Like many followers of Jesus, I cherish the Book of Revelation which closes with God’s Kingdom reign coming to earth. Yet, the apocalyptic aspect of John’s prophecy remains difficult to understand so that, by and large, most of us don’t make it a focus of our daily lives.
Yet, Revelation foresees a time when an evil worldwide government forms on earth before Christ’s return (Revelation 13-19). I never thought much about this event until 1) I read the Left Behind series by Dr. Tim LaHaye (a personal friend of mine) and 2) Recently began to “see” a few things that caused me to wonder.
Now, I think I know what a one world government looks like.
Muhammed Ali, one of the world’s best known sports figures, died last week at the age of 74.
After his passing, many broadcasters, athletes, government leaders and entertainers lined up to pay their respects. Ali had famously shouted “I am the Greatest” after winning the heavyweight crown from Sonny Liston in 1964.
The Sunday after Muhammed Ali’s passing, I spoke at a church in Oregon about what the Bible says about being the greatest.
So what is God’s take on Cassius Clay/Mohammed Ali? Was he really the “greatest” and worthy of our adoration and imitation?”
I have to admit that as a young man, I was fascinated by both boxing and Mohammed Ali’s rise to become the heavyweight champion of the world.
But when he died last week, I was greatly saddened by the lack of honest critique of his life, accomplishments and role in history. It’s as if every celebrity and commentator wanted to get on the bandwagon of nostalgia and simply declare him “the Greatest” without any reference to his character or influence.
I will not make that mistake today.
But first, a little history on what I consider the tragic life Cassius Clay/Mohammed Ali who was one of the most recognizable sports figures of our time.
Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. was born on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky. He was named in honor of the 19th-century Republican politician and staunch abolitionist, Cassius Marcellus Clay. His father painted billboards and signs, and his mother was a housewife. Although Cassius Sr. was a Methodist, he allowed his wife to bring up both Cassius and his younger brother as Baptists.
We don’t know how deep his faith went, though he commented in his autobiography:
“My mother is a Baptist, and when I was growing up, she taught me all she knew about God. Every Sunday, she dressed me up, took me and my brother to church, and taught us the way she thought was right. She taught us to love people and treat everybody with kindness. She taught us it was wrong to be prejudiced or hate. I’ve changed my religion and some of my beliefs since then, but her God is still God; I just call him by a different name.”
He was first directed toward boxing by a Louisville police officer and boxing coach who encountered the 12-year-old fuming over a thief taking his bicycle. He told the officer he was going to “whup” the thief. The officer told him he had better learn how to box first.
Clay made his amateur boxing debut in 1954. He won six Kentucky Golden Gloves titles, two national Golden Gloves titles, an Amateur Athletic Union national title, and the Light Heavyweight gold medal in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Italy.
Young Cassius Clay was feisty, mouthy, and a very good boxer.
Clay made his professional debut on October 29, 1960, winning a six-round decision over Tunney Hunsaker. From then until the end of 1963, Clay amassed a record of 19–0 with 15 wins by knockout. In each of these fights, he vocally belittled his opponents and vaunted his abilities. He called Jones “an ugly little man” and Cooper a “bum”. Madison Square Garden was “too small for me.” Clay’s self-centered behavior provoked the disdain of many boxing fans.
By late 1963, he was the top contender for Sonny Liston’s title. The fight was set for February 25, 1964. Clay was a 7–1 underdog. Despite this, he taunted Liston during the pre-fight buildup, dubbing him “the big ugly bear”. “Liston even smells like a bear”, Clay said. “After I beat him I’m going to donate him to the zoo.” Clay turned the pre-fight weigh-in into a circus, shouting at Liston that “someone is going to die at ringside tonight”.
The outcome of the fight was a huge upset. In the sixth round, Cassius Clay dominated, hitting Liston repeatedly. Liston did not answer the bell for the seventh round, and Clay was declared the winner. Following the win, a triumphant Clay rushed to the edge of the ring and, pointing to the ringside press, shouted: “I am the greatest! I shook up the world. I’m the prettiest thing that ever lived.”
