ST GEORGE AND THE DRAGON
“Blessed be the Lord my strength
Who traineth my hands to war,
And my fingers to fight”
On this feast of St. George, and the ensuing “George-tide” (?) I want to talk about one kind of dragon. They are many dragons: our own sinfulness, the devil, Capitalism, Marxism, Fascism, Nationalism, Secularism, among others. But I want talk about a dragon that for over a thousand years tried desperately and consistently to conquer and destroy Christendom: The dragon of Islam. And it’s about time there was some plain speaking about Islam. So “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my Redeemer.” (ps. 18: 14-15)
Let me be clear at the outset. I find certain aspects of Islam very alluring. I love the beauty and the mysteriousness of the mosque. I’m enchanted by the muezzin’s call to the faithful to prayer; which is so much more personally appealing than bells. I’m ever astonished and massively impressed by the faithful getting down on their knees five times a day, every day. The Ramadan fast is incredible to behold (How do they manage it?). The worldwide brotherhood of Muslims is genuine and commendable, and knocks Christianity’s pretensions in this area into a cocked hat. And then there’s the modesty of the Muslim women; wonderful. Any woman in her right mind would surely want to dress like this. Even the full burqa is perfectly comprehensible, as also is circumcision (male, that is), and abstinence from pork. (Though not abstinence from wine!)
In truth, I find in Islam, a beauty, a simplicity, and even a kind of purity; and I think that Christianity would benefit greatly by adopting some aspects of Islam. To look at, this religion is really quite awesome and somewhat tempting. It glitters, like gold. But then all that glitters is not gold.
Islam was once described by St. John Damascene, as a Christian heresy, in that it acknowledges Jesus as a divinely appointed prophet and the Virgin as the sinless one, yet proceeds to deny the weightier truths about both. It is in fact worse than a Christian heresy. It is a counter-religion. Purporting to be in direct succession to the Old Testament revelation and its continuance in Jesus, Islam nevertheless rejects the New Testament revelation. It rejects God as Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, which is clearly revealed in the Gospels and Epistles (Mt. 28: 19; 1 Jn. 5:7, among others). It rejects the divinity of Christ, his atonement for sin, his Passion, death, and Resurrection, and his continuing mediatorial role at the right hand of the Father. Yet all these things the New Testament declares boldly and consistently to be true. And Christ still reigns as King, as it is written: “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘sit at my right hand’ “ (Ps. 109:1) And “There is no other Name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts. 4:1) So that’s that. The Lord Jesus Christ is God become man, is the crucified Saviour, is “the resurrection and the life” (Jn 11:25). And so if Islam wants to have any other Jesus than the one revealed in the New Testament revelation, then it is simply a made-up Jesus, a designer Jesus, fashioned to suit the particular desires of fallen man; rather like the Mormons’ Jesus, or the Jehovah’s Witnesses Jesus, or the Christian Scientists’ Jesus, and even the fabulous “liberal” Jesus of Protestant academics.
In addition to falsifying the revelation concerning the person of Christ and his work, Islam is also a denial of his teaching, the essence of which is to be found in the Sermon on the Mount. Here it is meekness, lowliness, non-resistance, compassion, pacifism, and suffering love that are the standards for the children of God. A Christian is not to resist evil, but to love his enemies and endure all things. Christ “came and preached peace to those who were far off and to those who were near.” (Eph. 2:17)
On the contrary, in the Qur’an there is much glorification of the sword. The world must be brought into subjection to Islam, compelled by the sword or punished by it. “Muhammad is God’s apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to unbelievers, but merciful to each other.” (Victory 48:29) “When you meet unbelievers in battle strike off their heads, and when you have laid them low bind your captives firmly.” (Muhammad 47:1). “Make war on unbelievers and deal rigorously with them.” (Repentance 9:72). All Muslims are obliged to wage “holy war”, and according to Muhammad, who boasts of talking with God and angels, believers are promised rich booty for fighting. No wonder then that he and his followers devoted so much time and effort to marauding and waging war. “If you do not go to war, God will punish you sternly.” Says Muhammad (Repentance 9:36). And go to war they did. Within eighty years of his death the Muslim armies had conquered and destroyed the Christian civilizations of the Middle East and North Africa. Thereafter, from 711 A.D. for a thousand years, until finally defeated outside of Vienna in 1719 A.D., Islam battered at the gates of European Christendom. The Byzantine Empire of Asia Minor and the Balkans fell to the Crescent in the 15th century and much of Central Asia and India in the East.
