Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Abu Daoud: Short, Sharp and Shocking

Short, Sharp and Shocking
by Abu Daoud

Normally when I'm talking with M's I take an irenic approach, but I have also learned that sometimes you meet someone who wants to talk about religion with you but from a combative point of view. This happened the other day and I felt in my spirit that I should take a short, sharp, and shocking approach (I learned this from an Egyptian pastor). One can hope that something you say will stick in the person's head and over time lead to a genuine openness and questioning attitude. John the Baptist and Jesus used this approach quite often when they were talking with the self-righteous folks of their day.

Sitting in his shop this man started off with what he thought were the weaknesses of our faith. I had pulled up the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7) on his computer, in Arabic, and told him to read it, which he did not want to do. And then he pointed out how our book is translated, while his book is the same all over the world (in Arabic). Time for some apologetic judo-using his argument against him: Yes, I said, praise be to God that our book is translatable and people in any place can read it in their own language and pray to him in their own language, whereas his deity understood only Arabic. "You speak Arabic and another language, I speak three languages, and yet your god only hears prayers in Arabic." I responded (kindly, by the way). 


Read the rest at VirtueOnline and leave your comments over there please.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Vol 8/6 of St Francis Magazine is out...

The December 2012 issue of St Francis Magazine is now out. Slimmer than some previous volumes, but still with some good material:

Evangelism through the eyes of Jesus in Luke 5:1-11 and holistic evangelism for the 21st century: Towards life, justice and equality… but not as we know it, by John Baxter-Brown

Translating ‘Son of God’: insights from the early church, by Donald Fairbairn

How does Christianity ‘subversively fulfil’ Islam? by Chris Flint 

The failure of multiculturalism: a review of Londonistan: How Briatin has created a terror state within, by Melanie Phillips, reviewed by Tony Foreman

Forming missionaries in Jordan: an interview with a former Anglican missionary to the Hashemite Kingdom, by Duane Alexander Miller

I am especially interested in Tony Foreman's review of Londonistan. I have spent time in London from time to time and feel that the future of the West is in many represented in fast forward and in miniature (if you can call London a miniature). Also, Fairbairn's article on 'Son of God' looks interesting. I am not in the area of translation myself, but I know full well how important this issue is for everyone involved (including Arab Christians who on the whole do NOT want the term 'Son of God' translated out of the NT).

Anyway, check out the material, and let me know what you think.

--Abu Daoud

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

On the death of Bishop Kenneth Cragg

From the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf website:

We mourn the death, give thanks for the life, and pray for the soul of the Rt Revd Kenneth Cragg, who has died in England at the age of 99. 

One of the greatest scholars of the relationship between Christianity and Islam, and one of the greatest workers in the field of Muslim-Christian understanding, Bishop Kenneth Cragg served both in Britain and in the Middle East, notably as Assistant Bishop in Jerusalem with particular oversight of Egypt, and in many other places too.
His scholarly and popular published works span more than 55 years and draw deeply on lived pastoral and human encounter. He was the most gracious and shrewd of Christians.
May he rise in glory.

Bp Cragg has been very influential to me and I have blogged on him from time to time. Here are some links to quotes on this blog that I think show his brilliance and skill:

On Islam and self-idolatry

Sacramentality and Islam

Cragg, Islam, and Prison

Liturgy and the Gospel for Muslims

Cragg on the Trinity for Muslims

Kenneth Cragg on the Crusades

Cragg's Call of the Minaret

On Mission to Muslims

Cragg on Muhammad and Culture

Check this out and enjoy, and remember a great scholar and Christian leader who has fallen asleep in the Lord and who awaits the day of the resurrection.

--Abu Daoud

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

"Game Over, America" by Abu Daoud

Game Over, America
by Abu Daoud
November, 2012 

It was an interesting experiment, but all things come to an end. The American experiment is over now. The country is destined to decline and stagnate and there is no hope in the near or medium-term future for any sort of real recovery. Why do I say this? A few points:

1) A state is only as healthy as its families. American families have deteriorated very seriously. Unprecedented numbers of children are begotten out of wedlock and/or do not live in two-parent households. Want to know why American kids are doing so poorly in school? It's all about the family situation. Read more HERE.

2) A nation of takers. The stats are terrible. Read them all HERE. More and more Americans are consuming and not contributing to the government or common life of the country. There has been a huge rise in entitlement outlays and no one will talk about how to fix it.

3) Huge retirement costs. You know all about this already. (If not, check out this or this.)

4) An inferior generation of workers. People who are working now (my generation, I'm not a Boomer) are increasingly from the broken families of point 1. These people have lower educational skills and higher rates of drug abuse, imprisonment, and on and on. Yet this generation is supposed to foster a growing economy that will pay generous retirement benefits and (practically) free healthcare for old folks (Medicare)?

