Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Book Review: The Jihad of Jesus

Title: The Jihad of Jesus
Author: Dave Andrews
Date: 2015
Publisher: Wipf and Stock

Dave Andrews' book "The Jihad of Jesus" is written out more than 40 years experience of living and working in intentional communities with marginalised groups of people in Australia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

Dave Andrews doesn’t take the time to demonstrate what we have in common with Muslims – other than to point out that both Christians and Muslims have been guilty of bloody, war-mongering and various atrocities in the name of God. The first half of the book, "The Jihad of Dajjal" deals with this history of violence, and is rather negative in it's approach.

After the opening couple of chapters entitled:
  1. Remembering Our So-Called Christian “Holy Wars”
  2. Remembering Our So-Called Muslim “Holy Wars”
Andrews asks the question:
"Are the atrocities that are done in the name of Christianity or Islam true indicators of the nature of Christianity or Islam, or not?
If the answer to this question is that these atrocities are not true indicators—but mere aberrations—then we have nothing to fear from the continued expansion of Christianity or Islam. But, if the answer to this question is, as I suspect, that these cruelties are true indicators—and inevitable consequences—of the way we have constructed our religions, then we have everything to fear from Christianity or Islam in the coming millennium."
It's the second part of the book "The Jihad of Isa" that I found the most fascinating and insightful. He starts in Chapter 4 with “Reframing Jihad as a Method of Nonviolent Struggle”. This chapter unpacks an excellent overview of another book called “On Killing” by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman about how men are not really “natural born killers”. On the contrary, it is the pervasive tendency for men to avoid killing others that motivates the military to systematically re-train “brainwash” their soldiers to overcome that tendency. Andrews goes on to point out how these same methods are employed by the media to condition us towards the redemptive qualities of violence. 

Violence is an almost inescapable part of our culture today. It’s no wonder that our world views violence as a means to solve problems or to achieve a better world. Andrews, in this book, is attempting to awaken us to this deception of the age. And I agree fully with him on this.

Later on, in this same chapter, Andrews goes on to say:
“Separating religion from politics does not mean we do not bring our faith and the ethics derived from our faith to bear on our politics in terms of our discussions about politics. To the contrary, all real believers cannot help but bring their faith and ethics derived from their faith to bear on their politics… But separating religion from politics means not using our particular religion for party political purposes as a means of manipulation or exploitation to gain or retain power. For our faith to be “non-political” means for it to be “non-partisan” and “not-imposed”.”
I couldn’t agree more.

Chapter 5: "Reclaiming Jesus as a Model of Nonviolent Struggle" continues this argument. He begins by saying:
Many conversations between Christians and Muslims about Isa or Jesus deteriorate from dialogue into debate and from debate into dispute, generating more heat than light on the subject. Often this occurs because both sides want to impose their own particular view of Isa or Jesus on the other and are unable and/or unwilling to respect the other person’s particular point of view. 
In order to avoid such unproductive disputations, I have written the following observations based on those views of Isa or Jesus that both the Qur’an and the Injil or the Gospel (as recorded in the Gospels in the New Testament, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) have in common. 
While I acknowledge the significant differences Christians and Muslims have about Isa/Jesus, I have intentionally tried to focus on those beliefs about him that Christians and Muslims have in common as the place for us to start our conversations, treating “common ground” not as suspect compromise, but as “sacred ground” on which we can stand and speak to one another. 
Andrews' conclusion, after building a strong foundation for us which provided details about how both Islam and Christianity have been polluted by those who seek to manipulate the faithful and circumvent the peaceful aspects of their founder’s teachings in order to reframe faith and nationalism as a singular idealogy, is that the Jihad of Jesus is to the struggle to incarnate the kingdom of heaven on earth.

Andrews ends with a look at the Sermon on the Mount. He suggests that Christians should return to the manifesto of Jesus if they truly seek to accomplish the will of God and to become peacemakers who follow the example of Jesus.
Let us be frank, on first hearing the call to be poor, hungry, sad, and unpopular is not an attractive option, is it? It’s exactly the opposite of what most of us aspire to. 
But on second hearing, the call to be poor—to be with the poor in spirit; to be hungry—and to be hungry for justice; to be sad—because we are weeping with those that weep; and to be unpopular—because we are committed to follow the way of Christ with integrity—is quite intriguing, quite challenging, quite exciting. 
And the more we think about it, the more we begin to slowly but surely realize that the call to be with the poor in spirit, to be hungry for justice, to be sad because we are weeping with those that weep, and to be unpopular because we are committed to follow the way of Christ with integrity, is in fact the only way that the kingdom of God can be ours, the only way that God can satisfy our hunger for justice, and the only way that we can have the last laugh as part of that great tradition of people with integrity, who suffered scorn, but triumphed at the end. As my friend Brian McLaren says, “The kingdom of heaven comes to people who crave not victory but justice, who seek not revenge but mercy, who strive for peace and who are courageously eager to suffer pain for the cause of justice, not inflict it.”
And in the light of that knowledge we know we need to make a choice: to be—or not to be—the change we want to see.
Overall, while maybe a little academic for some, this book is a much needed exploration of Islam and Christianity, without all the over-the-top emotional nonsense that far too often permeates discussions these days.

If you’re willing to lay aside prejudices about Muslims and enter into a thoughtful study of how followers of Jesus might actually reach out and bring peace to our world today, I think “The Jihad of Jesus” is an great place to begin.

I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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