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Ergun Mehmet Caner and Emir Fethi Caner: Christian Jihad

 

Ergun Mehmet Caner and Emir Fethi Caner, Christian Jihad (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2004), 240 pages. 

The Caner brothers have written a provocative book that is perhaps even prophetic. I mean provocative in the sense that it is sure to provoke strong responses, whether in agreement or disagreement, and prophetic in the sense of the Hebrew prophets’ issuance of a call to righteousness. We most certainly need to hear, and to heed, the word they bring us. First of all, Christians, then all religious believers, and finally anyone actually or potentially affected by religious violence can benefit from reading this book. In a post 9/11 world, that pretty much means everyone. Christian Jihad is concerned with the role of war and religious violence in Christian history and theology as played out in actual practice. The Caners, two former Muslims who are now Christian pastors and seminary professors in the USA, share unique insights on what may be the most pressing problem of our day. The book is exceptionally well written, reading at times more like a novel than non-fiction, yet packed with profound analysis. In an easy to understand but carefully researched style, and armed with a unified historical, political, and theological understanding, the Caners’ message is as up to date as Homeland Security and as urgent as the promise of Heaven.

Caner and Caner chronicle historically the Church’s incremental movement from an original tendency to pacifism, into gradual, qualified acceptance of Christian participation in the military, and finally spiritually sanctioned warfare and bloodshed. When Emperor Constantine took over the Church, it began an adulterous affair with the State including intoxication with wealth, power, and the use of force. The “Sanctified Slaughter” of the Crusades, inaugurated by Urban II and his Church-run State, was an eventual consequence (p. 104). In a bloodcurdling comparison, Urban’s call for warriors in a holy war and that of Osama bin Laden’s are shown to be very similar (Appendix B). Soon “Christian” warfare on Islamic “infidels” was not enough; Roman Catholicism began holy war on Christian “heretics”, known now, infamously, as the Inquisition. Later, Protestants joined the journey toward jihad, violently reeking vengeance on religious others—Roman Catholics, Jews, even on other Protestants, such as Anabaptists—under the auspices of a State-run Church. According to the Caner brothers, today’s tensions between Christians, Jews, and Muslims, and between rival Christian sects, have been almost insurmountably set in place by religious violence perpetrated in the name of “holy war”—or a Christian version of Islamic jihad.

Though lifting up America as an example of religious liberty, and therefore comparatively exempt from religious violence, Caner and Caner fear an erosion of the essential religious liberty the nation was originally founded upon. Even in early America there was a struggle between Church and State involving persecution occasionally erupting into violence. The USA, however, initiated an unprecedented experiment: religious liberty. Freedom of religion is a basic value for Americans. But, according to the Caners, that very value is in dire danger today. Real religious liberty, that “grants all worshipers of every faith complete and equal treatment and allows each person and group total freedom to worship how they choose without any fetters, biases, or coercion from the government” is in danger of being replaced with so-called religious tolerance, “an arrogant rule, stipulating that government will put up with what it considers inferior, inadequate, or incorrect practices—but only to a certain point” (p. 178). They therefore argue persuasively for a less politically correct, more practically applied view of Separation of Church and State.  

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Category: Living the Faith, Summer 2006

About the Author: Tony Richie, D.Min, Ph.D., is missionary teacher at SEMISUD (Quito, Ecuador) and adjunct professor at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary (Cleveland, TN). Dr. Richie is an Ordained Bishop in the Church of God, and Senior Pastor at New Harvest in Knoxville, TN. He has served the Society for Pentecostal Studies as Ecumenical Studies Interest Group Leader and is currently Liaison to the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches (USA), and represents Pentecostals with Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation of the World Council of Churches and the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs. He is the author of Speaking by the Spirit: A Pentecostal Model for Interreligious Dialogue (Emeth Press, 2011) and Toward a Pentecostal Theology of Religions: Encountering Cornelius Today (CPT Press, 2013) as well as several journal articles and books chapters on Pentecostal theology and experience.

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