Skeptical empiricists might be harder to satisfy on this point, but evangelist and one-time football coach Dave Daubenmire seems pretty sure about it. He reports in a 7 April piece at Western Journalism that a group of pastors and other Christians from the Columbus, Ohio area gathered on a corner in Columbus, near one of the billboards, for a “Jesus is NOT Muslim” counter-rally. They prayed and sang, and engaged directly with Muslims from the Ask-a-Muslim campaign, which sponsors the billboards.
Afterward, says Daubenmire, the billboards were removed:
Showing up DOES make a difference. Here is the truth. Even though we did not ask them to, the Muslims took down the billboard that said JESUS IS MUSLIM. This shows the power of showing up and speaking out. Once we began to shine the light on the Truth, THE MUSLIMS TOOK THE LYING BILLBOARD DOWN. Thanks to everyone who braved the weather. Prayer mixed with action does make a difference…just as faith without works is dead, so is prayer without action!! GOD’S NOT DEAD. JUST SHOW UP AND LET GOD SHOW OFF!!!
Did Ask a Muslim remove the “Jesus is Muslim” billboards because of the prayer rally? We report, you decide, on that one.
The backstory seems to be as follows. Ask a Muslim’s billboards are described here by the Columbus Dispatch:
The billboards are a collaboration with the New Jersey-based Why Islam, where spokesman Ashfaq Parkar said the group also operates an information line seeking to “promote peaceful coexistence through dispelling misunderstanding about the faith.”
Why Islam, in turn, is a project of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA). Discover the Networks notes ICNA’s various, inevitable connections with the Muslim Brotherhood, including information that officials of the terror group Hamas have participated in its events. ICNA is also named as a likeminded “friend” in the 1991 Muslim Brotherhood manifesto which Andrew McCarthy has dissected as the blueprint for a “Grand Jihad” in North America (see here for one of the best reviews of McCarthy’s book, if you haven’t read it).
The billboards, in other words, didn’t just happen. They’re part of an overarching, Muslim Brotherhood-backed campaign to advertise Islam to Americans. (It’s worth taking just a moment to note the green and white colors of the Ask a Muslim billboards with the “Jesus” themes, and their resonance with the design of the Saudi flag.)
The specific appeal is worthy of note as well: the invocation of Jesus, and the particular assertions about him: “Jesus is Muslim,” and “Muslims love Jesus too.” The approach of the Ask a Muslim website to these assertions has an aura of syncretism about it: an implication that Christians and Muslims revere the same Jesus, if Christians could only see it.
But, of course, Jesus has to be one or the other; Christian or Muslim. He cannot be both, because the two faiths believe very different things about him. Christians believe he is God incarnate, that he is the Messiah promised in the Old Testament, and that he died and was resurrected to save mankind from the punishment of death for our sins. Muslims don’t believe any of those things about Jesus – but the beliefs are indispensable to the Christian faith.
The attempt to elide the beliefs of Christianity and Islam about Jesus has gathered steam in recent years, however. It is not my purpose here to rehearse the theological dispute over what has come to be called “Chrislam” – but it’s important to be aware of it. There’s more to these billboards than a simple effort to catch the eye. (There is a notably anti-Zionist element as well, in much of Chrislam’s tangled “themage.” As laid out in this post, there is broad commonality in the approaches of Chrislam and anti-Zionist “Christian Palestinianism,” such as that on display at the recent Christ at the Checkpoint conferences. The implication that Christians and Muslims have things in common that exclude the Jews is insidious but palpable.)
CreepingSharia points out, meanwhile, that the ICNA official behind the billboards has written quite categorically on the topic of Islam’s view of Christianity:
Islam came to tear down the pillars of kufr and replace them with the pillars of Islam.
The attempt to find commonality between religions, in the figure of Jesus, is not about reconciling the faiths but about vanquishing the Christian view.
The billboards were put up with the onset of Lent this year, the liturgical period of fasting and prayer before Easter. It seems doubtful that that is pure coincidence. Local TV news affiliates had coverage of them, along with the Columbus Dispatch (link above). Dave Daubenmire posted photos and a video from the rally. And, as linked at the top, he reported afterward that the “Jesus is Muslim” billboards were taken down.
There have been other billboards with related sentiments, however, across the fruited plain (e.g., in Silicon Valley in 2009 and Atlanta in the fall of 2013). The ones in the United States have all been sponsored by Why Islam and ICNA; there have also been similar billboards overseas. “Jesus is Muslim” is the most in-your-face theme of the lot, but it’s not the first or only one.
It does appear to be the first one rallied against by a band of pastors. Inevitably, there will be observers who see this incident as a clash of “religions,” and impute anger, fear, and nonsense to it. Others will see it as a reaction by Christians to a provocation from Muslims, and/or the warding off of a threat.
But there is a subtler and more useful perspective, I think. Christians need not fear Islam to recognize that having it in our midst, in the West, forces us to sharpen our understanding of what we believe. The “Jesus is Muslim” billboards are uniquely on point for that project. The pivotal question of Christianity is the one Jesus asks Peter in Matthew 16:15: “Who do you say that I am?”
It means everything that Jesus asked that question – in contrast to the billboards, he did not dictate a response – and then waited for an answer of faith. That dynamic, right there, is the basis for the Western, Judeo-Christian emphasis on intellectual and religious freedom as an endowment from the Creator (it being compatible with – Christians would say springing from – the Judaic concepts of spiritual responsiveness to God, and moral accountability in the context of both a Law and free will).
I suspect many Jews are no less challenged than Christians today, to ponder and sharpen what they believe about God. An Islamic dawa movement in our midst is just one of the things disturbing the complacency of our living generations – but it’s a uniquely important one.
And it is by no means a settled question where the momentum lies. Provoking Christians and Jews to focus on what they truly believe has not historically been a way of undermining their faith.
Did the Ask a Muslim group take down its “Jesus is Muslim” billboards because a band of Christians got together in a cold spring rain and prayed? The answer for each of us will depend on the eyes we see with. We live in interesting times. And since 2001, we have gotten closer to, not further from, the critical point at which we have to declare in our spirits where we stand.