In a pluralistic society it is important to understand how different cultures interact with one another and what the consequences of certain beliefs are. There is much room for misunderstanding. Nor can we simply let one religion be the dominant religion, whether it be Christianity or Islam, Buddhism, or secularism. As an advocate of the separation of Church and state, mostly because the state needs to stay out of the church, I cannot say the Church should interfere with the state either, by sheer force, but by reason. We all have our respective ideas about the nature of god and so forth. These are ideas which should be fought over in the arena of debate, not by militant force. How can we evaluate said ideas and see what can be permitted to exist in society and what ideas will lead us to live in a dystopian, Mad Max, society, where a Negan type figure reigns supreme with his baseball bat coiled in barbed wire?
I am not at all proposing one culture is superior to another. The cultural component is a contingent bearer to essential truth claims about ethics and worldview. Roland Muller, in “the Message, the Messenger and the Community” notes well how there are some cultures are honour and shame based, while others, such as western societies, are guilt and innocent based. To a middle eastern mind the Bible would speak to them in terms of honour and shame, how they are dishonoured and God is seeking to restore said honour, while to a westerner we would tend to read the Bible in terms of absolute guilt and innocence. Neither one of these is what one should view as the essential component to Bible. Rather, the reader should seek to see how the Bible fits in a particular worldview and allow it to do its work from there.
William J Webb has proposed a progressive hermeneutic for reading the Bible in “Slaves, Women and Homosexuals.” In this book he suggests that in a text we should examine what is culturally dependant in a text and what is an essential truth that can be carried forward, which would be true for all people in all times and all places. He notes the problematic passages in the Old Testament which many have noted show God’s character to be less than morally superior, such as the treatment of slaves in Exodus 21. Here, in these Old Testament passages, we see a seedbed of ideas which have not yet fully matured. What is the logical end of employing these ideas in society? Take, for instance, the ideas contained within communism. A lot of these ideas pertaining to equality and limited social classes seem good on paper, but when employed in the real world they come up short for many practical purposes. Some ideas do not gain very good traction when the rubber meets the road. How would society look if one were to fully allow the ideas contained within the Bible to fully mature and to be extended into the world today? Some might say, “Well, we’d get slavery, just like they had in America!” It was, indeed, a fact that many slave owners justified ownership of slaves by pointing to the Bible, such as Ephesians 6:5,
Slaves obey your earthly masters…”.
However, where in the Bible does it prescribe slavery as a normative? Is the slavery in the Bible, specifically in the New Testament, the same as antebellum slavery? While Ancient Near East/ANE and Greco Roman/GR slavery was indeed barbaric, the Bible was written within a culture and sought to instruct Christians to live well within a culture they, themselves, had no power to change. Furthermore, the slavery the Bible eventually builds up to is more akin to an employee/employer relationship.
Back to the slavery in early US history: those using the Bible to justify slaves neglected many other verses which abhor kidnapping, such as Exodus 21:16, which is most definitely what was done to those who were turned into slaves.
In short, what we find in the Bible is not a manifesto for acquiring slaves but a culturally enriched document which instructs us how to live well within our situation. (Paul may have appropriated some of the Stoic attitudes of his time, which he was well aware of.) It also says that if a slave can gain their freedom they should. (1 Corinthians 7:21)
The Bible provides a precedent of reading it in a progressive light. The Old Testament provides a seedbed of ideas, and when these ideas mature they are realized further in the New Testament. The take away from all of this is that we, too, in our society, should recognize that we owe a debt and should work it off by being good employees and handle our bills responsibly. This is what Webb describes as a “progressive hermeneutic.”
When we employ Biblical ideas today, we do not see churches and Christians buying and beating slaves who fail to work in the church winery—even in countries which are not as developed as others.
Can we apply this hermeneutic to the Qur’an? Can we treat the Qur’an with the same charitable standard and allow that many of the verses of the sword were culturally dependant and written during times of hardship? One might say that the Qur’an was written in ideal circumstances. When Muslims made a treaty with the Meccan’s (The Treaty of Hudaybiyyah) there was a brief period of peace, but it was the Muslims who violated this treaty, as described in Bukhari 50:891 which tells of a man named Abu Basir who embraced Islam and then killed a Meccan. Muhammad, rather than chastising the man, sends the man to live on the coast who forms a group of seventy Muslims by attacking Meccan caravans.