5) The transformation of marriage. Yes, gay marriage. It is here and is here to stay and will be enforced eventually by the Supreme Court. The value of marriage as an institution is already on the decline, with the proliferation of gay marriage, marriage will continue its slide into obscurity and away from the common good. Marriage will be increasingly seen as a contract between two people (or more, eventually) whose purpose is not the creation of and fostering of a family, but personal happiness. No fault divorce in the 70's was a big step toward this, and gay marriage (to be followed by polygamy--it's not a slippery slope, it's a matter of human rights) removes the last vestiges of Natural Law from the picture.

6) Immigration. Romney lost because he was forced to take such a hard position on immigration in the primaries (which are governed by old, white men). Republicans will soon realize that anything other than a liberal immigration policy, amnesty for illegal immigrants, and voluntarily not enforcing the laws on the books (like Obama), will mean no Latino vote (like Romney), and thus losing. The problem is the USA doesn't get skilled immigrants mostly, the USA gets 'family reunification' immigrants, including lots of people with few useful skills. The problem is not so much immigration, but the wrong kind of immigration. The wrong kind of immigration, and more of it, will continue, because it will get people votes.

7) The rise of childlessness: TFR must be at 2.1 for a steady population. After the economic wreck of the last few years TFR is now below that level, at 2.01. Nonetheless the USA population will continue to grow due to immigration (of the wrong kind, mostly, see point 6). With an economic recovery the TFR could recover as well, it is not disastrously low, like Spain or Japan, say. Still, given that the economic picture will not improve, and that each new US citizen is born with something like $43,000 in debt. And plus, when the price of raising children has gone up so much in a urbanized world, and there is no tangible benefit to having children, why bother?

Religious conservatives are now talking not about changing the culture. I think this election makes that impossible. Rather, they are forming strategies for surviving as the state deteriorates and becomes increasingly antagonistic towards Christian virtues and practices and freedom of religion. The home schooling movement is part of that, but just the beginning of it. Look for Christians do withdraw from society more, forming protective clusters of families, like monastics or the old Mormons. This is a reasonable strategy in my view. When Americans re-elected Obama they elected someone who is working hard at forcing Catholics to violate their conscience under the rubric of 'women's healthcare'. This is something new and insidious, yet many Catholics voted for him.

In the end the experiment is over. It will take a few decades for the city to decay into the wilderness. But when the wilderness is there, the Church will be there too, ready to forge a new nation and a new civilization, not based on the myths of the Enlightenment or the American strategy of taxing the unborn while simultaneously killing some of them.

It was an interesting experiment! Good run, America. But now it's Game Over for you.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Rodney Stark on the Crusades and 'Arab' Culture

I am always peeved when people fawn about the great accomplishments of Muslims (and especially Arab Muslims) throughout history. It is very nice and PC and does wonders for Muslims' self-worth, no doubt. But it's just not true. Rodney Stark, in his brilliant 2009 book God's Battalions: The Case for the Crusades, explodes many of these silly myths. An assortment of my favorite quotes and notes follows:

"Western condemnations of the Crusades were widespread during the 'Enlightenment,' that utterly misnamed era during which French and British intellectuals invented the 'Dark Ages' in order to glorify themselves and vilify the Catholic Church" (6). 

The Crusades "…had nothing to do with the hopes of converting Islam" (8). 

"…claims that Muslims have been harboring bitter resentments about the Crusades for a millennium are nonsense…" (8). 

"…superior culture and technology…" of the Europeans (9). 

"…the sophisticated culture so often attributed to Muslims (more often referred to as 'Arabic' culture) was actually the culture of the conquered people--the Judeo-Christian-Greek culture of Byzantium, the remarkable learning of heretical Christian groups such as the Copts and Nestorians, extensive knowledge from Zoroastrian (Mazdean) Persia, and the great mathematical achievements of the Hindus…" (57). 

Mostly dhimmi communities continued this learning. "The highly acclaimed Arab architecture also turns out to have been mainly a dhimmi achievement, adopted from Persian and Byzantine origins" (58). 

The impressive 'Muslim culture' was actually built on a 'complex mix of dhimmi cultures' and when they were suppressed in the 14th Century and 'Muslim backwardness came to the fore' (61). 

Muslim massacres of Christian pilgrims took place in 1022, 1026, 1040, and 1064 (p 92).   

"The Crusades were not unprovoked. Muslim efforts at conquest and colonization still continued in the eleventh century (and for centuries to come). Pilgrims did risk their lives to go to the Holy Land. The sacred sites of Christianity were not secure. And the knights of Christendom were confident they could put things right" (98). 

What Stark calls "penitential warfare" (107). 

Cheaper to keep sons at home than send them on Crusade (112). 

Motivated by piety, not by loot (118). 

Dispenses with the idea that it was landless folks who started the Crusader kingdoms (168). 

Most Muslims were quite content in Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem: "For one thing, there were no land-hungry Christians eager to confiscate their fields or animals. For another, taxes were lower in the Kingdom than in neighboring Muslim countries. Fully as important, the Christian rulers tolerated the Muslims' religion and made no effort to convert them" (171). 

