Saturday, October 27, 2012

Rodney Stark on the Crusades and 'Arab' Culture

I am always peeved when people fawn about the great accomplishments of Muslims (and especially Arab Muslims) throughout history. It is very nice and PC and does wonders for Muslims' self-worth, no doubt. But it's just not true. Rodney Stark, in his brilliant 2009 book God's Battalions: The Case for the Crusades, explodes many of these silly myths. An assortment of my favorite quotes and notes follows:

"Western condemnations of the Crusades were widespread during the 'Enlightenment,' that utterly misnamed era during which French and British intellectuals invented the 'Dark Ages' in order to glorify themselves and vilify the Catholic Church" (6). 

The Crusades "…had nothing to do with the hopes of converting Islam" (8). 

"…claims that Muslims have been harboring bitter resentments about the Crusades for a millennium are nonsense…" (8). 

"…superior culture and technology…" of the Europeans (9). 

"…the sophisticated culture so often attributed to Muslims (more often referred to as 'Arabic' culture) was actually the culture of the conquered people--the Judeo-Christian-Greek culture of Byzantium, the remarkable learning of heretical Christian groups such as the Copts and Nestorians, extensive knowledge from Zoroastrian (Mazdean) Persia, and the great mathematical achievements of the Hindus…" (57). 

Mostly dhimmi communities continued this learning. "The highly acclaimed Arab architecture also turns out to have been mainly a dhimmi achievement, adopted from Persian and Byzantine origins" (58). 

The impressive 'Muslim culture' was actually built on a 'complex mix of dhimmi cultures' and when they were suppressed in the 14th Century and 'Muslim backwardness came to the fore' (61). 

Muslim massacres of Christian pilgrims took place in 1022, 1026, 1040, and 1064 (p 92).   

"The Crusades were not unprovoked. Muslim efforts at conquest and colonization still continued in the eleventh century (and for centuries to come). Pilgrims did risk their lives to go to the Holy Land. The sacred sites of Christianity were not secure. And the knights of Christendom were confident they could put things right" (98). 

What Stark calls "penitential warfare" (107). 

Cheaper to keep sons at home than send them on Crusade (112). 

Motivated by piety, not by loot (118). 

Dispenses with the idea that it was landless folks who started the Crusader kingdoms (168). 

Most Muslims were quite content in Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem: "For one thing, there were no land-hungry Christians eager to confiscate their fields or animals. For another, taxes were lower in the Kingdom than in neighboring Muslim countries. Fully as important, the Christian rulers tolerated the Muslims' religion and made no effort to convert them" (171). 

Baibars as the bloodiest of all Crusade figures. broke his oaths of safe-conduct often. 1268, the second siege of Antioch, "the single greatest massacre of the entire crusading era" (quoting Madden 1999: 181). 

"…current Muslim memories about the Crusades are a twentieth-century creation…" (247). 

"The Crusades were not unprovoked. They were not conducted for land, loot, or converts. The crusaders were not barbarians who victimized the cultivated Muslims. They sincerely believed that they served in God's battalions" (248).

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Missionary Secrets 4: our churches don't know what to do with us...

Missionary Secrets 4: our churches don't know what to do with us...
by Abu Daoud

It's true. They send us money. They are normally happy to see us when we get back to our native country. They have good intentions. But in the end, they have no idea what to do with missionaries. It's mostly out of sight, out of mind. Which is not great. I personally love to hear from our churches. I don't mind answering their questions or e-mailing some recent prayer requests or pictures.

So here is some good advice which I got from an eNewsLetter send out by this agency on a regular basis. (You can sign up for it at their website if you like.)

Here is the section I liked, with some great advice on taking care of missionaries and keeping in touch with them:

Neal Pirolo wrote the best book on this subject, Serving as Senders Today: how to care for your missionaries as they prepare to go, are on the field, and return home. Here's a list to get you started, but to read more click on the link to buy the book from Amazon.
  1. Enlist folks from your congregation to be the advocates for the missionary who can coordinate support and make needs known to the congregation;
  2. Offer a room in your home for the missionary to store their possessions;
  3. Ask if the missionary needs help filing taxes whilst away;
  4. Have the Sunday School classes focus on the missionary's area of service. Learn some of the language, culture, and needs;
  5. Volunteer to babysit the missionary's children so that they can have time away before re-entry to the field;
  6. Send care packages, birthday cards, and other items for their wish list;
  7. Offer to send out their communications;
  8. Although the aim is a warm, supportive relationship, it should also be one of accountability.Get references, verify their call, and request ministry reports;
  9. Offer friendship. Invite them to a meal or out for coffee;
  10. Find a tangible way to serve the missionary. For example, one missionary we know works with orphans in a cold climate. Folks from her supporting church have a knitting ministry and send hats and gloves to the children she serves;
  11. Send a short-term team to visit them on the field. Find out how the team could best serve. If sending a team would be too much of a burden, send one or two leaders instead;
  12. Get technical:  do Skype calls with the church; ask for video footage, photos, etc.;
  13. Are there doctors in the congregation who can help advise in medical situations;
  14. Commission the missionary during a service, put on a church meal with relevant ethnic food, consider taking a photo that the missionary can take on the field;
  15. Pray regularly for the missionary during the service, small groups, etc.;
  16. Be sensitive to your returning missionary. Culture shock is unnerving. Perhaps counselors and friends in the congregation can lend an ear and help them process their experiences.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Triumph for Global/World Christianity

Today the Pope announced a special session to install a number of new cardinals. Cardinals are bishops who have the special faculty of coming together as a college to choose a new pope when there is such a need (normally when he dies, and after a certain age they can no longer vote). Check out this fantastic list. I really think it shows Christians around the world that the Catholic Church is global (as are so many other Churches increasingly). This makes me happy:

  • Archbishop James Harvey, 63, the Milwaukee-born prefect of the Papal Household;
  • Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai, 72, the Lebanon-based head of the worldwide, 5 million-member Maronite church;
  • Major Archbishop Basilios Cleemis, 53, head of India's Syro-Malankara church – the first hierarch from the 600,000-member community to receive the red hat (and, by two years, set to become the youngest cardinal);
  • Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja (Nigeria), 68
  • Archbishop Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogotá, 70
  • Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, 55; head of Asia's largest diocese
HT to Whispers in the Loggia. And Kudos to the Successor of Peter, who still has not read my letter to him I think.

BTW, the College of Cardinals is the oldest existing democratic institution in the world. See how you learn awesome stuff on this blog? 

--Abu Daoud

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Abu Daoud on Insider Movements

For a long time now IM has been one of the main debates going on in missiology (I dislike the word--who combines Latin and Greek? Oh yeah, Americans). The debate goes by various names, all of which are annoying. The most recent label is Insider Movement. Nobody knows exactly what these are, or where they are happening, or how to define them. It appears to have something to do with Muslims staying within their birth communities while following Jesus. For most Muslims this means remaining within the Umma, one would think. Most Muslims and Christians throughout history agree that the Umma and the Holy, Apostolic Church do not overlap. Remaining within the Umma would appear to mean that one continues to call one's self a Muslim, if not actually go to mosque (lots of Muslims don't go to mosque, lots of Muslim women can't go to mosque at all). The whole thing is very confusing.

John Piper has recently spoken out against IM. Cody Lorance (don't know who this person is at all) responded. Our brother Warrick Farah over at the fine blog Circumpolar has summarized the two issues and offers his own two cents.

I personally find the whole incredibly annoying. Not because the discussion is not worth having, but because the people engaged in this discussion simply do not have, imho, the civilization resources to make a positive contribution to the discussion. Here is what I said in a comment at Circumpolar:

In the end I suspect that American evangelicals are just not really capable of having this conversation. As Americans we are a history-less and rootless people. As evangelicals we have, for the most part, tried to get by on the bible alone (a ridiculous project) while getting rid of tradition and ritual. A tradition that lacks an appreciation for its own rituals, history, and traditions simply is not capable of making a useful contribution to matters of religious identity for Muslims [or Christians] who are deeply invested in history, ritual, and tradition.

One attempt to define IM is here. It is the best one I've found so far.

Insider movements can be defined as movements to obedient faith in Christ that remain integrated with or inside their natural community. In any insider movement there are two distinct elements:
1. The gospel takes root within pre-existing communities or social networks, which become the main expression of “church” in that context. Believers are not gathered from diverse social networks to create a “church.” New parallel social structures are not invented or introduced.
2. Believers retain their identity as members of their  socio-religious community while living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the authority of the Bible
--Rebecca Lewis, 'Insider Movements: Honoring God-given Identity and Community, p 16, IJFM 26:1, Spring 2009. (Google it...)

(Update from 8/2013: I have written a substantial article on this topic. Check it out here, here or here.)