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Friday, August 06, 2004

Battle: Islam - Second Rebuttal - Iron Blogger Republican

Well, as per normal, now I’m REALLY confused.

Since we’re so big on Webster these days, let me pull out this little gem of a definition:


Noun 1. rebuttal - the speech act of refuting by offering a contrary contention or argument.
2. rebuttal - (law) a pleading by the defendant in reply to a plaintiff's surrejoinder.
Synonyms: rebutter


I guess I’m a “rebutter,” then, which to be honest sounds more like what you do with a dry muffin.

Muffins aren’t, however, the heart of my confusion. This time.

The heart of my confusion is, as a rebutter, which Chris do I rebut? Do I rebut the Chris who said what he said on his website? Do I rebut the Chris who says his website was not what he intended to say, for a variety of reasons I didn’t really understand? Do I rebut the Chris who just posted, and seemed to agree with the post he said he didn’t want to write the way it turned out? Or, knowing that Chris posts on the Internet items he doesn’t necessarily mean, should I discard his first three postings in this debate and rebut some phantom, possible fourth posting?

My thinker hurts.

Not only that, it’s taking all my emotional strength not to use the words “John Kerry” and “flip-flop” in this post, so that should be taken into consideration as well if I start to babble.

Well, the rebuttering must go on, so here’s what I’ll do: in the true spirit of Islamic “surrender,” I am giving in to Chris’ last post. I’m going to accept at face value the histories and definitions he gave in his very last post. So let us get to those definitions, and quickly, before any of his teachers get there first.

In my haste, I am even going to leave behind a few paragraphs I had prepared in response to Chris’ statement that “Islam is the problem in Islamic terror,” which is all well and good as platitudes go. It fits on a bumper sticker rather nicely, but in the end, I really do suppose that “terror” is at least part of the problem. We aren’t fighting a war on Islam, after all, but a war on terror.

The most important thing is that Chris rightly separates Islam from terror. As I have asserted all along, the true spirit of Islam has nothing to do with terror at all.

Even if you could somehow get me to accept that the terrorist members of Al Queda were true members of Islam (which you can’t, any more than you can get me to accept that an apple is an orange), then it is still an undeniable truth that, compared to a religion approaching a billion and a half members, Al Queda is teenie tiny. In fact, there WERE only about 3,000 members out there before we started killing them. Somehow 3,000 and 1,500,000,000 got confused.

Let us be straightforward on this point: Al Queda is nothing more than a handful of fundamentalist crazies who use religion as an excuse to do what they like, which is blow things up. As a point of fact, to find anything even remotely as crazy, you have to look here, or even, God forbid, here.

Let us move along then, to the key definition offered in Chris’ last rebuttal, which I am, again, duty-bound to accept:

A Muslim is a believer in or follower of Islam. The word Muslim means one who submits and implies complete submission to the will of God…Thus a Muslim strives to surrender to God's commands every step of the way. There is no distinction made between daily life and religion or politics.

Very good. Now, I think I see one source of confusion. Chris’ confession of faith (if that’s what it’s called when you don’t have faith or maybe you do have faith, but in nothing – or is it faith that there is nothing? I’m getting confused again) states that he is an atheist. Well, to me, that explains it. It isn’t really fair to expect an atheist to understand the concept of “the will of God.”

Fortunately, you can expect a Baptist Pastor to have a little better grip on the idea, so let me cut to the chase.

This is important, so I’m gonna type it slowly: Just as Islam and Christianity have changed and evolved over the years, so too does the will of God!

Write that down somewhere.

The only real disagreement in churches is whether the will of God itself changes or whether our human understanding of the Infinite is what changes. That change occurs in the heart of a religion is never in doubt, unless you’re one of the fundamentalist few we’ve been talking about all along.

Over a week or so, changes in God’s will aren’t generally discernable, but over, say, the length of time Islam has been with us, changes are plentiful and idiom shifts are many. Unless, again, you’re a stick-in-the-mud fundamentalist, for whom “that old time religion” works much better to justify the bombings.