He went on to fight for another 16 years, losing the heavyweight title on two occasions and winning it back. Famous fights included his matches with Joe Frazier and George Foreman.
Conversion to Islam
Soon after becoming heavyweight champion, Cassius Clay came under the influence of Elijah Mohammed and the Nation of Islam, converted to the Muslim faith and changed his name to Muhammed Ali. Elijah Mohammed was an evil man–the Osama bin Laden of the day. He was responsible for the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965 and extracted much of Ali’s boxing wealth to advance radical Islam in America.
Ali changed from the Nation of Islam to Sunni Islam in 1975. He went on pilgrimage to Mecca on two occasions–in 1972 and 1988. By 2005, Ali had become more “spiritual” than religious. He embraced Sufi Islam, which means “wisdom”, and is not classified as a religion. In his later life, Ali continued to try and convert others to Islam, but he spent more time doing charity work. His daughter Hana explained:
“It was important for him to be very religious and take the stands he did in earlier years. It was a different time. He still tries to convert people to Islam, but it’s not the same. His health and his spirituality have changed, and it’s not so much about being religious, but about going out and making people happy, doing charity, and supporting people and causes.”
Mohammed Ali also became America’s most famous draft dodger during the 1970s saying “I won’t fight no Viet Cong!” You may not know that he was married four times, had numerous affairs, and fathered at least seven daughters and two sons, some out of wedlock. Those facts did not make the nostalgia reel.
So what is God’s take on Mohammed Ali?
Here are my conclusions based on reflections from the Bible:
1. For much of his life, Ali’s character was opposite of greatness. Jesus likened true greatness to servanthood (Matthew 23:11), humility (Philippians 2:1-11), childlike innocence (Matthew 18:3), and lovingly deferring to others (1 Corinthians 13). Mohammed Ali’s life reeked of egotism and pride.
2. His rebellion against authority (1 Samuel 15:23) and draft-dodging set a bad example in the US, and helped cause the death of many people in Viet Nam. Ali could have been a humble conscientious objector and served in a non-combat role. Instead he publicly led the parade of America’s first defeat in war. The communists won and millions were slaughtered. That’s why the Left adores him.
3. He rejected the Christian faith of his parents (Proverbs 1:8, 9), and embraced radical Islam, then Sunnism, then finally philosophical spirituality. Probably more than any other figure, he lulled America to sleep in the 1960’s about the evils of Islamic jihad–then bailed out himself in later life.
4. Mohammed Ali was an immoral man that used many women and did not live for family values (Ephesians 5:3). His life was about himself–not loyalty to others.
5. He reaped what he sowed from boxing–early-on-set Parkinson’s due to continued trama to the head (Galatians 6:7). He lived thirty years of his life as a pale shadow of himself due to his choice of vocation.
6. He was involved in much philanthropy and seemed to like children. In this way, his life was similar to Elvis Presley’s. He had a big heart and relational gifts that could have been used greatly in the lives of others and for Christ’s kingdom. But pride and destructive behavior limited it.
So why was there so much Ali worship after he passed? That’s an easy answer.
In our new post-Christian world, he’s a shining worldly (satanic) example: Arrogant, famous, boastful, rebellious, anti-authority, self-consumed, immoral, anti-Christ, pro diversity in religion, and with a veneer of good works.
That makes him “great” in our growing secular society where self expression rules. But not in God’s kingdom where death to self, humility and servanthood are the true measures of greatness.
It is Jesus who is truly the Greatest in what He said, what He did, and who He is (book of Hebrews).
Follow, adore, and imitate HIM.
Islamic jihad visited the United States again last week in San Bernardino, California when a radicalized young Muslim American and his Pakistani wife burst into a seminar/Christmas party and cold-bloodedly killed fourteen innocent Americans and wounded twenty-one others.