Baibars as the bloodiest of all Crusade figures. broke his oaths of safe-conduct often. 1268, the second siege of Antioch, "the single greatest massacre of the entire crusading era" (quoting Madden 1999: 181). 

"…current Muslim memories about the Crusades are a twentieth-century creation…" (247). 

"The Crusades were not unprovoked. They were not conducted for land, loot, or converts. The crusaders were not barbarians who victimized the cultivated Muslims. They sincerely believed that they served in God's battalions" (248).

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Missionary Secrets 4: our churches don't know what to do with us...

Missionary Secrets 4: our churches don't know what to do with us...
by Abu Daoud

It's true. They send us money. They are normally happy to see us when we get back to our native country. They have good intentions. But in the end, they have no idea what to do with missionaries. It's mostly out of sight, out of mind. Which is not great. I personally love to hear from our churches. I don't mind answering their questions or e-mailing some recent prayer requests or pictures.

So here is some good advice which I got from an eNewsLetter send out by this agency on a regular basis. (You can sign up for it at their website if you like.)

Here is the section I liked, with some great advice on taking care of missionaries and keeping in touch with them:

Neal Pirolo wrote the best book on this subject, Serving as Senders Today: how to care for your missionaries as they prepare to go, are on the field, and return home. Here's a list to get you started, but to read more click on the link to buy the book from Amazon.
  1. Enlist folks from your congregation to be the advocates for the missionary who can coordinate support and make needs known to the congregation;
  2. Offer a room in your home for the missionary to store their possessions;
  3. Ask if the missionary needs help filing taxes whilst away;
  4. Have the Sunday School classes focus on the missionary's area of service. Learn some of the language, culture, and needs;
  5. Volunteer to babysit the missionary's children so that they can have time away before re-entry to the field;
  6. Send care packages, birthday cards, and other items for their wish list;
  7. Offer to send out their communications;
  8. Although the aim is a warm, supportive relationship, it should also be one of accountability.Get references, verify their call, and request ministry reports;
  9. Offer friendship. Invite them to a meal or out for coffee;
  10. Find a tangible way to serve the missionary. For example, one missionary we know works with orphans in a cold climate. Folks from her supporting church have a knitting ministry and send hats and gloves to the children she serves;
  11. Send a short-term team to visit them on the field. Find out how the team could best serve. If sending a team would be too much of a burden, send one or two leaders instead;
  12. Get technical:  do Skype calls with the church; ask for video footage, photos, etc.;
  13. Are there doctors in the congregation who can help advise in medical situations;
  14. Commission the missionary during a service, put on a church meal with relevant ethnic food, consider taking a photo that the missionary can take on the field;
  15. Pray regularly for the missionary during the service, small groups, etc.;
  16. Be sensitive to your returning missionary. Culture shock is unnerving. Perhaps counselors and friends in the congregation can lend an ear and help them process their experiences.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Triumph for Global/World Christianity

Today the Pope announced a special session to install a number of new cardinals. Cardinals are bishops who have the special faculty of coming together as a college to choose a new pope when there is such a need (normally when he dies, and after a certain age they can no longer vote). Check out this fantastic list. I really think it shows Christians around the world that the Catholic Church is global (as are so many other Churches increasingly). This makes me happy:

  • Archbishop James Harvey, 63, the Milwaukee-born prefect of the Papal Household;
  • Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai, 72, the Lebanon-based head of the worldwide, 5 million-member Maronite church;
  • Major Archbishop Basilios Cleemis, 53, head of India's Syro-Malankara church – the first hierarch from the 600,000-member community to receive the red hat (and, by two years, set to become the youngest cardinal);
  • Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja (Nigeria), 68
  • Archbishop Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogotá, 70
  • Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, 55; head of Asia's largest diocese
HT to Whispers in the Loggia. And Kudos to the Successor of Peter, who still has not read my letter to him I think.

BTW, the College of Cardinals is the oldest existing democratic institution in the world. See how you learn awesome stuff on this blog? 

--Abu Daoud

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Abu Daoud on Insider Movements

For a long time now IM has been one of the main debates going on in missiology (I dislike the word--who combines Latin and Greek? Oh yeah, Americans). The debate goes by various names, all of which are annoying. The most recent label is Insider Movement. Nobody knows exactly what these are, or where they are happening, or how to define them. It appears to have something to do with Muslims staying within their birth communities while following Jesus. For most Muslims this means remaining within the Umma, one would think. Most Muslims and Christians throughout history agree that the Umma and the Holy, Apostolic Church do not overlap. Remaining within the Umma would appear to mean that one continues to call one's self a Muslim, if not actually go to mosque (lots of Muslims don't go to mosque, lots of Muslim women can't go to mosque at all). The whole thing is very confusing.

John Piper has recently spoken out against IM. Cody Lorance (don't know who this person is at all) responded. Our brother Warrick Farah over at the fine blog Circumpolar has summarized the two issues and offers his own two cents.

