When I made the conversation starting comment that "Islam is a bad idea" on Tuesday (THE EASILY OFFENDED ARE EASILY THE MOST OFFENSIVE) it was based on my observation of Islam in the world, both today and in the past. The constructive comments I received have led me to conclude that the reason why Islam is a destructive religion is because it is overwhelming concerned with submission. Submission to Allah, submission to rulers, female submission to men and submission to the pan-Islamic community. It is not surprising that submission figures so strongly in Islam as one of Muhammad's major concerns throughout his adult life was to bring together the squabbling Arabic tribes. During the later part of his life Muhammad became a military ruler and, quite ruthlessly, turned his hope for a united people into a reality, bringing the pagan tribes together through conversion to his nascent religion and removing the Jewish and Christian communities from the region by genocide and enslavement. In the following years the Qur'an, in itself a legalistic tome, was added to by a large amount of legislation and regulation.
Of course, Islam was not the first Abrahamic religion to use law, supposedly decreed by God, to control people and to define what made them "chosen" and apart from the "alien." Judaism, itself, went through periods where legalism dominated. This was particularly the case during Israel's exile in Babylon when most of "the law" was written down by the priestly caste. As in the case of primitive Islam this would have served to keep the tribes together, giving them a "chosen" identity so that they did not get subsumed into the Babylonian population. But Judaism has always had, and still has, a stream of rebellion running through it. Even when "The Law" was being formulated there were "prophets" insisting that adherence to The Law was not the thing that God really wanted from God's chosen people and that the alien was to be treated with respect and not as subhuman. This prophetic stream of Judaism can still be found in the religion's reformed denomination whilst adherence to The Law is emphasised by those denominations within Judaism that are vehemently committed to separatism and racial purity.
Jesus was very much from the prophetic tradition. You can quote the line about not coming to change The Law as much as you like, Jesus, in his words and actions, made it absolutely clear that sticking obsessively to a long list of rules and regulations was not the way to have a real and life-changing relationship with The Father. Jesus sought to remove the tribal element from the worship of God, replacing it with a call for a personal relationship between each individual and God based on mutual respect, love and a common human-divine purpose. Knowing the mind of God became the way to live morally rather than strictly following the letter of The Law. Saint Paul understood this even though, like all Christians ever since, he had problems working out how to live a life free from law that was still morally good.
Throughout the history of the Christian faith there has been an internal battle raging between those commending the law and those commending freedom from the law. The legalists have always been dominant when there has been a perceived need for exclusivism. When the Christian churches became tribal the rulers of each tribe (denomination) assumed more authority for themselves and started demanding submission to God, their church and themselves. The primacy of the bishop of Rome was invented so that the Roman tribe could claim supremacy over and demand submission from the Christian tribes of the Middle East and beyond. Submissive forms of Christianity, such as those promoted by the monastic tradition, have always been strongest during those times when the Church has been strongly hierarchical and under the headship of an absolute ruler. During times of rebellion against absolute power, the people of the Church were, at least in part, disdainful of legislation and more charismatic. This usually led to change and renewal in the Church as well as growth in numbers.
Today the battle between the legalistic and the charismatic dominates the politics of the Church. On the one hand we have the papalists and evangelicals insisting that adherence to law, whether church law or scriptural law, is the way to live the Christian life and, on the other hand, we have those Christians who seek to lead their lives subject only to the words of Jesus Christ and, like Saint Paul, completely free from the legalism that constantly scuppers Christ's command to free the captive.
This second strand of Christianity is, at this moment in time, strongest within the Episcopal branch of Anglicanism. Those of us who strive for an inclusive church free from the constraints of covenants and authoritarian hierarchies do not demand, for example, the right for same sex couples to marry, because we are determined to make our churches subject to modern secular idealism but because we want to make our churches subject to the two thousand year old teachings of Jesus Christ and bring back the zeitgeist of the early church. We are far from being revisionist and progressive. We are, in fact, the most primitive and orthodox part of the Church at this time. As such, I believe we are most in tune to the will of God and the only people capable of taking the real, freedom proclaiming, good news of Jesus Christ out into the secular world and to those imprisoned by the legalism of their faith, whatever their religion.
But, we have a problem. We are a nice people. Many of us have that liberal tendency to give more worth to a "bad idea" than it deserves. We are so bloody apologetic at times. In fact we are apologetic most of the time. We don't want to belittle other people by belittling their beliefs. So, here we are, with the greatest news ever but completely incapable of selling it like it should be sold. We may be free from the law but we are completely bound and rendered impotent by the chains of our impeccable, good manners.
In the USA today people are hammering on the doors of their oppressors demanding their freedom from those who demand their submission to an evil and corrupt idealism. Christians who desire freedom should take a leaf out of their book and start hammering loudly and, above all unapologetically, on the doors of those who demand unthinking submission from us (which may well include hammering on the gates of heaven as well). This is not the time for diplomatic language it is the time for calling a spade a spade. letting our yes be yes and our no be no, to be scorching hot rather than luke warm and getting out into the whole world, not to convert people to just another life-denying, crippling, tribalistic, law-bound religion, but to give them freedom with no strings attached.