Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Why Muslims Should Celebrate Christmas!

Twelves reasons:

(12)  Science, as I have pointed out in earlier posts in this series, was mostly developed in Christian countries, mostly by sincere Christians, and has changed life in this world vastly for the better.  The wealth of many Muslim countries, for instance, derives from petroleum, which had no value until modern machines that use it were invented. 
From this site
I put this last, because I am not sure that great wealth has always done the countries that have enjoyed it, that much good, in a deeper sense.  But of course science has also improved the health and lengthened and enriched the lives of billions of Muslims.  That may conceivably have occurred even without the birth of Jesus, but I think it is unlikely. 

(11)  Christmas is good for business.  Think of all the oil that is burnt to light Christmas trees!

(10)  If you're an international student, look around, and be open to invitations to share a meal for Christmas!  Most Christians are smart enough to prove alternatives to ham!  Enjoy the lights and trees and decorations, there are no idols among them, and if there are (in some extended sense) they're not your idols, and no one worships them.  And most of the songs, I think, you can sing with a clear conscience. 

(9) Were it not for the birth of Jesus, historically speaking, there would probably be no Islam. So whatever benefits are thought to have derived from Islamic faith, and in some cases really do (such as the outlawing of human sacrifice in some places), can at least indirectly be credited to Christmas.

(8) Christian countries have developed systems of free government that allow free expression of worship by Muslims and others.  This was not always the case, but it has been for some centuries now.  And those institutions have made a difference around the world. 

(7) Jesus is the "Breath of God" and the "Messiah," according to the Koran.  Why shouldn't Muslims celebrate the coming to Earth of the Breath of God? 

(6) Jesus is also described as sinless, a miracle-worker, even one (in hadith) whose prayers brought the dead back to life.  Again, that sounds like an excellent reason to celebrate. 

(5) The teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount seems to have influenced some of the best of Sufi ethics.  (See my article "Can Jesus Save Islam?" in Touchstone Magazine.)

(4) Islam would still enslave non-Muslims, were it not for the opposition of nominally Christian nations, inspired by Christian reform movements. (Reforms that continued in places like the Sudan up until very recently.) Many modern Muslims are descended from those former slaves.  They have much to be thankful for, on Christmas day. 

Poor Muslims may also have something to be thankful for, in as much as slaves would take work away from them.  And it does not enoble men to have others do their work for them, nor women to have slave-girls around the house, whom Mohammed himself saw as sexually-available.  So good riddance to that. 

(3) The influence of Jesus has raised the status of women around the world.  While Dar al-Islam has been most resistent to this reform, compared to Hindu, Buddhist, or Confucian countries, certainly reform has gone forward, maybe even in Saudi Arabia.  (Though a Saudi girl told me, not long ago, "I'll only go back to Saudi Arabia in a body bag!"  Her "Mecca" was -- get ready -- Houston, Texas!)  The invasion of Afghanistan, led by George W. Bush,  ended a regime that was among the most oppressive of women. 

(2) Islam means "submission to God."  Jesus, Muslims agree, was a great example of someone who submitted to God.  The earliest records of Jesus' life, and the teachings of his first disciples, show that he submitted to God not as a slave, but as a son.  They are filled with the hope that by Jesus' transcendent submission, "even to death on the cross," he allows us as well to become sons and daughters of God, and cry out "Abba, Father!" 

The word "father" is, of course, a metaphor, not a superstitious notion about physical divine parentage.  Christ, we believe, is divine, though how exactly that works, we dispute among ourselves.  It certainly didn't involve a Zeus-like night-time visitation to a Jewish maiden, as some Muslims seem to fear.  There was a miracle, but it was a pure and divine miracle. 

By these notions of sonship, self-sacrifice, and resurrection, the Good News of Jesus has brought billions of people into submission (to one extent or other) to God.  Is that not news about which a sincere follower of Islam should rejoice? 

(1) Jesus' birth is inherently worth celebrating, as are all joyous, good gifts from God. 

Oh little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie.
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by.

Yet in thy dark street shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.

Finally: "Why Secular Humanists Should Celebrate Christmas!"

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