From Where Cometh Violence?

Karen Armstrong wrote a significant piece on terrorism that everyone should read called The Myth of Religious Violence.

For those who need a little more convincing, allow me to share a few excerpts from her article:

“The popular belief that religion is the cause of the world’s bloodiest conflicts is central to our modern conviction that faith and politics should never mix. But the messy history of their separation suggests it was never so simple.”


“We now take the secular state so much for granted that it is hard for us to appreciate its novelty, since before the modern period, there were no “secular” institutions and no “secular” states in our sense of the word.

‘Their creation required the development of an entirely different understanding of religion, one that was unique to the modern west. No other culture has had anything remotely like it, and before the 18th century, it would have been incomprehensible even to European Catholics.”



“Before the modern period, religion was not a separate activity, hermetically sealed off from all others; rather, it permeated all human undertakings, including economics, state-building, politics and warfare. Before 1700, it would have been impossible for people to say where, for example, “politics” ended and “religion” began.

‘The Crusades were certainly inspired by religious passion but they were also deeply political: Pope Urban II let the knights of Christendom loose on the Muslim world to extend the power of the church eastwards and create a papal monarchy that would control Christian Europe.”


“By the late 17th century, philosophers had devised a more urbane version of the secular ideal. For John Locke it had become self-evident that “the church itself is a thing absolutely separate and distinct from the commonwealth. The boundaries on both sides are fixed and immovable.” The separation of religion and politics – “perfectly and infinitely different from each other” – was, for Locke, written into the very nature of things.

‘But the liberal state was a radical innovation, just as revolutionary as the market economy that was developing in the west and would shortly transform the world. Because of the violent passions it aroused, Locke insisted that the segregation of “religion” from government was “above all things necessary” for the creation of a peaceful society.”


“After a bumpy beginning, secularism has undoubtedly been valuable to the west, but we would be wrong to regard it as a universal law. It emerged as a particular and unique feature of the historical process in Europe; it was an evolutionary adaptation to a very specific set of circumstances. In a different environment, modernity may well take other forms.

‘Many secular thinkers now regard “religion” as inherently belligerent and intolerant, and an irrational, backward and violent “other” to the peaceable and humane liberal state – an attitude with an unfortunate echo of the colonialist view of indigenous peoples as hopelessly “primitive”, mired in their benighted religious beliefs.

‘There are consequences to our failure to understand that our secularism, and its understanding of the role of religion, is exceptional. When secularisation has been applied by force, it has provoked a fundamentalist reaction – and history shows that fundamentalist movements which come under attack invariably grow even more extreme. The fruits of this error are on display across the Middle East: when we look with horror upon the travesty of Isis, we would be wise to acknowledge that its barbaric violence may be, at least in part, the offspring of policies guided by our disdain.”


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A Beginner’s Review of the Qur’an, Part Three: The Best Defense

This is part three of a three-part series.

Read Part I Here
Read Part II Here

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I asked my good friend, follower of Jesus, and Muslim expert, Mark Siljander, to weigh in on this subject. Here is his reply:

“I would humbly suggest your students read A Deadly Misunderstanding. Many of their questions will be answered and much more.

I also recommend they read this article by Karen Armstrong that responds to some of the violent Qur’anic verses.

Also one must keep in mind that the Qur’an was written during a time of constant battles against the new Muslims, so several passages indeed deal with warfare.


The radicals use verses like 4:89 & 2:191 that say: ‘slay [enemies] wherever you find them!’ – against the West and numerous verses that speak of Jihad and promises to martyrs.

However, it is more prudent to undermine the extremist interpretation with the historical context and correct meanings of key words.


For example, these two verses above refer to the people of the Quraishi tribe who persecuted the Muslims wherever they found them and hence, gave permission to the early Muslim community to fight back.


Even better, we should emphasize the verse just after (4:90), ‘But, if they depart from you, and make not war against you and offer you peace, then God alloweth you no occasion against them.” And the verse just before (2:190) that says “but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors.”


What about ‘Jihad’? Actually, it is an Aramaic word that means internal ‘struggle’ NOT external ‘holy war.’

And the 72 virgins? Sorry for the wasted deaths, but the word in the Qur’an is also Aramaic that actually means ‘pure (white) grapes’ and just for the record, there is no ’72’ mentioned anywhere.


Perhaps we should encourage others to focus on verses in the Qur’an such as, ‘Thus, if they let you be, and do not make war on you, and offer you peace, God does not allow you to harm them (4:90) but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors.’


‘The only permissible war is one of self-defense. Muslims may not begin hostilities (2:190).’

I am not an apologist for Islam or the Qur’an, but it behooves us all to encourage a nonviolent interpretation, embracing the arguments Christian scholars use for the over 1,000 violent verses in the Bible:

  • Historically contextual & hence not meant for today
  • Metaphorical
  • Misunderstandings of the rabbinical and Eastern traditions, parables, axioms, etc.
  • Mistranslations of the original language

Blessings dear Friend;
Mark Siljander”

I am not denying that there is a real threat from adherents of a radical interpretation of the Qu’ran.

I am not saying that the world does not have terrorist elements in it, because is certainly does.

I am saying that “an eye for an eye” will make the world blind. Careful study of original sources and documents is vital to understanding others, and certainly should be engaged in before we accuse persons of other faiths of violent beliefs or intentions.

If the threat is large, perhaps the best defensive posture we could take is to become the best followers of Jesus we can. 

Who can judge the intent of a person’s heart? How do we really know what others intend to do or not do?

Trust in God the scriptures say. At the very least, we should thoroughly and personally read the scripture and history of a people before we judge them.

And even before we do that, it might be a good idea to read our own scripture first.

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A Beginner’s Review of the Qur’an, Part Two: Biblical Terrorism?

This is part two of a three-part series.

Read Part I Here

The Qu’ran has been translated into over 100 languages. There are more than 20 English translations of the Qu’ran.

Admittedly, most of us know little of this religion as a little more that 1 percent of Americans claim adherence to this faith.

I am not a scholar of the Qu’ran. I am however, well versed in the Bible and have studied it for many years. It is important to remember that the Qu’ran is at least in one sense, a history for the Muslim People, just like the Old Testament is a history of the Israelites.

In fact, I find the two to be very similar, as I recall the command of God to the Israelites under the leadership of Joshua.

In the Book of Joshua, Gods commanded his people — the believers — to kill and destroy all who would not convert and follow Jehovah. In biblical terms, this is called Anathema.

In the Old Testament, the word, anathema is generally used as the rendering of the Hebrew word — herem — , derived from a verb meaning:

  • to consecrate or devote; and
  • to exterminate.

The concept here is that any object that was consecrated to God could not then be used by man, it had to be destroyed. (Num. 18:14; Lev. 27:28, 29), there seems to be a relationship between consecration of temple ceremonies and following God commandment in cleansing Palestine of idolatry.

The Hebrew verb (haram) is frequently used to communicate the extermination of idolatrous nations. It had a wide range of application.

Christians believe that Joshua and the Israelites were commanded by God to commit anathema on the inhabitants of the City of Jericho. That is, to kill every man, woman, child, and living creature.

Today, that sounds a bit extreme, but faithful Christians see it as a matter history and being the truth.

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If I were not a Christian and I read the Book of Joshua, believing that it was Christian scripture, could I come away with the impression that all Christians were commanded to kill all non-Christians? It is very possible.

By the way, Joshua and the Israelites went on for years, committing anathema throughout Palestine; destroying whole cities and reeking havoc on the civilizations of the Amorites, Cannanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites.

Does the Old Testament give Christians today the continued mandate to kill all non-believers? All but the most fanatical of Christians would certainly answer no.

Have Christians since the Old Testament times ever used scripture as a means of justifying bloodshed? A quick perusal of history will show countless examples over hundreds of years of this being the case.

Today, Christians view the Old Testament primarily as a historic account, a portion of the annals of the Middle East. We certainly do not take God’s commands to Joshua as something we should devote ourselves to in the 21st Century.

Today, Christians are commanded to take a different path than Joshua. My religion, specifically the words of Christ, tells me to:

Luke 6:27 (GNT)
But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,

Other Translations of Luke 6:27

But I say vnto you which heare, Loue your enemies, doe good to them which hate you. – King James Version (1611)

But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you – New American Standard Version (1995)

But I say unto you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you,
– American Standard Version (1901)

But I say to you who give ear to me, Have love for those who are against you, do good to those who have hate for you, – Basic English Bible

But I say to you who give ear to me, Have love for those who are against you, do good to those who have hate for you – Darby Bible

But I say to you that hear: Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you. – Douay Rheims Bible

Lu 6:27-36 Love your enemies. These precepts are found in Matthew’s report in their connection. See PNT “Mt 5:44”. – People’s Bible

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to them who hate you, – Webster’s Bible

But to you who are listening to me I say, Love your enemies; seek the welfare of those who hate you; – Weymouth Bible

But I tell you who hear: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, – World English Bible

But Y seie to you that heren, loue ye youre enemyes, do ye wel to hem that hatiden you;
– Wycliffe Bible

`But I say to you who are hearing, Love your enemies, do good to those hating you,
– Youngs Literal Bible

Here, the full idea is presented:

27 But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
28 Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.
29 And unto him that smiteth thee on the [one] cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not [to take thy] coat also.
30 Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask [them] not again.
31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.
32 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.
33 And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.
34 And if ye lend [to them] of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and [to] the evil.
36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. King James Version

To be continued…

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A Beginner’s Review of the Qur’an, Part One: Context Matters

A friend gave me the book What Every American Needs to Know About the Qur’an: A History of Islam and the United States by William J. Federer.

I think my friend is concerned that I just don’t understand the fullness of the evil of Islam. So I am using this book as the starting point for this topic.

There are 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide and about 2.1 billion Christians.

In this country, although the public perception is rather high regarding what percentage of the 325,000,000 U.S. citizens are actively involved in religion (regular church attendance and regular tithing), significant studies show the average guess to be off by more than half, with only 20 to 30 percent of U.S. Christians actively engaged in religious practices.

Unsurprisingly, the ratio is about the same for the estimated 3,000,000 Muslims citizens and immigrants who reside here.

Are we about to be overrun with Muslim zealots in an ongoing Jihad? Is Christianity about to be eclipsed by Islam? Are all Muslims taught to hate the infidel and seek to convert or kill Christians?

The first step in answering these questions is to learn more about Islam and the Qu’ran so that we are not shooting in the dark at phantoms.

In his book, Federer sites no specific Qu’ran translation, but claims that all Muslims want to rid the earth of all non-believers.

He cites many disconcerting verses within its chapters, called suras. I compared his quoted suras to the first online version of the Qu’ran (Sahih International) I could find.

This review only addresses the Qu’ran itself and does not comment on the rest of Federer’s book.

I discovered that many of the suras quoted by Federer were done so out of context, meaning that to understand what was really being said, you had to read a couple of suras before and even after the quoted one; you know, in context.




Federer’s suras are quoted first, followed by the quote in context.

Federer: Infidels are those who declare: ““God is the Christ, the son of Mary.”” (Sura 5:17)

Sura in Context: Sahih International, 5:17

“They have certainly disbelieved who say that Allah is Christ, the son of Mary. Say, ‘Then who could prevent Allah at all if He had intended to destroy Christ, the son of Mary, or his mother or everyone on the earth?’

“And to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them. He creates what He wills, and Allah is over all things competent.”

Federer: Make war on the infidels who dwell around you. (Sura 9:123)

Sura in Context: Sahih International, 9:120

“It was not [proper] for the people of Madinah and those surrounding them of the bedouins that they remain behind after [the departure of] the Messenger of Allah or that they prefer themselves over his self.

“That is because they are not afflicted by thirst or fatigue or hunger in the cause of Allah, nor do they tread on any ground that enrages the disbelievers, nor do they inflict upon an enemy any infliction but that is registered for them as a righteous deed. Indeed, Allah does not allow to be lost the reward of the doers of good.”


“Nor do they spend an expenditure, small or large, or cross a valley but that it is registered for them that Allah may reward them for the best of what they were doing.”


“And it is not for the believers to go forth [to battle] all at once. For there should separate from every division of them a group [remaining] to obtain understanding in the religion and warn their people when they return to them that they might be cautious.”


“O you who have believed, fight those adjacent to you of the disbelievers and let them find in you harshness. And know that Allah is with the righteous.”

Another sura that suggests only self-defense:

4:90, Sahih International

“Except for those who take refuge with a people between yourselves and whom is a treaty or those who come to you, their hearts strained at [the prospect of] fighting you or fighting their own people.

“And if Allah had willed, He could have given them power over you, and they would have fought you. So if they remove themselves from you and do not fight you and offer you peace, then Allah has not made for you a cause [for fighting] against them.”

Federer quotes this sura twice but with different translations:

When you meet the infidel in the battlefield, strike off their heads. (Sura 47:4)

“Therefore, when ye meet the Unbelievers (in fight), smite at their necks; At length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly (on them): thereafter (is the time for) either generosity or ransom. (Sura 47:4)”

Sahih International, 47:1

“Those who disbelieve and avert [people] from the way of Allah – He will waste their deeds.”


“And those who believe and do righteous deeds and believe in what has been sent down upon Muhammad – and it is the truth from their Lord – He will remove from them their misdeeds and amend their condition.”


“That is because those who disbelieve follow falsehood, and those who believe follow the truth from their Lord. Thus does Allah present to the people their comparisons.”


“So when you meet those who disbelieve [in battle], strike [their] necks until, when you have inflicted slaughter upon them, then secure their bonds, and either [confer] favor afterwards or ransom [them] until the war lays down its burdens. That [is the command].

“And if Allah had willed, He could have taken vengeance upon them [Himself], but [He ordered armed struggle] to test some of you by means of others. And those who are killed in the cause of Allah – never will He waste their deeds.

“Mohammed is Allah’s apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to the infidels.” (Sura 48:29)

Federer: Kill the disbelievers wherever we find them. (Sura 2:191)

Sahih International, 2:190

“Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors.”


“And kill them wherever you overtake them and expel them from wherever they have expelled you, and fitnah* 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, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.”


“Fight them until there is no [more] fitnah and [until] worship is [acknowledged to be] for Allah. But if they cease, then there is to be no aggression except against the oppressors.”


“[Fighting in] the sacred month is for [aggression committed in] the sacred month, and for [all] violations is legal retribution. So whoever has assaulted you, then assault him in the same way that he has assaulted you. And fear Allah and know that Allah is with those who fear Him.”

Federer: The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His messenger… will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land. (Sura 5:33)

Sahih International, 5:27

“And recite to them the story of Adam’s two sons, in truth, when they both offered a sacrifice [to Allah], and it was accepted from one of them but was not accepted from the other. Said [the latter], “I will surely kill you.” Said [the former], “Indeed, Allah only accepts from the righteous [who fear Him].”


“If you should raise your hand against me to kill me – I shall not raise my hand against you to kill you. Indeed, I fear Allah, Lord of the worlds.”


“Indeed I want you to obtain [thereby] my sin and your sin so you will be among the companions of the Fire. And that is the recompense of wrongdoers.”


“And his soul permitted to him the murder of his brother, so he killed him and became among the losers.”


“Then Allah sent a crow searching in the ground to show him how to hide the disgrace of his brother. He said, “O woe to me! Have I failed to be like this crow and hide the body of my brother?” And he became of the regretful.”


“Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely.

“And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely. And our messengers had certainly come to them with clear proofs. Then indeed many of them, [even] after that, throughout the land, were transgressors.”


“Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land.

“That is for them a disgrace in this world; and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment,


“Except for those who return [repenting] before you apprehend them. And know that Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.”

Click Here for Part Two


The True American Order

America Is In Crisis.

Some people are immune to the sound of that drum, hearing only a Chicken Little cry of “the sky is falling.”

More, however, are beginning to sense that something really is wrong and want to solve our problems.

Without fail, in every lecture and class I give, the question always comes up: “OK, I believe you. Now what?” or “I already know America is in crisis. So what do we do about it?”

Keep in mind that this inquiry comes after two to four hours of lecture or classroom experience where I was just explaining the solution. So why are they asking me this question?

Is it them or me?

After serious contemplation, I remembered something Dr. Skousen told me once.

Suddenly, it all became clear. What follows is my best attempt to answer my students’ question, “So what do we do about it?”

First Things First

In Russell Kirk’s Roots of American Order , he spends 500 pages explaining who we are and where we came from. However, for many of us, the essence of these concepts gets lost in the journey.

Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind and Robert Bork’s The Tempting of America both make the same case:

There is an American Order.

That is what Kirk is really talking about. He is asking the question, “Is there an American way of life that made this country a ‘Light on a Hill,’ ‘A Refuge of the World,’ and ‘The Hope of Humanity?”’

He claims that yes, there is, and that we have forgotten our American Order, the system to employ it, and the responsibility to lead out.

The reasons that this has happened are not mysterious or even hard to understand.

And now that the results of the loss of that order are visible to all; there are political “carpet baggers” who are using our present crisis as a means to enlarge personal power and wealth, all at the cost of individual liberty. (See Federalist Paper 1)

We are told that the solutions to the American Crisis can only be provided at the national level, that the congress and the executive branch are our only hope to tackle these crises, or at the very least that it can only be solved at the national party level.

And mostly, we are told, over and over again, that the American people must have this party or national leadership if these problems are to be solved. Many citizens have accepted this propaganda.

This is reminiscent of the party line of those British Empire supporters who opposed John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and company in their struggle for the protection of rights and ultimately liberty (See Revolutionary writings of John Adams).


Getting Our Hands Dirty

In a letter to his wife Abigail John Adams once wrote,

“I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.

“My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.”

Different situations require different focus and preparation, and once a problem has been clearly identified, we then need to establish the best solution to solve that problem.

Often it requires the problem-solvers to try a different path, to stray from the regular, normal approach (which is often broken or not applicable) and create a whole new method to solving the problem.

At the very least it requires an acknowledgment that we — and all other generations — have the responsibility of getting our own hands dirty.

The ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius suggested this as a solution for national

“The ancients who wished to illustrate the highest virtue throughout the empire first ordered well their own states. Wishing to order well their own states, they first regulated their own families. Wishing to regulate their families, they first cultivated their own selves.

“Wishing to cultivate their own selves, they rectified their hearts. Wishing to rectify their hearts, they first sought to be sincere in their thoughts.

“Wishing to be sincere in their thoughts, they first extended to the utmost, their knowledge. Such extension of knowledge lay in the investigation of things.

“Things being investigated, knowledge became complete. Their knowledge being complete, their thoughts were sincere. Their thoughts being sincere, their hearts were rectified. Their hearts being rectified, their own selves were cultivated.

“Their own selves being cultivated, their families were regulated. Their families being regulated, their states were rightly governed. Their states being rightly governed, the whole empire was made tranquil and happy.”

Only We Can Solve Our Problems

I agree with Confucius. Ultimately, we as individuals must be the long-term solvers of our problems because we are the creators of our problems.

Yes, I know that many politicians have been or are dishonest, self-serving and corrupt. I also agree that political leaders at all levels often approach their offices from a “Big Government” mentality, and this is also destructive to personal rights and liberty.

I see this in my own little town of 2,000 citizens. But why does this happen? Why does government always expand and grow and take over?

The simple answer is because we allow it. We prefer to let others assume the often boring, monotonous, frustrating, tedious, and stressful work of governance. We prefer to entertain ourselves with an almost nonstop diet of movies, computer games, sports, and other diversions.

Most of us have become so engrossed in the accumulation of wealth or things that we neglect our natural spousal, familial, and even community duties; we prefer to let others dictate and make decisions on all but our most personal issues.

This has gone on for decades. When on extreme occasion, an issue arises (almost always after-the-fact) that pricks us so hard as to wake us from our fog of self-indulgence, we become indignant, angry, and even hostile. We demand change now although every poorly thought out, self-centered solution we offer has little or no substance behind it.

This produces a civic disruption, which generally leads to one of three ends: either a long unproductive and unresolved stalemate—expending huge amounts of energy, a compromise that resolves the immediate concern, but ultimately does not solve the problem, or an eventual collapse back into our miasmic self-indulgence.

When will it be time for us to man up and shoulder our citizen responsibilities? I really don’t mean to offend anyone or point a finger at us, I have been guilty of this apathy myself, but I think that our national, state, and community problems are almost at a point of requiring an intervention.

What happens if we don’t make some serious, long-term changes? In terms of providing solutions, the last elections were mediocre to abysmal.

When are we going to figure out that the system is broken? Party will not save America. The executive branch will not save America. The legislative branch will not save America.


Syncing Our Actions and Values

Back to my discussion with Dr. Skousen. Twenty years ago, in a quiet dinner setting, he related his experience with a coalition of national leaders from South America who had hired him to teach them and help them set up a system of governance that would lead to the affluence evinced in the United States.

He was very excited with the prospects.

He did his due diligence, studied their culture, the prominent religions, and the current system of governance.

He created a proposal to introduce principles of liberty and wealth into their culture that would modify their countries enough to enter the domain of liberty and prosperity.

He said all was going well until the last meeting. He indicated to them that there were a couple of more things that needed to be modified before all of this would work. The leaders gave him their full rapt attention.

He said that as he had prepared to meet with them, he had discovered many beautiful and wonderful aspects of their culture that were very much in tune with the principles he was suggesting and the desired end result they were seeking.

However, there were two common practices that would spoil the apple cart and he was there to suggest that these leaders be the ones to promote the end of such practices if they desired to succeed.

“What practices?” they questioned.

Dr. Skousen very gently pointed out that the practice of having mistresses and the system of corruption that was currently in place were not conducive to liberty and prosperity and would need to end.

Dr. Skousen said that these leaders objected and said that these were part of who they were and that the aristocracy would not stand for such changes. This led to a fairly speedy end of the meeting.

Dr. Skousen got on the plane the next day and a great opportunity to bring unprecedented liberty and prosperity to the average South American was lost.

I am not suggesting that you have a mistress or the equivalent (although if you have one, we probably need to talk). I am suggesting that if we are not happy with the state of the nation or the condition of our city or state, it is likely things are happening that are contrary to principles of liberty and prosperity and that we are out of sync with natural law.

No form of government or set of laws alone can protect liberty, create prosperity, or fulfill the end of man. All of the solutions for our current crisis are in the archives of our bygone American Order.

Our heritage speaks of it. Our ancestors lived by it. If we are to return America to her greatness, if we are to improve our lot and leave a national legacy to our great grandchildren, if America once again is to be that light on a hill, the golden door, the hope of humanity, we will need to search out our American Order and restore it.