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Freedom versus Legalism - Christianity offers inner change; Islam offers only external rules
World Magazine ^ | December 1, 2001 online edition | Gene Edward Veith

Posted on 11/25/2001 7:19:47 AM PST by sola gracia

Freedom versus legalism

Christianity offers inner change; Islam offers only external rules

By Gene Edward Veith

After the Taliban high-tailed it out of Afghanistan's major cities, ordinary Afghans—though bombed and poverty-stricken—amazed Western viewers with public displays of happiness.

People played music. (The Taliban had outlawed music.) Children flew kites. (Kite flying was forbidden). People dug up television sets they had buried in their back yards and brought out photographs they had hidden, since TV and photography were outlawed. Young men played soccer. (Also outlawed, after a Pakistani team showed up for a game wearing shorts instead of the prescribed long-sleeved tunics and to-the-ground trousers.)

As soon as the Taliban left, men lined up at barber shops to shave their beards, and many women ditched the burqa, the wearable tent with webbed eye-holes reminiscent of the haz-mat suits used in America for the anthrax scare. Both trendy styles were mandatory under the Taliban fashion police, who whipped violators with steel rods.

The smiling faces, the dancing in the streets, the hugs for their liberators seemed surprising. Conditioned by the ideology of multiculturalism, we had assumed that the Afghans lived the austere life they did because of their culture.

It turns out they hated living under a regime that forbade the most innocent of pleasures. The radical Islamic regime did not reflect cultural values, just old-fashioned tyranny. Something similar is happening in Iran, with a grassroots uprising against the control-freak mullahs and their Virtue Police. The love of freedom, it appears, is multicultural.

When the United States defeated Japan, the less-than-culturally-sensitive occupying army swept away the cultural legacy of centuries to impose an American-style constitution and make the Japanese free whether they wanted to be or not. For this, the Japanese people—who eagerly embraced not only capitalism but baseball—have been deeply grateful.

But political freedom and cultural freedom—which must mean, among other things, freedom from the culture—both have their origins in spiritual freedom.

Christianity is arguably the only world religion that promises freedom. The New Testament, contrary to the common assumption that associates freedom with moral license, analyzes sin as a type of slavery. "Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin," said Jesus. Sinners are in bondage, as any drug addict or drunk or sexual sinner would have to admit, as well as those who cannot control their temper, appetites, or selfish thoughts. But "if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:34, 36).

Put another way, Christianity is the only world religion that is not all about what a person has to do. Rather, as has been said, it is all about what God does for us. We are not saved by our works, but by the work of Christ, who, by His grace, gives us salvation as a free gift.

In Christianity, virtue comes not through the imposition of external rules, but from a changed heart that no longer wants to be entrapped in sin and that wants to love and serve others. In the connection between spiritual freedom and political freedom recognized by the American founders, someone who is virtuous from the inside does not need a strong political power to keep him in line. Because he governs himself, he can be, literally, self-governing.

Islam, on the other hand, is, like other world religions, a theology of legalism. Whereas Christianity's priority is saving souls, Islam's priority is imposing Koranic law. Christianity focuses on individuals; Islam focuses on societies. As a Nigerian Christian told WORLD, when Christian missionaries come to Africa, they build schools and hospitals. When Islamic missionaries come, they try to take over the government.

Legalism, ironically, tends to be accompanied by immorality. As those who work with international college students know, Islamic students who come to the United States often have big behavioral problems.

Having been brought up in a society that tries to make bad behavior impossible with Taliban-like restrictions, when they find themselves in a society without those external restraints, they often go wild, indulging in all kinds of debauchery. It comes as no surprise that the Sept. 11 hijackers spent their last days getting lapdances in sleazy strip bars. In legalistic religions, morality is purely external and must be enforced by restrictive rules or whip-bearing Virtue Police.

No wonder they see Christianity as such a threat, to the point of imprisoning those eight relief workers—since freed in the Taliban rout (see page 22)—for telling someone about Jesus. If the Afghans were so happy at the merest taste of personal freedom, imagine their joy, burdened as they have been by a legalistic religion, if they could know the freedom of the gospel.