Everywhere Islam was spread by the sword, not by preaching and miracles. The Son of God declares that he has come to save men, not kill them (Lk 9:56). His mission is to bring peace on earth and good will to men (Lk. 2:14). Therefore he tells Peter to put away his sword, for “whoever takes the sword will perish by the sword” (Mt. 26:52). Muhammad’s having none of this: war is a sacred duty, and so “sacred” that he can make war in the “sacred month” when it was forbidden for such a period throughout Arabia. He can’t seem to help himself; attacking caravans, killing, executing, capturing, enslaving, and plundering. The booty includes a rich harvest of slave girls (a perfect occupation for a rather susceptible holy man). And even after he takes Mecca in 630 A.D. he still continues his raids on caravans and villages, executing the men and selling the women and children into slavery. But should anyone point out the irony of a so-called man of God and prophet no less, behaving in this way and demanding that his followers do the same, then like the poor teenage girl who wrote satirical verses pointing out the anomalies of such, they are likely to get beheaded. What is all this except the religion of Antichrist? In fact Muhammad is a destroyer of the Christian faith, of the doctrines of Christ. No suffering love here. No sacrament of salvation. No body and blood of the Lamb who lays down his life for friend and foe alike. Only the blood of all those who won’t “submit” to the prophet’s new order, to Muhammadanism; a religion without a personal God, without a Redeemer, without grace, without the forgiveness of sin, without sacraments, and without the Holy Spirit. Then what’s left? A religion of law and works, and the pursuit of wealth, success, and political dominion. Something along the lines of the Devil’s temptation of Our Lord in the wilderness.
The Qur’an is a very uneven thing, with no real order or logical sequence. Muhammad wrote it over a period of some 20 years, and much of it reflects his different geographical and military situations, and moments of crisis. Throughout, it has a wearisome repetitiveness. Indeed it is, as one of the Cistercian Atlas martyrs in Algeria said, “like reading a railway time-table.” Well might the Anglican bishop a few years ago, take it up as Lenten reading. About the Gospel it is clearly confused. It says that God gave Jesus the Gospel as a confirmation of the Torah, which is true, but goes on to say that the said Gospel is guidance and light. “Therefore let those who follow the Gospel judge according to what God has revealed therein. Evil-doers are they who judge not according to God’s revelation.” (The Table 5:47). But as we have seen Muhammad rejected the revelation of the New Testament. What Gospel is he talking about? “And to you we have revealed the book (Qur’an) with the truth. It confirms the scriptures which came before it and stands as guardian over them.” But the Qur’an doesn’t confirm the scriptures; it denies what they teach, with the exception of the general resurrection of the dead, and heaven and hell. He says elsewhere, “If the people of the Book (Christians and Jews) observe the Torah and the Gospel and what has been revealed to them from their Lord, they shall enjoy abundance from above and from beneath” (The Table 5:64). Then he says that “unbelievers are those that say: ‘God is the Messiah, the Son of Mary’.” But the New Testament, which is the Gospel, declares throughout that Jesus the Son of Mary is the Messiah and the Son of God.
But the confusion is less surprising when one considers that according to the Qur’an Jesus began preaching whilst he was still in the cradle. If this sounds like something from the Gnostic Gospels, and it certainly does, then what on earth is one to make of the Qur’an having Jesus making birds out of clay and breathing life into them? Pure Gnostic Gospels. Pure Rubbish. (The Table 5: 110; Mary 19.21)
The most obvious thing about Islam is that it is decidedly and unashamedly a religion for men. It’s important for men to attend the mosque, but not necessary that women do so. In paradise believers, i.e. men, will be waited upon by “dark-eyed houris” serving them wine from golden bowls. There’s also a mention of “beautiful boys” serving the faithful, but I think it’s probably best not enquire too much into that one.
