I’ve just finished reading through the book “Navigating The Worldviews of Egypt,” written by my cousins Anna Sophia, Elizabeth, Isaac and Noah Botkin and a variety of their colleagues (and parents and in-laws). I read it at various intervals and in small chunks, because it was difficult to consume at any length without it hurting my brain. The book is dedicated to pointing out the inferior worldviews of Egypt, starting with its pagan decadence and finishing with the more recent uprisings. Large portions of the text are dedicated to explaining that Islam is terrible and that often, Muslims will lie to you about what they actually believe (p. 93). The authors concede that there are some moderate Muslims in the world, but they insist these people aren’t really following the Koran and Mohammed’s example.
This is juxtaposed with various comments about the right way to do things, such as the right way to have adventures and take dominion over the earth. The right way to adventure is seen, for example, in the exploration and dominion of Christopher Columbus. The right way to take over a nation is seen in the example of Oliver Cromwell, whom the book speaks very fondly of. That’s right, Oliver Cromwell. The same guy who invaded Ireland and slaughtered thousands of Irish Catholics, some of them even after they’d surrendered, on the assumption that their religion would pre-dispose them to be pesky and possibly belligerent. The authors additionally pitch Cromwell killing his king and taking over the country as a good thing: “When Charles I began ruling as a tyrant and violating the common-law liberties of Englishmen, Oliver Cromwell and other Puritan men used these scriptural principles to dethrone and execute him in a lawful and orderly way which demonstrated to the world the responsibilities of Christian magistrates” (p. 168). Executing your rulers because you don’t like their tax policies: totally contrary to the words of Jesus, but apparently still part of “the responsibilities of Christian magistrates,” according to the dominion mandate.
The book explains that Islam isn’t very good to its women, as can be seen in their overly restrictive gender and dress codes. The authors quote a passage by Bojidar Marinov that seems a little ironic given recent events: “Islam leaves it to women to protect themselves and society from destruction by choosing their clothing in such a way to completely shut them off from the world… In the Shariah legislation, a woman is guilty of adultery even when raped. It must be her fault, and the man is very often absolved, as being an innocent victim of his own overwhelming lust and the woman’s lack of prudence” (p. 89). Compare this to aforementioned favorite Puritan Oliver Cromwell, who is clearly so different in his opinions about female dress: “Cromwell believed that women and girls should dress in a proper manner. Make-up was banned. Puritan leaders and soldiers would roam the streets of towns and scrub off any make-up found on unsuspecting women. Too colourful dresses were banned. A Puritan lady wore a long black dress that covered her almost from neck to toes. She wore a white apron and her hair was bunched up behind a white head-dress.”
A big part of why Islam is bad, according to the authors, is jihad. Jihad in the American vernacular is synonymous with holy war, but it isn’t interpreted that way by all Islamic scholars. In fact, one medieval Islamic scholar states that part of jihad is the improvement of society: “one of the collective duties of the community as a whole [is] … to solve problems of religion, to have knowledge of Divine Law, to command what is right and forbid wrong conduct.” Of course, the debate rages as to how far one is to go to make this happen. Should it be done with laws, with discourse, or with military might? Regardless, the authors warn that “[Islam’s] adherents have a deep sense of Islam’s moral superiority over other ethical systems, and of their authority and duty to bring the world into Islamic order… The goal of Islam is to rule the entire world and submit all of mankind to the faith of Islam” (p. 92).
Compare this to the dominion mandate, which is crucial to the Christian worldview, according to the authors. Man is “to ‘subdue’ the earth, taming it and bringing it into submission to his will under God. He acts as God’s administrator to manage creation and bring forth its treasures, cultivating its soil, mining its gold, silver, and precious stones, naming and utilizing its creatures… In summary, a biblical view of progress encompasses man’s advancement of God’s rule over every inch of the globe and over every thought and idea of man” (pp. 15-16). Put more succinctly, “The entire world has been given us to study, explore, and civilize” (p. 121).
Now compare this in turn to the people the authors state have fulfilled the dominion mandate. They state that in the 1500s, Christians were the most adventurous people on earth, which was only right and fitting (p. 121). They specifically mention Christopher Columbus (pp. 83, 121). Perhaps they are ignorant of the fact that, according to his own letters, Columbus enslaved the people he encountered and claimed everything they had as his own. Ultimately, his expedition led to forced conversions to Catholicism, rape, pillage, and often death under the so-called Christian adventurers who followed him in the 1500s. In the words of the Conquistadors’ own Requirement:
“We ask and require you … that you acknowledge the Church as the ruler and superior of the whole world,
But if you do not do this, and maliciously make delay in it, I certify to you that, with the help of God, we shall powerfully enter into your country, and shall make war against you in all ways and manners that we can, and shall subject you to the yoke and obedience of the Church and of their highnesses; we shall take you, and your wives, and your children, and shall make slaves of them, and as such shall sell and dispose of them as their highnesses may command; and we shall take away your goods, and shall do you all the mischief and damage that we can, as to vassals who do not obey, and refuse to receive their lord, and resist and contradict him: and we protest that the deaths and losses which shall accrue from this are your fault, and not that of their highnesses, or ours, nor of these cavaliers who come with us.”
Perhaps the authors are ignorant, or perhaps this fits well with their idea of the dominion mandate. Change the name Don Cristóbal to Mohammed al Hussein, and you’ve got something that looks like the worst kind of jihad; but since Columbus and the Conquistadors were ostensibly Christians, it’s called “taking dominion of the earth,” and celebrated.
