God's "Greatness" is empty, and instead--just as were the Romans--be converted to God's Love. To what degree Divine Providence wishes to crucify His Church to achieve this conversion of heart from the Muslim world, only time will tell; though, of course, God is hardly stingy when it comes to love.

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