As the militaristic thrust of Islam serves the male character, so does the teaching on marriage. In fact, the sacrament of marriage as know it, as an indissoluble union of one man and one woman, doesn’t exist in the Qur’an. Instead a man may have four wives and an unlimited number of concubines. The word for marriage is the same as that used for sex, and it is understood and expected that a man is entitled to satisfy his lusts; both with his wives and his slave-girls. It is related that Muhammad was once found by one of his wives in the act with one of his slave-girl concubines. When she demonstrated a certain disapprobation with the great man’s behaviour he simply reminded her of Qur’anic teaching with its divine blessing on male randiness. But can you really imagine Jesus behaving like this? Can you imagine Buddha behaving like this? Or Mahavira (Jainism), or Guru Nanak (Sikhism), and even that old fraud Ghandi? Come on! And it’s not as if Muslims throughout history have stopped at four wives. It’s been the general trend that they can have as many as they liked. Thus the harem system that has been common in Islamic lands, where women were bought and sold like cattle. This is certainly not marriage. And should a husband tire of any wife he simply has to repeat three times “I divorce thee” and that’s her divorced, although he has to render her due financial assistance. But notice that a woman is not permitted to divorce a man. Nor is she permitted to beat him as he is her. Yes, a Muslim man can legally beat his wife. And feminists think that women have had it rough in Christianity? Then there’s the Qur’an’s legalization of child marriage. Yes, pre-pubescent girls. And certainly some of Muhammad’s wives and concubines were in this category.
But let’s stop here before disgust really sets in. Islam, beneath its impressive exterior, beyond the glittering facade of devotion and discipline, modesty and purity, is not a noble religion. You cannot seriously compare Muhammad with Jesus, the Qur’an with the Gospel. Nor can he be compared with Buddha or the founders of Jainism and Sikhism. Although entirely man-made religions these do have a certain nobility about them. Alas, not so Islam. I’m afraid the whole thing is little more than a hopeless hotchpotch of Old Testament practices, Christian heresy, pagan carnality, and Arabian piracy. And I’m in no doubt what Islamic law, according to the Qur’an would subject me to for saying so. For spreading such “disorder in the land” I should be slain, or crucified, or have my hands and feet cut off “on alternate sides”. (The Table Sura 5:30). Apparently this is what God enjoined. I think not. More like what the god of Muhammad’s ventriloquist dummy has enjoined.
What then should Christians do faced with the resurgent power of Islam? For resurging it is, particularly against Christianity. Throughout the Muslim world, from Algeria and Nigeria to Egypt, Sudan, and Somalia; from Arabia, Iraq, and Iran, to Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Indonesia, Christians are being killed, churches are being burned down, blown up, or closed down, and the practice of the Faith is being either banned or increasingly restricted. So what do we do? Do we fight Islam with armies and crusades, as we did in the past? No. The idea of Christian armies, military religious orders, and just wars may seem reasonable in the abstract, despite Our Lord’s teaching to the contrary, but in reality what good does it do? And I mean what good does it do? The practical effect is only an increase in the butchery, the destruction, the cruelty, and the hatred, that have been such a prominent feature of man’s history. Such a feature of Christianity’s history too. What were the crusaders, in the main, except blood –thirsty desperados? Look at the likes of Richard the so-called Lionheart and Frederick Barbarossa, the great crusader heroes. What were they except little more than homicidal ego-maniacs who seem to have specialized in the slaughter of civilians?
Look at the Catholic Spanish, and the Catholic Portuguese, the Protestant English and the Protestant Dutch in the Americas. What was their colonial policy except a steady progress of genocide against the indigenous peoples? Then there’s the “scramble for Africa” by the supposedly Christian nations of Europe. Mass-murder, slavery, rape, pillage, and oppression were the order of the day. Not a pretty sight is it? But you have been shown what is good, Christian man. “And what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.” (Mi. 6:8). How many true Christians are there in any army? Half a dozen? Away with armies and air forces and such like banditti: Our Lord gives us the Sermon on the Mount, and St. Paul tells us what our armour is: truth, righteousness, the Gospel of peace, the Word of God, the Holy Spirit, and prayer. (Eph. 6:13-18)
If, therefore, our approach to Islam isn’t one of war and hatred, neither is it one of “dialogue” as these Episcopal prattlers insist. There actually is no dialogue with Islam. It is totally convinced of its own position and determined to bring the rest of the world into “submission” to Allah (or “intergration” according to the Indonesian genocidists in East Timor). Monologue with the aim of conversion is the Islamic take on “inter-faith dialogue”. Only dim-witted Christians and mealy-mouthed “ecumenists” believe in all this dialogue caper. Meanwhile, the Muslims are happy to use the opportunity to advance their own position. Courtesy, respect and friendship, certainly. But dialogue there cannot be.