The authors also point to the bloodshed and in-fighting of warring tribes and factions within Islam, saying “It is not an accident that the political legacy of Islam, when examined as a whole, has been a series of autocratic tyrants replacing each other by bloodshed” (72). The same thing could be said for the vast majority of Europe’s history, and yet the authors do not even seem to imagine a world where Europe’s wars of religion and family feuding besmirch the “political legacy” of Christianity in the slightest. Apparently bloodshed, and specifically beheading your king, is fine as long as it’s done by someone with the correct theology. Of course, this is exactly what Islamic militants believe also.
In spite of these obvious similarities, the authors go to great pains to point out the specific differences between Shariah and Biblical law. They claim that, for example, “Biblical law is consistent, reflecting the unchanging character of God,” whereas “Shariah law changed with Muhammad’s changing moral opinions” (p. 75). I suppose this would explain why the authors quote Old Testament law so extensively, and why they reference passages such as Deut. 22:13-19 (p. 88) as being more beneficial to modern women than the current laws. However, the authors are not intellectually honest, since they claim that, for example, the Koran requires whipping for a raped girl, while the Bible demands that she go free and the man be punished (p. 75). Obviously, however, Muslims have a different take on this, and the Koran actually says that whipping is for fornication, applied equally to both parties — although in some traditional societies, a woman must prove she was raped by producing four eyewitnesses, which rarely seems to work out well for her.
Additionally, the Biblical mandate the authors quote is only for certain rape scenarios, which I’m sure the authors know very well. There are other scenarios in the Mosaic Law where this isn’t the case: if the raped woman is not betrothed, she is handed off to her rapist permanently, as his wife, after the rapist pays her father. There is also another passage in the Mosaic Law where women who are raped in the city and “do not cry out” are required to be stoned to death, on the assumption that the burden is on the woman to get someone’s else’s attention — presumably someone who will testify on her behalf, like in the Koran — or it’s not really rape. In a recent webinar, Anna Sophia and Elizabeth reference this passage, saying if you are being molested, you must cry out or the burden of sin is upon you also. They say this even after admitting that most women naturally freeze up under such circumstances.
In another passage within the book, the authors state that the Koran promotes killing people who don’t believe the same things they do, while the Bible commands that strangers are to be welcomed as guests. Of course, the authors have once again cherry-picked their verses, since there are a host of them in the Old Testament about God’s chosen people being commanded to wipe out all the men, women, children and even livestock of heathen nations.
So who’s being disingenuous about what they believe now? Or, alternately, is Biblical law and precedent something the authors think changes?
Throughout the book, the idea that culture is an expression of religion, and that all people are religious, is touted over and over again. Religion is defined as “A person’s network of pre-theoretical assumptions about God, self, and reality. Every person has one and every action of a person flows from these core beliefs” (p. 44). By the authors’ own estimation, the mass killings of other populations by Christians, then, are part and parcel of their Christian faith. There could be no other possible motivation, since religion is your “pre-theoretical assumptions” and all of your actions. It’s a bizarre statement, but it must be followed to its logical end. Additionally, in a section called “What Long-Term Judgement Can Look Like,” the authors state that Coptic Christians are to blame for their persecution by the Muslims, because they have not fulfilled the Great Commission (pp. 108-109). So there you have it: not only are all of your actions part of your religion, what is done to you is part of your religion also.
6 thoughts on “Navigating history: Dominion worldview and Christian jihad.”
A family member recently posted and link on Facebook to an outraged article quoting Obama as thanking Muslims for helping to create the fabric of this country. As you can imagine, many ugly comments followed from people in regards to Muslims and Obama. These same people, who love to talk about what this country “really” was founded on probably don’t know that Thomas Jefferson owned a copy of the Quar’an, was well versed in Islamic custom and studied Arabic, and actually hosted a Muslim envoy from the Tunisian government, showing respect to their observance of Ramadan by changing their mealtime from the afternoon until sundown. The other irony of course i
I personally am acquaintances with a lovely Islamic family from Bosnia, and it’s unsettling to think of the influence of writings such as “Navigating the Worldviews of Egypt” might have on those who may not have a very developed understanding of the counter-productivity of hate begetting hate. While the authors may have it within themselves to be civil and respectful to Muslims, their readers may not have a very nuanced understanding of how to live in a society with the reality of other citizens being Islamic, and the book may reinforce some very negative reactions.
Obama’s statement was silly and less informed, so people got tired of his clear favoritism of that religion inspite of his claims to be Christian. However, a silly book like this would definitely make resentment both justified and otherwise a lot worse.
Enjoyed this thoughtful, well written essay. Do you know if your cousins read your blog?
Thanks so much for writing this.
I just finished reading a beautiful book by a Jewish author about Christians, Muslims, and Jews in 11th-century Persia, The Physician by Noah Gordon, and skimming another of his about Christians and Jews in 16th-century Spain (The Last Jew). Cruelty in the name of religion seems to be universal, but Gordon also shows people of all three faiths thinking for themselves and trusting that their God is on the side of love and kindness.
You are very brave to read this book. It hurt my brain just to read this post about it (not because of you, though!) And I’m having a drink while reading it.
I guess all those rape victims — men and women and children alike — who stay silent and do what they’re told so they’ll SURVIVE are just evil sinners, just like their rapists, according to the Botkins girls. May they never need to make such a decision, or be scorned for it afterwards.
I think I need another drink. Or some brain bleach.
Gosh how awful. Here I thought his Egypt journey sounded so cool, but that’s what they spent all that time doing, looking at the culture as barbaric and in need of being overthrown? How unhappy they must often be.