This week the Daily Telegraph announced that the Islamic group, MyPeace, is going to start advertising on TV. This is the group that a few months ago placed large billboards claiming, “Jesus: A prophet of Islam”.
Christians should welcome this innovation in the usual fare of TV advertising. Australian Christians can be saddened at the symbolism of a further de-Christianization of our culture. Some Christians will be understandably outraged that our Lord’s name can be suborned to serve a false religion. But it is important not to react out of our emotions, but to see the larger picture.
There are no grounds upon which to ban these advertisements and to try and do so would only cause harm. Australia’s Muslim citizens have the same rights as any other citizen. Some have been born here and know no other nation. Excluding them from access to public media, even if possible, would only sow discontent. Aggrieved and persecuted minorities are vulnerable to the extremist movements, such as those within Islam. Furthermore, the Australian’s sense of fair go and support of the underdog would draw people to their cause. Rather than censor Islamic advertisements, Christians should be asking why Islamic countries do not allow Christians the same freedom of expression.
The public media is a commercial forum in which all citizens should have equal rights to participate. If you are willing to pay the money, you should be free to say your message. There is censorship of advertising but it is only of proven harmful substances e.g. tobacco and of offensive material e.g. pornography. If we start placing religious advertising in the category of harmful or offensive, then all religious advertising will be placed under a new regime of critical scrutiny. The moment we start censoring some messages, we run the risk of being censored ourselves.
However, as our advertisers operate commercially they are already promoting harmful and offensive material. We have just become inured to it. Many products are sold using completely irrelevant soft pornography, and many products, such as alcohol and gambling, have clear harmful effects in our society. But even more harmful is the constant materialistic hedonism, which assures us of life’s meaning being found in purchasing things which are new, bigger, brighter and better. This message has done considerably more to undermine Christianity in our society than advertisements that claim Jesus as a prophet of Islam could ever do.
Presumably, the aim is to make Islam more mainstream and acceptable in society rather than convert people to Islam, for the message that has been used so far is self-defeating. If Jesus is a prophet of Islam there is no need for Christians to become Muslims – by following Jesus’ teaching Christians would apparently be Muslims already! This is clearly and manifestly nonsense, for if that were true why is Islam so hostile to Christianity? Why would Muslims who become Christians be so persecuted if they were just following one of Islam’s prophets?
If Jesus is a prophet, why do Muslims refuse to follow his prophecies about his death and resurrection? He made them repeatedly. They are in each gospel account. There is no evidence that the texts have been tampered with. Even the completely cynical, unbelieving Jesus Seminar accepted his death as historical. It is impossible to read the New Testament without his death and resurrection dominating the argument.
No Christian would ever devise an advertising campaign like this, but under the sovereignty of God, it may well turn out for the good, as more people are confronted again by the claims of Jesus.
As an advertising campaign it could be used to encourage Muslims to listen to Jesus’ prophecies. Indeed as Muslims wish to acknowledge Jesus as a prophet, Christians should offer copies of his prophetic life to our Islamic neighbours so that they can read for themselves what he did teach and do, and how starkly different he was to Mohammed. Mohammed entered Mecca at the head of an army, while Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey.
The advertisements may well stimulate conversations with non-Muslims, with whom we have long wished to share the great news of Jesus. It provides the opportunity to show what the prophet Jesus actually taught and how his death and resurrection fulfilled not only his own prophecies but those of the Old Testament as well.
These advertisements bring open debate into our society on the subject dearest to the Christian’s heart: Jesus Christ our Lord. Christians have no need to fear open debate and inquiry about the truth of the claims of Christ. We do not need to protect our Saviour, his claims will win out. For he is not a prophet of Islam but a prophet for Muslims and more than a prophet – he is Immanuel – God with us.