I personally find the whole incredibly annoying. Not because the discussion is not worth having, but because the people engaged in this discussion simply do not have, imho, the civilization resources to make a positive contribution to the discussion. Here is what I said in a comment at Circumpolar:

In the end I suspect that American evangelicals are just not really capable of having this conversation. As Americans we are a history-less and rootless people. As evangelicals we have, for the most part, tried to get by on the bible alone (a ridiculous project) while getting rid of tradition and ritual. A tradition that lacks an appreciation for its own rituals, history, and traditions simply is not capable of making a useful contribution to matters of religious identity for Muslims [or Christians] who are deeply invested in history, ritual, and tradition.

One attempt to define IM is here. It is the best one I've found so far.

Insider movements can be defined as movements to obedient faith in Christ that remain integrated with or inside their natural community. In any insider movement there are two distinct elements:
1. The gospel takes root within pre-existing communities or social networks, which become the main expression of “church” in that context. Believers are not gathered from diverse social networks to create a “church.” New parallel social structures are not invented or introduced.
2. Believers retain their identity as members of their  socio-religious community while living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the authority of the Bible
--Rebecca Lewis, 'Insider Movements: Honoring God-given Identity and Community, p 16, IJFM 26:1, Spring 2009. (Google it...)

(Update from 8/2013: I have written a substantial article on this topic. Check it out here, here or here.)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Prayer Request

Abu Daoud and family are in the process of renewing visas. Please pray all goes well and we have no problems.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Abu Daoud: On Training Potential MBB Leaders

On Training Potential MBB Leaders
by Abu Daoud

A few days I hopped on a morning bus for a neighboring city. I had a meeting there and I figured that afterward I would drop in and see a friend of mine as well. This friend is a local guy (not a foreigner) and in his city/area there is a lot more going on in terms of ministry to Muslims than in my city. Anyway, I asked him how the Muslim-background congregation was doing and he said that he was shifting his focus, and would be meeting with some baptized men to focus on leadership training, rather than helping to run the church meetings. Right away he asked me what I would teach them about.

I get this quite a bit actually. After a few years some of the locals came to the conclusion that I was good guy to consult with in making decisions about local ministry, I guess. I thought about the example of the early church and how and I took a piece of paper and drew a triangle, on each side of the triangle I wrote a word (all in Arabic, but I'll give you the English): ethics, sacraments (in Arabic the word is 'secrets' actually), doctrine. Then under ethics I wrote "Commandments" and "Beatitudes", under sacraments I wrote baptism and Communion, and under doctrine I wrote the two creeds. 

I said, "My own opinion on this matter is not very important, but here is a picture of how the early Church handled these things. The idea is that once a person knows about each of these three aspects of the Christian faith, they will have the basics down. Also, back then, people would have to memorize all this stuff (10 Commandments, Beatitudes, etc). All your guys are ex-Muslims so memorizing should be easy for them. Since people didn't normally have books back then, it means that each believer knew from memory all the basics of the Christian faith, including how to baptize new believers. They will also easily learn this triangle here so they will know how to disciple new believers or seekers."

He really liked the overall idea. I challenged him to keep a diary and let me know how it was going. 

Please pray for him and his six disciples, that they would mature in strong, faithful, wise leaders for the MBB congregation. And pray for me, that I would be able to give good council to local believers when they ask for advice on ministry. Some day we will leave this land and go back to the West, but most of these local believers will stay here through thick and thin. Until then, thank you for making our ministry possible and investing in the local church through us.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Missionary Secrets 3: Communicating with supporters sucks...sometimes

Missionary Secrets 3: Communicating with supporters sucks...sometimes

By Abu Daoud

So here’s the deal: I spend time writing an e-mail update about some recent encounter with a Muslim here in town, or some other observation about Islam, or something encouraging that happened with one of our Christian friends, or what have you. I send them out to about 400 people on my e-mail account. And a few people…maybe…respond. Who reads these things? I have no idea. Am I wasting half a day in doing this? I often feel like it.

Two or three times a year I Um Daoud and I put a few days into producing a high-quality newsletter, we e-mail it to out agency back in the West, and they distribute it to 500+ post addresses on THAT mailing list. Another business prints them, our mission envelopes them, and posts them. The whole project comes out of our funds to the tune of $400 or so. How many people read these things? We normally see an uptick in contributions after we send it out, so it must mean that someone reads them. But given the expenditure, are we wasting much-needed funds?

And I also keep two blogs— and

And then, we get an e-mail from one of our churches or supporters saying that they are concerned because we do not keep them up-to-date on our work here. Sometimes this is our fault, but not usually. Also, normally these e-mails come with an apologetic e-mail saying they do not feel called to support our mission anymore. We genuinely respect people’s and churches’ responsibility to discern how they will invest their funds in the Kingdom. We also know that sometimes the Spirit really is telling people not to support our mission anymore.