So, since Chris used Christianity, in the form of Catholics, as a corollary example (“damn free speech” were his exact words, if it helps you find the exact spot I am rebuttering, or whatever Webster calls it) of seeking the will of God and discerning between the true and “cafeteria” Catholics (excellent turn of phrase there, by the way, Chris - I've already stolen that terminology for this week's sermon), I shall do the same to illumine the ways in which God’s will changes.

Outsiders to the understanding of God (a category into which I would firmly place atheists) have this odd and utterly untrue misconception that the Bible (indeed all religions' holy scriptures) somehow presents God and God’s will as eternal, unchanging and strict. This is just wrong.

The Bible itself (and the Quran!) contains many updates and corrections of its own words, never mind the changes that have come since. And the corollary is an apt one, insomuch as it holds true of all the major religions.

The updates of God’s will in the Bible are innumerable, if by innumerable we mean “Dan doesn’t really care about this enough to count them all… it’s a big book, you know,” so I shall point out a few of the more major evolutions (I bet it crawls right up the fundies’ noses that I keep using that word). Got your Bible handy?

- 1 Samuel 15:35 God realizes it wasn’t a good idea to make Saul king and “repents” of His idea.
- Jonah 3:10 God’s will changes from destroying a town to letting the sinners have one more chance.
- 2 Samuel 24:16 God’s will is to send a feisty Angel of Death to wipe out Jerusalem, which it starts to do, killing folks left and right, when God suddenly changes His mind and orders the Angel back after “repenting” of His earlier Will.
- Old Testament, the whole deal: Salvation comes through obedience to the Law and blood sacrifices when you mess up. New Testament, the whole deal: Salvation comes only through belief in Jesus.
- Matthew chapter 5 has a heaping handful of updates from Jesus himself, all in one fun location. These updates of God’s will include: divorce (previously allowable to rid our families of foreign wives, now a no-no), swearing oaths in God’s name (previously ok, now not-so-much), equal revenge (previously an eye for an eye, now God’s will is for us to turn the other cheek) and dealing with enemies (previously we were to love our friends and hate our enemies as enemies of God, now we are to love our enemies – another civilizing, evolving update that fundamentalists conveniently overlook).

The heart, you will notice, remains the same: God is always Love, in Christianity and in Islam. Our imperfect understanding of perfect love is what evolves, and God makes allowances as we grow in that understanding. This is why there are now women pastors. This is why we no longer remove from membership folks who drink alcohol, or fail to tithe (my church has minutes of meetings this actually happened in, from back in the day - fun!). This is why we are beginning to suspect that if one girl likes another girl, they might not be damned to fiery torture for all eternity. Catching on?

So, in fact, if God’s will evolves as human culture evolves, there must be a term for those who refuse to change with it, yes? Oh, that’s right… fundamentalists. Well, thank goodness there are so few of them to worry about in Islam.

Which is truer, then, since we are debating, as Chris puts it, “the true Islam”: the Islam of over a billion humans that changes and grows out of their barbaric past into a future of peace, or the Islam of a couple hundred lunatics at most, that sticks with strict, defunct rules a couple thousand years old and promotes violence as religion?

Finally, let us not play games with the term “Jihad.” We all knew what my beloved Chairman meant when he asked if Islam was a religion of Jihad. Holy war. Planes crashing into buildings. Dead American brothers and sisters.

Maybe some dictionaries give secondary and symbolic meanings that reference Jihad as personal struggle, in the same way a deep pass in football is called a “bomb.” Nobody expects it to blow up when the receiver catches it; it is a non-literal reference. Any word games that try to make “Jihad” some kind of fun spiritual adventure in America are just that: word games. Not only that, they are word games that, in this culture, do disservice to 3,000 American dead.

“Jihad” may have a spiritual meaning in Islamic culture. We, even my beloved Chairman, may use it wrong on this side of the Pacific. Nevertheless, we know the meaning it has for us, the meaning the Chairman referred to when he posed the question, and the meaning Chris has been arguing since the opening statements.

“Self-meditation” (I guess you can meditate for someone else now?) never brought down a building, and we all know what the Chairman meant by Jihad. He used it in contradistinction to the word “peace.” Peace or War. It’s really just that simple.

As simple as 1,500,000,000 or 3,000.



Respectfully submitted,

Dan Champion, Iron Blog Republican

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