As demonstrated, Islam is not interested in peaceful cohabitation, but in domination of the regions it inhabited. One needn’t look further than the UK which has countless Muslim migrants protesting and demanding special rights for Islam and anti blasphemy laws, or here in Canada where our liberal politicians seek to establish Islam as a protected group immune to criticism. Recently Trudeau denied summer job grants to organizations which refuse to affirm abortion and gay rights, but in typical fashion granted summer job grants to a controversial Islamic group with terror ties.
If Islam was truly interested in co-habitation rather than domination, we would see this exemplified as Muslims stand shoulder to shoulder with other peaceful religions in defending shared values, while parting ways on religious distinctions. The Qur’an, however, does not provide the seedbed for this to take place. Surah’s 2:191-192 says,
…And kill them wherever you find them and expel them from wherever they have expelled you, and fitnah [Persecution] is worse than killing. And do not fight them at al-Masjid al- Haram until they fight you there. But if they fight you, then kill them. Such is the recompense of the disbelievers.
And if they cease, then indeed, God is Forgiving and Merciful.”
Clearly, there is only one option for us, to convert or die.
What about the Islamic Hadith which describes Muhammad’s controversial marriage to 9 year old Aisha?
The Prophet engaged me when I was a girl of six (years). We went to Medina and stayed at the home of Bani-al-Harith bin Khazraj. Then I got ill and my hair fell down. Later on my hair grew (again) and my mother, Um Ruman, came to me while I was playing in a swing with some of my girl friends. She called me, and I went to her, not knowing what she wanted to do to me. She caught me by the hand and made me stand at the door of the house. I was breathless then, and when my breathing became all right, she took some water and rubbed my face and head with it. Then she took me into the house. There in the house I saw some Ansari women who said, “Best wishes and Allah’s Blessing and a good luck.” Then she entrusted me to them and they prepared me (for the marriage). Unexpectedly Allah’s Apostle came to me in the forenoon and my mother handed me over to him, and at that time I was a girl of nine years of age. (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 234)”
Do we find this to be a particular instance of marrying young women, perhaps as a means of them being provided for? The Hadith itself describes Aisha as being in a home with her family, looked after. She did not seem to be lacking. Clearly the “prophet” was being opportunistic here and carried out his fetish using his authority as a seer.
We see this carried out today, in following the example of the prophet, many muslims in Iran taking on child brides.
(Screenshot from the FaceBook profile of Dr Bilal Philips. Canadian Islamic scholar.)
Again, the seedbed which Islam provides is one which prescribes not how to function in a less than ideal culture, but how to erect an Islamic state, one which is highly disinterested in cooperating with others in disagreement. Surah 9:29 succinctly describes the only way to peacefully live as a non-Muslim in an Islamic state, and that is to accept the Yolk of Dhimmitude and to pay the Jizya, a tax for non-believers.
Finally, it is difficult to vindicate the Qur’an on the basis of it being written in barbaric times, as it was written as a medieval (AD600+) document, one which could have built on the Biblical enlightenment alive an well during its writing. Rather, its author, Muhammad, chose to regressively write a document which made pedophilia and violence the normative rather than something to be eschewed.
One needn’t look further than our own Canadian liberal leaders to find many double standards bowing the knee to Islam. The recent case where Edmonton based terrorist was awarded a $10.5m payoff for his murder of U.S soldier Christopher J. Speer, when he was 16. Somehow we are supposed to accept that he was a child soldier making a less than mature decision, yet in the case of child brides we are supposed to accept that those who are 10 years old are of consenting age. I know women are typically more mature than men, but this is taking the joke a bit far.
Upon examination, it is not difficult to see the Bible as a morally progressive document, able to function in variable circumstances, but the Qur’an is nothing more than a regressive document with instructions for setting up an caliphate.
David Wood explains Surah 9:29:
Migrant news in other parts of the world, and sexual abuse: