I’m trying to understand the theology and the psychology of Muslim rage over a YouTube video denigrating the Prophet. I am not writing with opinions or answers but with questions.
On the surface Christianity and Islam share a zeal for the honor of God, but only on the surface; the differences between them are huge. Christians have not always gotten this right, which I think we can attribute to mixing up religion with defending nation or culture. It may be that something like that is also going on in Islam today. I don’t know; except as I understand Islam, religion and government and military are three sides of the same hypergeometric coin.
Here is the key difference as I see it from an under-informed distance. From where I sit, it looks as if Muslims are defending the Prophet, or the Prophet’s honor, or something like that. There is nothing of that in Christianity. Bruce L. Shelley opened a fine history book with, “Christianity is the only major religion to have as its major event the humiliation of its God.” Christ willingly accepted shame and dishonor upon himself. He did it partly to identify with every human’s failings. He did it partly to show that he could meet humiliation square on, and rise above it in victory. He did it partly because it provided all of us the way out of shame, dishonor, and ultimately death. I wrote of these things a few months ago.
God doesn’t need us coming to his defense. He’s more than capable of handling things for himself. (Need I point out what a huge understatement that is?) He calls us to honor him, but it’s not because he needs it, or because he’s conceited or vainglorious or petty. It’s because when we honor him we align ourselves with truth, in our lives, our habits, and our character. He calls us to honor him because in a very deep sense it is good and right to do so. It is good and it produces good.
I do not know, but I can’t help wondering, what good it does Allah, the Prophet, or Muslims that they rise up in violence defending the honor of their religion’s messenger. Maybe someone can help me understand.
And maybe it wouldn’t hurt for us Christians to think through ways we’ve wrongly thought we were defending God’s honor. We know he doesn’t need it. There are matters needing defense, certainly, but why and for whom? That’s what we need to keep straight.