These days, the hills are alive with the sound of musings about Islam. Publisher's Weekly reported this spring that a spate of new books on the religion are hitting the bookstores, and they're unlike the critical books that came out after September 11; the new tomes assure readers that Islam is a religion of peace. That, as Alvin Schmidt points out in The Great Divide, is wishful thinking. Muslims are right to point out that the Bible has its parts (such as the book of Joshua) that sound bloodthirsty to modern readers, but the Quran is Joshua all the way through, without its contextualization in the peace-emphasizing prophetic and New Testament books... ...Professor Schmidt does not hack away at Islam, nor does he attack Christianity because of headlined abuses that arise in it. He doesn't hyperventilate about the Abu Ghraibs of Christianity--the misogyny of some church fathers, the bloody entry of the Crusaders into Jerusalem, the pro-slavery rhetoric of some antebellum fire-eaters. Instead, he compares the normal practice of Christianity and Islam. He shows how Christianity grew by the blood of its martyrs, but Islam grew by killing those who opposed it. He compares the view of women in the New Testament and the Quran, showing how Christ's teaching eventually led to the development of complementary roles for men and women but Muhammad's teaching led to subservience. He shows how Christians looked at slavery critically over the centuries and how many fought for its abolition; Islam, though, has no intrinsic anti-slavery position, so it's no surprise that some Islamic countries today still allow it... ...Christians who understand these specific differences, delineated in Schmidt's book,will strengthen their own faith and be ready to enter into discussions with Muslims without offering either appeasement or shotgun-blast aggression.
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