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Christianity is arguably the only world religion that promises freedom.

It is for freedom that Christ has set you free.!

1 posted on 11/25/2001 7:19:48 AM PST by sola gracia
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To: JenB; Thinkin' Gal; Jerry_M; BibChr; enemy of the people; nightdriver; Precisian; George W. Bush...
Bump
2 posted on 11/25/2001 7:22:41 AM PST by sola gracia
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To: sola gracia
"...they hated living under a regime that forbade the most innocent of pleasures. The radical Islamic regime did not reflect cultural values, just old-fashioned tyrrany."

Yes. That's why I fled the Liberal enclaves of California.

Liberalism--America's version of the Taliban.

3 posted on 11/25/2001 7:33:42 AM PST by Savage Beast
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To: sola gracia
"Something similar is happening in Iran, with a grassroots uprising against the control-freak mullahs and their Virtue Police."

I wish we could have a grassroots uprising against them in the United States.

4 posted on 11/25/2001 7:36:53 AM PST by Savage Beast
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To: sola gracia
"When the United States defeated Japan, the less-than-culturally-sensitive occupying army swept away the cultural legacy of centuries to impose an American-style constitution and make the Japanese free whether they wanted to be or not."

This is exactly what is needed in the Islamic world.

Whether or not the inhabitants of those benighted countries turn out to be "deeply grateful" is beside the point.

It will be by far the best thing for the rest of the world, and

There is no excuse for the toleration of an imperialistic, tyrranical theocracy by the civilized world any more than the toleration of Naziism or Japanese imperialism.

Islam is imperialistic.

Islamic apologists like to sweep this little fact under the rug.

Demand unconditional surrender. Sweep away the cultural legacy of centuries, and impose an American-style constitution, with guarantees of freedom of speech, freedom of religion (including the freedom to convert to religions other than Islam), separation of religion and state, and women's suffrage. If the subjugated population objects--too bad. Open these countries up to missionaries. Convert them from the imperialistic, intolerant, war-like, tyrranical religion of Islam to some other religion--any other religion. Give Islam the respect it deserves--none.

5 posted on 11/25/2001 7:55:28 AM PST by Savage Beast
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To: sola gracia
Some so-called Christian organizations only offer external rules; there's abuse in Christianity as well.
6 posted on 11/25/2001 7:57:34 AM PST by sabe@q.com
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To: Savage Beast
excellent point..this is a great and true article
7 posted on 11/25/2001 9:32:08 AM PST by rwfromkansas
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To: marajade
they aren't true christians then
8 posted on 11/25/2001 9:32:33 AM PST by rwfromkansas
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To: sola gracia
"He who the Son sets free is free indeed"!
9 posted on 11/25/2001 10:39:20 AM PST by RnMomof7
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To: marajade
Some so-called Christian organizations only offer external rules; there's abuse in Christianity as well.

"So called" is the operative phrase here. There is nothing we can do to be "holy" or pleasing to God.there is nothing we can do to "earn" heaven..

Salvation is of God ,external rules do not save.

10 posted on 11/25/2001 10:43:37 AM PST by RnMomof7
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To: RnMomof7
"Salvation is of God ,external rules do not save."

Are you changing your tune?

11 posted on 11/25/2001 11:27:43 AM PST by sabe@q.com
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To: rwfromkansas
"they aren't true christians then."

That's a matter of debate.

12 posted on 11/25/2001 11:28:18 AM PST by sabe@q.com
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To: sola gracia
Of course, the exact same "legalism" charge can be leveled against Judaism, and for that matter Catholicism, but bashing Muslims seems to be PC among conservatives these days. When will religious conservatives realize, that Muslims are more likely to be their allies on issues ranging from abortion to creationism. It would be novel if once, just once, a fundamentalist Christian would actually defend the freedom of religion of a non-Christian.
13 posted on 11/25/2001 11:31:31 AM PST by Captain Kirk
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To: Savage Beast
So speaks a social engineer of the right! The hubris of central planning knows neither right nor left apparently.
14 posted on 11/25/2001 11:32:26 AM PST by Captain Kirk
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To: Captain Kirk
Okay, you've got me figured out. I'm neither of the right nor the left. As for hubris--well, I guess so. We're all capable of it.

