Christopher Catherwood, Christians, Muslims and Islamic Rage: What is Going On and Why it Happened. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003. 256 pp. Paper. ISBN: 0-310-25138-9. $16.99.
Why do they hate us? That is the question so many people were asking after September 11, 2001. What could cause so much anger that people would desire to crash airplanes into buildings and kill so many people? Is this hatred directed against Christianity, against the United States, or a combination of both?
The people in the congregation where I serve as pastor were concerned after the attacks of 9/11 and they were looking to the church for answers. And so I decided that part of my responsibility, as their pastor during these difficult times, was to first educate myself about Islam and then teach my congregation.
In my research I found that trying to answer the question "Why they hate us?" was a lot more complex than to simply understand the religion of Islam. Not just one book, including the Qur'an, was going to be able to answer my questions. I started my research at the local library where I found many helpful secular books on the history of Islam. I then contacted several "Missions to Muslims" organizations and they recommended books that would critique the religion from a Biblical perspective. These mission organizations also recommended that I read contemporary historical writers such as Bernard Lewis who has written several books concerning the political and cultural history of the Middle East as it relates to the Islamic faith. I also watched several television specials on Islam, including programs produced by PBS and the History Channel.
Yet as I prepared my Sunday School class each week, I found myself very much on my own as far as Christian analysis goes. I found that Islam is not a religion that you can critique like the Jehovah Witnesses or the Mormons, i.e., where you compare their scriptures to the Bible and show how they are in error. To understand Islam (and more importantly to answer the question "Why They Hate Us?"), you need to understand the religion, the history of the religion in the Middle Eastern culture, and the political issues facing Muslims today in the particular countries in which they live.
Thankfully, Christopher Catherwood, the grandson of the late Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones, in his new book Christians, Muslims and Islamic Rage does an excellent job of putting all this together for his readers. Catherwood is an evangelical Christian from England who was granted a sabbatical from teaching at both Cambridge University in England and the University of Richmond in Virginia, to write this book. He has done all the research for you and he puts the whole picture together from a Christian perspective.
The book starts out with a description of his own personal experience on September 11, 2001. He was in the United States on that day, and because of his background in Islam and his previous book Why the Nations Rage: Killing in the Name of God, many people were looking to him for answers to understand why? He, along with his teaching colleagues, concluded that he needed to write a book to help American Christians understand the attacks. The book covers all the important areas. He includes chapters about the history of Islam including the history of the different sects of Islam. He devotes several chapters to the political issues and cultural issues of the Middle East that have given rise to so much hatred against the West. He then concludes by reminding us that as Christians we should not be discouraged about the attacks because God is in charge and Christ is on his throne. Christians, he concludes, should not be afraid of the future.
The book is well written and simple to read. It would be an excellent choice to recommend to persons in your congregation. Because he is from Britain and has an American wife, he offers interesting analysis from some one who has lived and experienced two different worlds. He will challenge you as an American to think differently about how we view terrorism as compared with people in others countries that have lived with it on a daily basis. He will also challenge you as a Christian to recognize that sometimes we do need to separate our Christian thinking about these issues from our American thinking. I believe his comments are insightful even though I did not always agree with him.
In summary, I would recommend this book to any pastor or layperson who is looking for a good overview of Islam. The book will help you have a better understanding of the issues that we face today as Christians and Americans. The overview is somewhat simple, but you can then use his helpful bibliography in the back as a resource to do more in-depth research in particular areas. The book was published in early 2003, before the Iraq war, and because he does focus on recent events, it will soon be dated. However, I believe it is worth the time and money to help you understand a post-cold war world where the war of religions will have a big impact on the future of both the world and the church.
Robert Van Kooten
Oak Harbor, Washington