Muslims Are People Too

By: Dr. Ant Greenham

Before the US reached its still-to-be-ratified deal with Iran on its nuclear program, before Muhammad Yusuf Abdulaziz killed five unarmed military personnel in Chattanooga, and before Franklin Graham urged a moratorium on Muslim immigration to America, I paid a brief visit to a Shi’ite mosque in north Raleigh. I would do it again in an instant, and indeed, hope to build on a relationship I began that Friday evening in Ramadan (the Muslim month of fasting) in mid-July 2015.

I went because I want to introduce Southeastern students to Shi’ite Islam, in addition to the mainstream Sunni variety, the next time I lead the World Religions Practicum. However, you need a contact before coming with a group. Well, I knew where they were, and wrote them a letter at the beginning of the year. The USPS returned it as undeliverable. So I would have to show up when someone was there, having failed the first time, during the winter. And I knew there would be folks there on a Ramadan Friday evening.

I took my wife, Eva, along, and she had a plate of cookies with her, just in case we were invited to an iftar, the communal meal Muslims share when they break the fast after sundown. The parking lot was full of cars this time, unlike the situation earlier in the year, so that was promising. However, we saw only men milling around, which made Eva uncomfortable. I parked some distance from the entrance and left her in the car (with the cookies). Right outside, I addressed an older man with an As-salamu alaykum (peace be upon you, in Arabic) and asked (in English) if I could see the imam. He took me inside and I began removing my shoes. A guy called Akbar greeted me and I told him about the practicum I lead every year, explaining that I lacked any contact with Shi’ites in the Raleigh area, and that was a pity. He offered me some water, which I declined, since the sun was still up and they hadn’t broken the fast yet, and I didn’t want to drink in front of them after a long, thirsty day. Anyway, he went and got Ahmad, who turned out to be the imam.

Ahmad suggested we talk outside, where it was quieter, and I put my shoes back on and accompanied him out the door. Like the older man I addressed earlier (and Akbar), he was clearly suspicious of me. So I explained how the practicum worked (essentially I ask practitioners of various religions if they would kindly address a group of students on what they believe, at their place of worship, so we can hear from them in their own words). I also took a calculated guess and asked him if he was from Iran (since a significant number of Shi’ites are Iranian). He sure was, and I told him about a fascinating five weeks I spent there in 1999.

The conversation was much more relaxed after that. He told me how the mosque started, almost accidentally, years ago (when he simply taught a few kids about their heritage, after hours) and how significant numbers of people had joined them in more recent days, most from Afghanistan. Anyway, it became clear this would not be the time to join them for an iftar (so Eva and I would eat the cookies ourselves). I thanked him for talking to me and we made sure we both had each other’s contact information, since we certainly planned to see each other again. As he went back inside, I wished him Khoda Hafez (a pre-Islamic Farsi expression meaning God keep you), and he responded enthusiastically, using the same words.

So, what’s my point? Very simply, there are Muslims who need Jesus right on our doorstep. We need to reach out to them. Things might be a little awkward at first, but despite their attachment to a belief system we strongly reject, our common humanity and a little respect and sensitivity can get the ball rolling. I know most readers will lack my Middle Eastern experience. Never mind. Approaching a Muslim with a smile, asking how long they’ve been here and how they’re settling in, would be a good way to start.

To close, I would like to echo Lauren’s words. She took my practicum class this year and is currently on mission in California. She had a great chat with some Sikhs in a restaurant recently, and specifically thanked me for helping her see folks like that as people, not as exotic foreigners. Well, guess what? Muslims are people too.

Dr. Ant Greenham is Associate Professor of Missions and Islamic Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Why Let All These Freshly Killed Babies Go To Waste?

By: Bruce Riley Ashford

It seems a pity to let all these freshly killed babies go to waste when we could creatively recycle them by selling them, or at least parts of them. So appears to be the logic of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), as revealed in video footage of top PPFA officials, released by the Center for Medical Progress. So far, four videos have been released.

The first video captures Dr. Deborah Nucatola, PPFA’s Senior Director of Medical Services, discussing over lunch PPFA’s sale of body parts of unborn babies. In the video, Nucatola is talking with actors who were posing as fetal tissue buyers from a human biologics company. She states that PPFA uses partial-birth abortions to supply body parts to researchers, says that PPFA will pay per-item for the harvested parts, and understands the need to cover up these practices in order to avoid legal liability.

At one point over her lunch and in between sips of wine, Nucatola explains how PPFA has honed the partial-birth abortion procedure so that it will produce intact baby parts. “We’ve been very good,” says Nucatola, “at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.”