But these e-mails are difficult to receive. Especially when we have done everything we could to keep in touch. Mr. X didn’t update his post address with us after moving, and then he feels he can no longer support us because we don’t stay in touch? Ouch. But it’s better than a supporter just dropping off your list with no notice. Anyway, support is a sensitive topic. 

Some workers send out too many notices and people just delete them. Some workers do need to stay in touch more. In the end, missionaries are trying to balance the needs of a LOT of people. From the personal friend of many years who is fine with getting one update per year, to the church that wants a monthly story for their newsletter. Recently, we were informed by a faithful donor that he would not be supporting us anymore. He was very kind about it, but he said he wanted to support works that were more entrepreneurial (his word). I respect that because I know he is a great Christian, but I thought, in the Middle East that is precisely what we don’t need. The problem here is a lack of seasoned, Arabic-speaking folks who already have a network of relationships. (A good number of missionaries here don’t speak Arabic well at all, believe it or not.)

So with your missionaries, give them input. That’s the takeaway here. Let them know what you want to hear about if their letters are too long, short, frequent, infrequent, and so on. Also, if you don’t get what you want, remember we are generally communicating with hundreds of folks and churches, all with different desires.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Neo-medievalism and Islamized Europe

Neo-medievalism and Islamized Europe
by Abu Daoud

Some time ago I wrote a post titled "The Islamization of Europe" wherein I argued as follows:
Also, every one of those states has a Muslim population that is willing to use acts of violence to further their politico-religious aims (in Islam there is no distinction, of course). So yes, a Muslim city-state in France with Algerian leadership will look different than the Turkish Islamic city-state in Germany or the Pakistani one in England. They will not be alike, but they will all be Islamic which tells us a few clear things: no religious freedom, an inferior status for women, persecution of homosexuality, an increase in nepotism and decline in rule of law, and the use of state-sponsored violence to proscribe dissent. These are trends that one can find in every single Muslim state in the world. 
In other words, I see the decline of the nation state and the rise of the city state in the future. I recently made this point in relation to Libya, for instance. A recent article by Parag Khanna over at Foreign Policy describes neo-medievalism as follows:
Many see the global economic crisis as proof that we live in one world. But as countries stumble to right the wrongs of the corporate masters of the universe, they are driving us right back to a future that looks like nothing more than a new Middle Ages, that centuries-long period of amorphous conflict from the fifth to the 15th century when city-states mattered as much as countries.
Khanna then addds some other important factors which I had not taken into account in my previous analysis, like multi-national corporations and arms dealers. Since companies like Exxon-Mobil and Apple are worth more than a good number of nation states in the world, this is a shrewd move.

Anyway, suffice to say that I am a neo-medievalist. Not because I like it, but because I find this projection for the future to be reasonable and sound. Lacking from Khanna's brief article is any discussion of Islam, but one need not expect that in one page. 

Other posts on the Islamization of Europe can be found here:

European Islamdom I
European Islamdom II
European Islamdom III

PS: You can actually LIKE neo-medievalism on Facebook, how cool is that?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Resources on Iranian Christianty

One of the most exciting movements going on in the world right now from Islam to Christianity is happening among Iranians, both in Iran and outside of Iran. The new issue of St Francis Magazine (8/4, Aug 2012) has an interesting article by Roy Oksnevad on some of the sources of disharmony among leadership in Iranian Christian churches. 

I thought I would list a few links here to other articles and books on the topic. It is not meant to be exhaustive, but for those interested these are some good resources. If you know of any additional good resources (and I mean articles and books, not just websites), please post them in the comments.

Resources on the Web:

Today's Iranian Revolution by K Markarian

The Secret World of God: Aesthetics, Relationships, and the Conversion of 'Frances' from Shi'a Islam to Christianity by D A Miller

Christian Missions in Persia (Encyclopedia Iranica) by Y Armajani

The Mission of the Iranian Church by M Hershberger

BMB Discipleship: An investigation into the factors leading to disharmony within the Iranian Churches in the diaspora by R Oksnevad

A Survey of Muslim Converts in Iran (1980) by P Cate

Iranian Diaspora Christians in the American Midwest & Scotland by D A Miller

Iranian Christianity by Abu Daoud

Some books of interest:

Ten Muslims meet Christ by W M Miller

The Unfolding Design of my World: a pilgrim in exile by H B Dehqani Tafti (autobiography)

Jumping through Fires by D Nasser (autobiography)

Trapped in Iran and Farewell to Islam by S Rabiipour (autobiography)

Iran: Open Hearts in a Closed Land by M Bradley

Christian Mission to Muslims: The Record: Anglican and Reformed Approaches in India an the Near East, 1800-1938 by L Vander Werff

Sunday, June 17, 2012

St Francis Magazine: Early Church and Muslim Missions

The new SFM has just recently been published and our intrepid editor, John Stringer, asked me to write the comment from the editor for the issue, as he was a) recovering from a hangover after drinking too much Arak, b) in prison, or c) busy handling snakes. Here is what I wrote, and I just inserted the links in there, read, click, and enjoy:

Dear Readers,

Over my years in the Arab world I have noted that it seems like from time to time someone comes up with the Next Big Idea. The Next Big Idea is accompanied by seminars, conferences, books, mp3’s, material on YouTube (maybe), and articles in any number of journals (and perhaps in this one). You already know some of them: CAMEL, BAM, Kingdom Circles, person of peace, friendship evangelism, IM, CPM’s, NRM, and so on.

