Was Christianity as Violent as Islam?

The topic of “The Crusades” inevitably comes up when speaking about the violence of Islam. I will be the first to agree that murder is horrible, and murder with a cross and a shield is perhaps even worse. I would submit to you that as a Christian, our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Eph 6:12). We are not called to harm people in the name of Christ, but to show kindness, love and forgiveness.

There were a series of nine crusades that lasted from the 10th through the 12th centuries. They were bloody and deadly. It has been estimated that close to 1.7 million people died as a result of armies attempting to reclaim the holy lands. The question that needs asked is: Were the actions and intents of the Crusaders similar to the actions and intents of the Muslims that then controlled Palestine?

I will agree that both the Christian and Muslim armies attempted to gain land, but the Crusades were a response to the relentless attacks of the Muslim armies as they pushed their kingdom further and further across the Mediterranean into Europe. The heart of the Crusades was to repel the advance of Islam, and by slapping the Christian idea of reclaiming the Holy Lands to the action many gladly jumped on board.

Another huge difference between the two forces is that the Byzantine Empire was a military force that used religion to unite individuals. After the embrace of Christianity by Constantine, people had something in common to hold them together. Islam was a religion that became militarized. The purpose of Islam is and has always been to conquer. “Fighting is prescribed upon you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not.” (Quran 2:216).

It is he (Allah) who has sent his Messenger (saw) with guidance and the religion of truth, in order for it to be dominant over all other religions, even though the Mushrikoon (disbelievers) hate it.” (EMQ at-Tawbah, 9: 33)

By the end of the first millennia after the death of Christ, Islam had exploded. The Sinai Peninsula wasn’t able to contain this fledgling religion and it spilled out all across the Middle East, but that’s not where it stayed.

By 680 AD what is now Northern Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Omen, Yemen and Palestine had all been touched by the arms of Islam. By 740 AD, half of Turkey, the southern tip of Russia, the northern sliver of Africa and Iran had also been reached. Once most of the Middle East was under Islamic control, the next natural extension of the Islamic arm was throughout regions surrounding the Mediterranean. By 820 AD, Spain, France and parts of Italy were fighting against a new type of war—the Jihad.

When you look at the nine reactionary Crusades made by the Christianized Byzantines they pale in comparison to the close to 550 Islamic battles.  Link to Bill Warner’s Youtube video of below image.

Another component that drove the Byzantines to the crusades was the slave raiding made by the Muslims armies. “What Islam did bring to Europe was war and slavery, on a massive scale. The House of Islam in the tenth century had little use for any of the produce and natural resources of Europe, except one; the bodies of the Europeans themselves. Young women and boys were preferred, but during the tenth century Europeans of almost any age or class, and in almost any part of the continent, could find themselves in chains and on a ship bound for North Africa or the Middle East.” – The Impact of Islam, BY Emmet Scott.

In summary, I would say Christianity at it’s heart is non-violent. Jesus implores us to show love.  Even when we consider the violent stories in the Bible, they are just stories of the past, and not mandates for our future. The violent verses in the Quran however are not stories from the past, but instructions to the Muslim. I want to be clear, there are many Muslims that are not violent, Muslims that have been taught to interpret the Quran in a non-violent way. But while Muslims may choose to be non-violent, the Quran teaches violence.

Follower’s of Islam Still Perform Animal Sacrifice

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In a little more than a month, on September 12th-13th of this year (2016), many Muslims around the world will sacrifice livestock in one of their most sacred festivals. Animals such as sheep, goats, cows and camels will forfeit their lives in Muslim sacrifice (Tweet That!) in commemoration of Allah’s mercy and Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael. Does that story sound familiar? If so, you may recognize the same story in the Hebrew Bible, except God had asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Issac. The story is about a man who was asked to sacrifice his son and offer him to God Almighty. In both stories, God stopped the sacrifice before it happened and provided an animal in the son’s place. It was a test of Abraham’s faith. You may ask, what’s the big deal. Does it really matter which of Abraham’s sons was involved? The answer is yes.

For the Muslim it’s a story about faith and obedience. Muhammad, is reported to have said, “It is a tradition that has come down to us from Abraham.” The sacrifices take place on Eid al-Adha, and it marks the climax of Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. The sacrifice is not for the forgiveness of sins. For the “small sins” the Muslim can be forgiven by doing good deeds like extra prayer and fasting. For the “big sins” a Muslim must repent to Allah, and Allah will decide whether or not to forgive. They will find out on Judgement Day if they have been forgiven. It is through Allah’s choice and works that the Muslim is saved (Tweet That!).

For the Jew, the sacrifice first seen at Mount Moriah with Abraham was expanded when God gave Moses the 10 commandments and the rest of the Law. The idea of animal sacrifice started with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. When they sinned, God had to kill the first animal to cover their nakedness. We see also that Adam’s son Abel also offered a sacrifice that was pleasing to the Lord. The sacrificial Law given to Moses had five types of offerings to the God:

  1. The Burnt Offering [sheep, goats, turtle dove, pigeon] was a voluntary sacrifice that signified total surrender to God.
  2. The Grain Offering [meat, baked goods, flour, salt] was voluntary and signified a living sacrifice to God.
  3. The Peace Offering [cattle, lamb, goat] was voluntary and signified fellowship and was eaten with the priest.
  4. The Sin Offering [Bull, goat] was a required sacrifice meant for unintentional sins. Dealt more with the nature of mankind.
  5. The Trespass Offering [lamb, goat, turtle dove, pigeon, oil & flour] was a required for the forgiveness of all sins. Dealt specifically with individual sins.

The Jews no longer offer sacrifices. The Temple was destroyed by Rome in 70 AD and they were dispersed throughout the nations. About 600 years later the Muslims built the Dome of the Rock on the location where they thought the Temple existed. There is talk of rebuilding a Temple, but since the Dome of the Rock currently occupies the Temple Mount it won’t come without great tension.

For the Christian, Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of the Trespass Offering and His death paid for their salvation (Tweet That!). His life and death has done away with the need for the whole sacrificial system. Jesus was a descendant of Issac, not Ishmael. We have all we need in the person of Christ. Isaiah says, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” As a Christian I can be assured that when I pass from this world into the next that I will rest in His kingdom. My salvation is not based upon works, but it is out of my love for Him that I do good works. I don’t have to worry about whether or not God will forgive me, His word tells me that I am.

There is no other way, but Jesus.

2 Tim 1:12 “because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.”