In the fourth video, another PPFA employee, Savita Ginde, discusses a potential contract for fetal parts. Her responses make it seem that PPFA not only profits from a mother’s donation of the baby’s fetal parts, but may alter their procedures to provide more sales-worthy parts. The latter puts them in violation of ethical standards and potentially federal law for fetal parts collection. Later in the video, a medical tech exclaims “another boy!” as she crushes the baby boy’s skull and then “five star!” as she rates the baby’s kidneys.

In response to these videos, what should we do? We should find ways, as Richard John Neuhaus put it, to seek an America in which every unborn child is protected in law and welcomed in life. We must work for legal reform and cultural renewal. The debate over abortion and embryonic stem-cell research is not nearly as morally complex as pro-choice advocates make it to be. Hopefully, a generation or two from now, Americans will have as much moral clarity as they do now about slavery, genocide, and other evils.

These babies are persons. It doesn’t make sense when people deny that an unborn baby in the first trimester isn’t a baby and doesn’t even look like a baby. Of course it is and of course it does. It looks just like you and I looked when we were unborn baby humans.

We know this, even if we deny it. That is why some states have feticide laws that make it a crime to kill a fetus. If a drunk driver crashes into the car of a pregnant woman and accidentally causes the death of the unborn baby, he is charged. The baby is a person. Under the same logic, it should be argued that a fetus is a person when an abortionist intentionally takes its life.

Similarly, in the Planned Parenthood scandal, we see operative the recognition that the fetus is a human person already. If livers and kidneys and brains can be harvested and used to produce vaccines and therapies that fight sicknesses in (already-born) human persons, then it follows that those organs were harvested from (unborn) patients who are human persons.

Years ago, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty towards Animals (ASPCA) pushed a vision of “no-kill cities.” They wished to put a stop to the euthanizing of diseased animals. Instead of euthanizing, they declared it best to put those animals up for adoption. Their commitment to this vision extended even to the payment of the animal’s long-term medical care. If we Americans care for animals, can we not also care for our own? One wishes Americans would have the same zeal for unborn babies that the ASPCA and many Americans have for animals.

These babies are created in the image and likeness of God. They are precious to him, and should be precious to us. Let us not lose this moment in American history, when many Americans might be experiencing an awakening of their consciences toward the horror of abortion. One way we can make the most of this moment is to speak up both in private and in public, and to do so not merely by denouncing the actions of PPFA, but also by speaking gospel words about our Lord’s love for his creatures.

In Case You Missed It

 

Marty Duren recently published an article on life’s changing narrative. In his post Marty writes:

I wonder, at times, if we are as concerned over lost people as we are uncomfortable being around some of them. The New Testament does not record Jesus getting goosebumps while dining with sinners, religious or otherwise. If love for our neighbors means less comfort for ourselves, then we should become comfortable with the lack of it.

Sam Storms looks at the humility displayed in the book of James in this post.

The only thing James says about himself is that he is a “servant” or “slave” of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. Note that again. He doesn’t refer to Jesus as “my half-brother” (“So you better pay attention to what I have to say!”), but as the “Lord” to whom he owes unqualified allegiance, the “Lord” to whom he bows his knees, the “Lord” who has redeemed him and to whose glory and praise his entire life is wholly devoted.

Thus we see the heart and humility of this man both in what he doesn’t say about himself and what he does say. “If you are inclined to listen to what I say and heed my words, do it because my life belongs to the one who is my Lord, not because he’s my brother.”

Kelly Rosati, Vice President at Focus on the Family, writes about our callousness to the life and death of the preborn.

These wake-up call videos have done more than just energize the weary pro-life advocates—those in the trenches who continue to believe (naively, some cynics would say) that a day is coming when society will once again protect the human rights of preborn children. The Planned Parenthood scandal has also brought to life many “regular” pro-life people who are not usually engaged with this issue on a daily basis. They have been living their lives, minding their own business, not wanting to be zealous crusaders.

Sam Morris has written three blog posts so far related to topics surrounding the Planned Parenthood videos:

Sam is a communication and social media specialist at SEBTS, and in his lastest post regarding social media he writes:

My prayer is that we, as Christians believing that every life is valuable, speak out clearly on social media to #DefundPP. Our collective voice cannot be drowned out, and we are offered video upon video upon video of proof that shows the horrific carnage that is Planned Parenthood.
If history remembers anything of this online conversation let it not be that Christians were silent. Speak up. Be heard.

Finally, Hershael York writes about the funeral he most dreaded preaching. No spoilers here; just read the post.