In their own ways they may, sometimes, contribute to real breakthroughs in relation to the Church’s witness in the places where we live. But what about the context of the early Church? Sporadic government-sponsored persecution; travel, migration, and translation issues; a small and often poor Christian population surrounded by a large non-Christian population which thinks it gets Christianity, but is terribly misinformed—do these sound at all familiar to you?

Yet the early church grew, both within the setting of the Roman Empire, and outside of it as well, in places like Armenia, Axum (Ethiopia), India, and Persia. This historical reality led us to the conclusion that we should look more closely at the parallels between the life and ministry of the Early Church in relation to what we are doing today.

So we have articles on Augustine and the Letter to Diognetus and, patron saint of evangelicalism, Saint Paul himself. We are also proud to present an Orthodox perspective on St Constantine, so often maligned (and misunderstood) in the evangelical world. One of the strongholds of Christianity used to be North Africa, and we are glad to include an article on St George’s Anglican Church there today.

Perhaps the next big idea will not be something new at all, but recapturing something old and good, something venerable and wise but forgotten. Messiah said, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.” We evangelicals are quite good at the new treasures, but if we are instructed about the kingdom, then we will not abandon the old ones.

Peace be with you,

Abu Daoud
Contributing Editor

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Missionary Secrets 2: life is not as exciting as it seems

Am travelling at the moment, and so do not have children running my life for a few brief days. After smoking hooka and reading for a while outside and enjoying the fine weather of this perfidious city, I thought I would drop by the local mosque. Which worked out well since they were issuing the call to prayer: "Come to fulfillment....come to prayer." Wonderful words, if I do say so myself.

After standing at the mosque door and signing to some guy there I said, "I'm a Christian, but would like to see how you prayer." I have done this once before, but that was some  time ago. They had no problem with that, so I took my shoes off and sat outside the door of the prayer room and watched them do their short prayers. I enjoyed chatting afterwards with some of the men coming out. And there were only men, as this mosque had no women's room. But sure enough, some 30 or so men piled in and prayed and left.

In the Arab world if you can get 30 Christians together once a week for worship you are doing pretty good. And here were 30 guys on a Tuesday evening coming in.

Chatted with the imam's dad (nice) and the young imam (not so nice). Wanted to ask about the crucifixion in the Qur'an but really felt it was not right at the moment, and so I left and said, next I'm back in X I will come and visit you all, God willing. Yes, they said, God willing. The men outside the mosque were friendly and all waved to me. All in all it was much more welcoming than visiting a church, I'm sad to say.

This is the sort of thing that sounds exciting to non-missionaries, but to me it is not very exciting. It was not a big disappointment either. It was just normal missionary life: after reading, eating, a couple of interviews, evening prayer (at a Christian church), and so on.

Missionary Secrets 2: missionary life is not that exciting most of the time.

--Abu Daoud

Thursday, May 17, 2012

My Parking Ticket and Bashiir

Dear All,

Today I went out run some errands and I stopped at a nice, new cafe and to pick up an early lunch (grilled cheese and tomato, how's that for fancy?) I was reading my book and as I was the only one there the young lady there and I started chatting as she was sweeping and didn't have much to do. Then the manager got there, a young man around 30 I'd guess, and we started chatting.

I was in a hurry to leave because my car was by the parking meter which I new was going to run out and I live in probably the only Arab city in the world where police give tickets for this stuff (seriously). But I told him that I am a scholar and that I study things like religion and politics and history, and he got interested. He then asked me a very interesting question:

"Are violence and terrorism taught in the Qur'an?"

I thought for a moment, and answered that the Qur'an is a mixed bag. That during the Meccan period it was not the case, but that during the Medinan period violence was indeed used, and I cited the example of Muhammad's call for the assassination of Asma bint Marwan. So I said, sometimes yes, sometimes no. And then I said that I found the example of Jesus more attractive, who said his kingdom was not of this world, and refused earthly power and the use of violence.

Anyway, I left and sure enough I had a parking ticket which will cost me some $30 USD or so. Ugh. But then later that day I returned (as he had asked me to do), and brought a little NT (injiil) of mine. I told him, this is my Gospel and I will lend it to you for a week, but read Jn 18-20 (I gave him page numbers actually, for obvious reasons), on the question of power and politics and violence. I will come by next week and we can talk about it more.