There is another way, the way of St. Francis. At the height of the 5th Crusade he made his way to the Holy Land where the crusaders were besieging Damietta. “Bearing the armour of faith, not that of war” he proceeded to cross the lines into the Muslim camp, insisted on seeing the Sultan, and thereupon began to preach the truth of Christ to the said Potentate. As it happened, he managed to charm the Sultan, who respected Francis’ sincerity and holiness, and therefore gave him a hearing before, incredibly, letting him go.
It’s a thankless task, and an almost impossible task, but we have to preach the holy Gospel to the followers of Muhammad, in humility, and with gentility, yet with courage. The trouble is that Christians and Westerners generally are afraid. Fear dominates their approach to Islam. Fear of being accused of not being politically correct in a “multi-faith society”, and fear of physical harm by the easily enraged Muhammadan faithful. But they need to take heart from the courage of St. George, who, whether or not he was a soldier (and the tradition is late), was certainly a martyr. The Crusaders always invoked the aid of St. George when going into battle against the Muslims. Those Christians who take up the Cross and serve in the chivalry of Christ by living the Sermon on the Mount and by following the way of suffering love are the true Crusaders, the true knights of Christ, like St. Francis. They are the fellowship of the Cross who, with faith and repentance have put on the “livery of the Lord”: and respond to the call to mission, and the call to martyrdom. Like their Lord, they should prepare themselves for humiliation, for hostility, for rejection and derision, for suffering and hardship, for punishment and even death. “ Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” says St. Paul, before he goes on to list the sufferings of the apostolic life (2Cor 6: 2-10). Because the Gospel must be preached. “The whole Church is apostolic” says the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “In that she is sent out to the whole world.” (CCC 863). “The Church has the obligation and the sacred right to evangelize all men.....that is, God wills the salvation of everyone through the knowledge of the truth.” (CCC 848, 851). “I am the way, the truth, and the life” says the Lord, “no-one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6).
“Now therefore, say to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Behold, I am shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you. Return, everyone of you and amend your ways and your doings” (Jer: 18:9-11). We could easily apply these words to ourselves. In allowing Islam to assault the Christian commonwealth for all those centuries, God has used it as a scourge for the punishment of our sins; because as Christian nations we have done wickedly. Therefore the Lord says, in psalm 7, “If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and strung his bow; he has prepared deadly weapons” (Ps. 7:12-13).
The Western World, formerly Christian, now apostate and wallowing in a pigsty of secularist ideology and moral depravity, may yet suffer the punishment of coming under Muslim rule one day. Should that be the case, and say this country (England) becomes an Islamic republic or even an Islamic Caliphate, which it would deserve for the crimes of its governments and armed forces against the Muslim peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention the untold misery caused by the British Empire, then should such a thing happen, and it could only be an improvement on the present state of affairs, what could we do except submit to the Islamic yoke and pay the “infidel tax”. But of course, whatever the risk, still preach the Gospel, always and everywhere. “And in nothing terrified by adversaries: which to them is a token of perdition, but to us that of salvation and of God. For unto us it is given on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for his sake” (Phil 1: 28-29).
This concludes what I want to say about Islam, the old dragon. As Gilbert and Sullivan would say: “faint heart never won fair lady .........so in for a penny, in for a pound”. As for Muhammad, well according to legend, his features are imprinted on the face of every cat. And this surely is the best thing that can be said about him. If only he’d have just stayed at home with his one wife, many children and lots of cats; and left religion to real prophets.
In the Most Holy Name of Jesus. Amen.
(St. George the martyr, pray for us/me)