Not everyone has yet heard of Chrislam — I certainly hadn’t until I bumped into it on the Net while looking for something else — so I thought I’d pass on what I’ve learned so far. Try searching for ‘Chrislam’ yourselves and you’ll come up with enough to write a book, let alone a short article!
So, what is it? Well, as you might guess from the word, it’s a merging of the religions of Christianity and Islam which was started some decades ago in the West African nation of Nigeria. A pastor named Shamsuddin Saka, who had a small church on the line between Nigeria’s Muslim North and Christian South, decided to try to bridge the gap and preached a liturgy which blended both faiths. He taught that Christians and Muslims are both children of Abraham, which is correct according to both the Bible and the Koran, and that they should, therefore, live in peace.
But there are stumbling-blocks. While Christians believe that Jesus was Son of God and part of the God-head of the Trinity, Muslims consider him just another Prophet, preaching some time before Mohammad, Allah’s very last Prophet. Christianity’s core belief is that eternal salvation is a gift of grace, earned for mankind by the death of Christ on the Cross, while Islam’s core belief is that there is only one God, Allah, that Christ did not die but ascended to Allah and that the only way to Paradise is by submitting completely to Allah’s commands as set out in the Koran. (Islam does not mean ‘Peace’ as some people think, but ‘Submission’.)
Nevertheless, it seems that after some time, the idea — perhaps you could say, the religion — of Chrislam began to appear in the United States of America. In 2006 President George W Bush, when interviewed by the ABC News, said he believed that both Christians and Muslims worshipped the same God. In 2007 a group of Muslim leaders published a letter entitled ‘A Common Word Between Us and You’ urging peace and justice between Muslims and Christians. During a prayer at the inauguration of President Obama in 2009 Rick Warren, the well-known founder and pastor of a Community Church in California, referred to ‘Isa’, the Islamic name for Jesus and was later said to be largely responsible for the spreading of Chrislam throughout American churches. That year he also addressed the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America urging cooperation between the two faiths.
In 2011 a group called ‘Faith Shared’ encouraged Christian communities to organise events where Muslims were welcomed into their church, Priests and Imams read from each other’s sacred texts and children in Sunday School were taught the sayings of the Prophet Mohammad. Some eighty churches agreed to sponsor interfaith services at that time and since that was seven years ago, it is quite possible that many more churches now host Chrislam and have both bibles and Korans along the pews.
And it has certainly spread across the Atlantic.
Sweden started the slide towards Chrislam in 2011 when just before being appointed, the current Archbishop when asked “Does Jesus convey a more truthful image of God than Muhammad does?” surprisingly, did not immediately say yes, but instead involved herself in a long monologue about there being many ways to God. In 2016, for the first time during a Mass in Italy, a verse of the Koran was recited from the altar.
In England, many Churches of various denominations now hold interfaith services. In fact, in 2015 a leading liberal clergyman allowed a full Muslim prayer service in his church in Central London, even joining in the event by reading a passage from the Koran and asking the congregation to praise ‘the god that we love, Allah’. Church of England Bishop Harries even suggested that Prince Charles’s coronation service should be opened with a reading from the Koran.
But it was the 2017 Christmas season which showed the remarkable growth of Chrislam in Europe, with efforts to both secularise and Islamise Christmas. For instance, the traditional Winter Markets in Germany were renamed ‘Winter’ Markets, so as not to offend Muslims. And it was in Germany that a Christmas School party was postponed after a Muslim student complained that the singing of Christmas carols during school was ‘incompatible with Islam’. In Skien, Norway, recent festivities included verses from both the Bible and the Koran which referred to Jesus/Isa.
Ed – This is part one of a two-part article. The second part will be published tomorrow.