Will you please pray for this man, whom we will call Bashiir? Pray that he reads the NT. Pray that he will seriously think about it. And also pray for the young lady at the cafe, who overheard all of this and is also Muslim.


Abu Daoud

Friday, May 11, 2012

Missionary Secrets 1--retirement worries us

I have been a missionary long enough that I feel like I really understand the job. There are veterans out there that put people like to shame, but all those young Americans who come to the Muslim world for a few months or two or three years--I'm not with them. Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike them, and some of them are great people and in our own ministry they do help a good bit...often--but not always.

So here is my missionary secret 1: retirement inspires fear, or at best, requires a great deal of faith. I'm not old enough that retirement is just around the corner or anything, but when I hear about people who get matching retirement based on income (like I used to before we left for the field), well, that is admirable.

You always hear, but away 10% of your income for retirement. We do that. A lot of missionaries can't afford to, so I think we are lucky in this area, and I am thankful for this. But still, based on our income it is never going to reach a great amount.

Also, we have to pay rent. I mean, buying a property in the Middle East is near impossible, and besides, would you invest money in a property in the Middle East? When you don't know if your visa will be renewed or when the belongings of all non-citizens can be suddenly expropriated by the State (which has happened)? So after years in the mission field, you go home rent? One of the staples of retirement in the West is that by then you own your home, so no rent. Not for missionaries.

Also, no one ever asks us about retirement. People will pitch in for evangelistic campaigns or bibles or other good things like that. But retirement? I have never tried it, but I'm not eager to. I don't suspect it would really meet with much success, but maybe I'm wrong.

So, next time you meet a visiting missionary, ask them about retirement savings. If they are boomers they lived in a prosperous period where investments did well and churches were wealthy. If they are (like us) Gen X then, well, you're probably screwed. Boomers will also enjoy the generous welfare of the West for old folks. Gen X'ers will not. By then all the money will be gone and we'll have to do insane things like pay for our health care and nursing homes.

So ask. I don't know of any missionary ever who has raised the topic with supporters. But I do know that it's a topic on the mind of many of my colleagues. We don't lack faith--you don't get into this line of work if you do, I suspect. But we are trying to be responsible and take care of our families. Churches and supporters of missionaries and missions should know about it.

--Abu Daoud

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Abu Daoud on Christ at the Checkpoint 2012

Christ at the Checkpoint was a conference in March of 2012 over in the (not) charming town of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. Yours truly was able to attend, as were folks from all around the Middle East. Well, not Libya--I didn't meet anyone from Libya there. But then again, there really aren't many Christians in Libya, are there?

But back to the point. You can check out the website here and let me tell you, those guys who put it together sure were sharp in terms of technology! So lots of stuff at the website. All in all this was a full, frontal assault on Christian Zionism and I must say that I--wait, if you want to know what I thought about it read the stinkin' article at St Francis Magazine.

Finally, I do want to note that I enjoyed my Palestinian sojourn. It's a land I had visited from time to time over the years, but had never really connected with people there like I did over that busy week in March.

Do let me know if you have any comments or questions. I do think the material presented there has the capacity to move evangelicals away from their Zionism, which had the Jerusalem rabbis shaking in their boots and writing articles.

Here is a section of the article:

In addition to the responsible handling of Scripture, there were some other great strengths, and they outweigh the complaints. Foremost among these is the emphasis on nonviolence, which Sami Awad emphasized, and which was the topic of his movie “Little Town of Bethlehem” (Hanon 2010). Also refreshing was the refusal of the Palestinian speakers to build their identity around victimization. Colin Chapman [the PDF has the wrong surname here, not sure why--AD] spoke on “radical” Islam, and in his own irenic manner helped address this difficult topic, but more on this later. Salim Munayer spoke passionately on communicating with Jews, and especially Messianic Jews. Salim and Colin did a good job arguing that we must get past labels and “othering” (though I hate to borrow such a trendy term from the whorehouse that is Western academia). I was waiting for someone to quote the great philosopher Wayne Campbell, who said, “If you label me, you deny me” (in Spheeris 1992, though some attribute this quote to the Danish Lutheran Soren Kierkegaard). These two factors—a clear renunciation of all violence and a refusal to be victims—stood out to me as great strengths of this local community of believers.

Read it all HERE.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mission 'ad gentes', frontier missions, and church planting

The mission ad gentes has this objective: to found Christian communities and develop churches to their full maturity. This is a central and determining goal of missionary activity, so much so that the mission is not completed until it succeeds in building a new particular church which functions normally in its local setting.

Pope John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, §48

Sometimes evangelicals and Catholics have a hard time understanding each other. One example of this is that in Catholic thought mission to the totally unevangelized, where there is no church at all, is called mission 'ad gentes', which is Latin for 'to the nations' more or less. Evangelicals don't use Latin (and don't know it usually), but they use a very American image for this same endeavor: frontier mission. This word is present even in the name of missionary agencies like Frontiers (a major player) and Anglican Frontier Missions (a minor player).