But you've got to admit: radical Islamic fundamentalists have a lot in common with the Nazi and the Japanese imperialists.

Like most Americans, I was never anti-Islamic until Sept. 11--not quite three months ago. I've travelled in Islamic countries. Had Muslim friends.

But where were all the moderate Muslims when the Taliban was acting like Nazis? Why was it left to the Americans to rid Afghanistan of this scourge? And why is it illegal in Islamic theocracies for citizens to convert from Islam to another religion? There are many such questions that have arisen since Sept. 11. The response of moderate Muslims has been tepid and unconvincing.

What do you think?

15 posted on 11/25/2001 12:04:57 PM PST by Savage Beast
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To: Captain Kirk
The American social engineering and central planning in post-war Japan and Germany may have been hubristic, but it worked, and it was the best thing that could have happened for Japan, Germany, or the rest of the world.
16 posted on 11/25/2001 12:10:38 PM PST by Savage Beast
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To: Savage Beast
My own view is that the Islamic world will only change through a several hundred year cultural revolution. This revoultion cannot be successfully imposed by foreign governments. The U.S. tried to do that in Iran under the Shah. It didn't take!

In my view, the most realistic strategy is to support educational campaigns by groups such as the Cato Institute, which can, for example, hold conferences for groups such as Imans. Through this, admittedly slow, strategy, the Islamic world can be slowly reintroduced to an earlier tradition of liberty. It would be somewhat akin to introducing Russians to Hayek or re-introducing the socialist French to the long-forgotten ideas of Bastiat or Say.

There is a more pro-liberty tradition in Islam which can provide a foundation. Unfortunately, this tradition has been dead largely for several hundred years. The best hope is to revive it and build on it....but this may take several centuries.

17 posted on 11/25/2001 12:18:39 PM PST by Captain Kirk
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To: Savage Beast
Germany had an earlier, and in many ways quite rich, liberal tradition to draw on. The political parties which dominated by the late 1940s were essentially the same ones (with the exception of the Nazis and Communists) who had dominated in the 1920s. As to Japan, I am not sure if the social engineering was ever very successful. The Zabatsu (sp) still reign and most Japanese today are taught in school that there country was right during World War II, or, at the very least, no worse than the U.S.
18 posted on 11/25/2001 12:30:06 PM PST by Captain Kirk
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To: marajade
No it is not a matter of debate. If someone is trusting in works instead of the grace of God, they are not in Him. It is that simple. Proof? Read Paul.
19 posted on 11/25/2001 4:28:21 PM PST by rwfromkansas
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To: Captain Kirk
I don't think the world can wait several centuries. The clash of cultures is upon us.

World Civilization will be Western Civilization, combined with Chinese Civilization to an extent which cannot be determined yet.

It may be able to make some accomodations to Islam, but not many, because of the fundamental differences between Islam and Western Civilization.

Islam will accomodate World Civilization or face annihilation.

Moderates within the Islamic world will become secularized, as most Christians and Jews have been. Intransigents will be overpowered and overwhelmed by the dominant World Civilization culture. Ultimately, an altered Islamic world will be absorbed into World Civilization.

If present trends continue, Islam will help catalyze the forging of Russia, India, and NATO into a solid and powerful alliance, an alliance that will ultimately include China also.

A rich, liberal tradition from the past was of little help in bringing Germany from Naziism (or pre-Naziism) to democracy. Democracy was foreign to German thinking and experience.

There are conflicting currents in contemporary Japan, but capitalism and constitutional democracy have definitely succeeded.

Both Germany and Japan are miracles of post-war political and economic success--and American magnanimity in victory.

Success in both countries is due to the sweeping away of centuries-old cultural traditions by less-than-culturally sensitive occupying armies that imposed upon the subjugated populations an American-style constitution, which made them free whether they wanted to be or not.

It also made the world safer for everyone else.

This is the future of the present-day Islamic theocracies.

What do you think?

20 posted on 11/25/2001 5:46:55 PM PST by Savage Beast
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