What I like about this quote above is that it ties in frontier mission to planting churches, and not ust making a handful of converts here or there. I believe that the truth announced in this section of Redemptoris Missio is agreeable to both Catholics and evangelicals. If anything is sad, it is that both Catholics and evangelicals invest far too little in this essential missionary endeavor.

What do you think? Is your church active in frontier mission 'ad gentes'? How so?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pope Shenouda III, rest in peace

On this feast day of St Patrick, another great man of God has fallen asleep in the Lord--Pope Shenouda III, shepherd of the Coptic Orthodox Church. A great man of God, he led his flock faithfully and I am fearful for his flock. In this most difficult of times in Egypt it will be extremely difficult to find a man adequate for the task.

Pray for the Egyptian Church. Pray for a worthy successor. Thank God for the fruitful life of his servant Shenouda.

--Abu Daoud

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Comments on Christ at the Checkpoint, 2012, Bethlehem

Hi All,

Well, if you are anywhere in the Arab world then you have heard of this meeting. It was sponsored by Palestinian Christians living in the occupied West Bank mostly, though some are Israeli citizens and live in Israel. They tackled a lot of thorny topics, and I plan to write something about it for St Francis Magazine, so make sure to add SFM to your RSS feed so when it comes out you can read it.

There were several key points presented, including a robust argument that a) the State of Israel as it exists today is NOT in continuation with the Israelites of the Bible, and b) that evangelicals have misunderstood the meaning of words like 'Jew' and 'Israel' in the New Testament, especially when used by Jesus and (more importantly for American evangelicals) St Paul. Also, there was a statement of fellowship towards Messianic Jews (and equally tiny and despised group of people, at least in Israel-Palestine). And also an affirmation of non-violence.

Anyway, will go more into it in the April article, but for now here is a journalistic summary of the events from Palestinian reporter Daoud Kuttab (who was there).
Christian Zionism challenged in Bethlehem, Palestine

I am curious to know where my readers stand on this topic. Do you see the State of Israel today as the fulfilment of biblical prophecy? Do you believe that Jews are saved by the covenant of God with Abraham, apart from faith in Christ and incorporation into the Church? These are thorny questions, I know. But do leave your comments and keep it civil.

--Abu Daoud

Christ at the Checkpoint
Christ at the Checkpoint on Facebook

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Abu Daoud on Microsoft Academic Search

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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Abu Daoud's thoughts on the Arab Spring

From Part II of my interview with Don Warrington. Read it all at his blog and leave some comments already! Here is one of the questions:

6) Where do you see MENA going, especially in view of events such as the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and the Arab Spring?

This is the million-dollar question, isn’t it? First, the people who protested didn’t take political control, so as much as they wanted freedom and democracy, they just won’t get it, I’m sorry to say. The Egyptian elections were demonstrably corrupt, though the international press has not said so—I have no idea why. The Islamists will take power and they will not let it go. And why is this surprising? That is precisely what Muhammad did—engaged in diplomacy and compromise and so on, but once he had power he was ruthless. In the end, an Islamic society cannot be a free society. Islam and freedom are mutually exclusive.

The question I have is this: will it be like Iran? After the revolution in `79 Islam had a chance to prove itself in the political arena, and Islam, unlike Christianity, makes substantial guarantees in this area. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians have concluded that Islam failed—it did not deliver politically so it must be false in terms of its religious and spiritual claims too. They have turned to Christianity some of them, and some to secular humanism or atheism. Will this happen in these newly Islamist states? Perhaps. I pray it will. Islam’s love of political power may well be its Achilles’ heel. Meanwhile, that means the native Christians need to stay as long as they can, and foreign missionaries like me need to stay no matter what. I will do it. Maybe the kids and wife need to go back to the US, I will do everything I can to stay here even if all hell breaks loose.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Don Warrington interviews Abu Daoud, Part 1

Don Warrington over at Positive Infinity keeps a fine blog which has been on my blogroll for years over at Islam & Christianity. Don interviewed me about being in the mission field in the Middle East, and the first part of the interview has been posted. Check it out HERE.

Here is one section of the interview:

2) What type of training did you obtain for this? Was it helpful? For others who might be considering this, what kind of training is best?

My own training was largely on my own. I will say that having a background in philosophy from a secular university is great. I mean, philosophy is all about listening very carefully to what people say and write, to the point where you understand them better than they understand themselves even. We debated and thought about the big questions—the relation of the soul to the body, the existence of God, the nature of good and evil, and so on. With that sort of background you are really able to interact with Muslims on a whole different level than what folks learn at the local bible college or what have you. Also, Muslims are aware that in the distant past they produced a couple of outstanding philosophers. I mean, these were the people with whom Thomas Aquinas was interacting! So when you say you are a scholar of philosophy and religions, which is what I am, and what I tell people when they ask me, ‘What do you do?’ they really respect it.

For more Click Here.