It was the second largest terrorist attack on American soil after the infamous 9-11 carnage in New York, Washington, DC and Pennsylvania fourteen years ago.
The San Bernardino killers died in a police shootout, the FBI is frantically scanning the world to try and understand who was involved, and many politicians are expressing their opinions on what should be done.
Today, I will state mine.
It’s all about the Koran.
Though the first days following the terrorist attack centered on the hideous bloodbath itself, soon the narrative changed to a potpourri of concerns.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump started a media fire storm by saying that he wanted a pause in all Muslim travel to America until “we figured out what was going on.” He was denounced by many Republican contenders and also by the Democrats and mainstream media. White House spokesman Josh Earnest declared that Mr. Trump’s statement should “disqualify him from becoming president.”
Others chimed in their usual chorus about gun control. But all the guns were purchased legally in a tough gun control state–California. Terrorism can’t be stopped by taking guns away from the good guys.
Bad guys will always find guns.
President Obama weighed on the tragedy giving a rare Sunday night message from the Oval Office. His words offered no new strategy for defeating ISIS and the Islamic jihad movement and he even lectured the American people about being careful not to demean all Muslims.
African-American economist Thomas Sowell gave this critique of the president’s speech:
“The president struck a familiar chord when he emphasized that we shouldn’t blame all Muslims for the actions of a few. How many people have you heard blaming all Muslims?”
“Even if 90 percent of all Muslims are fine people, and we admit 10,000 refugees from the Middle East, does that mean that we need not be concerned about adding a thousand potential terrorists — even after we have seen in San Bernardino what just two terrorists can do?”
“The first responsibility of any government is to protect the people already in the country. Even in this age of an entitlement mentality, no one in a foreign country is entitled to be in America if the American people don’t want them here.”
“Obama’s talk about how we should not make religious distinctions might make sense if we were talking about handing out entitlements. But we are talking about distinguishing between different populations posing different levels of danger to the American people.”
Score one for Sowell.
Senator Ben Sasse, the junior senator from Nebraska, gave a passionate speech from San Bernardino that was strong on the nature of freedom, the importance of respecting all non-violent religious views, and labeling the jihad for what it really is.
You can listen to Ben Sasse’s message here. It’s worth four minutes of your time.
And then there was all the talk about being “radicalized”, who’s really a Muslim, should we screen people out of the West based on religion, and what should we do about the growing Islamic Caliphate in the Middle East.
In my opinion, all the talk and analysis does not get to the heart of either understanding or solving the the problem of Islamic jihad.
It’s all about the Koran–and what the Muslim world must do about it.
I have a new book coming out next year on the five major views of God (religions) in the world. The book is called “The River of God: Discovering the Source of the World’s Major Religions and Why Only One of Them Can Be True.” I believe it will make a contribution to the debate about Islam–what it is and what it’s not.
I started studying the Muslim faith some forty years ago when I purchased a paperback copy of the Koran and read it from cover to cover. Then more recently, when I was doing research for “The River of God,” I again purchased a Koran to give it a second read.
So I’ve read all the words of the Koran two times. That gives me a little familiarity that most people don’t possess to make some observations.
You can’t comprehend Islamic jihad until you’ve understood and read the Koran.
Some people compare the Koran to the Bible–as if they are equal–one being the “Holy Book” of Islam and the other “The Scriptures” of the Christian faith. No, the Bible and the Koran are as non-comparable as “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “Handel’s Messiah:”
- The Bible is a library of 66 books written over two thousand years by over forty authors. This breadth of confirmation makes it unique among books and clearly inspired. The Koran is a book of “writings or recitations” by one man over twenty-two years and compiled forty years after his death.
- The Bible describes the origins of man and earth, the history of the Jewish nation, contains four eye-witness accounts of the coming of the Messiah Jesus (Isa in Arabic), the history of the Early Church and its mission, contains inspiring prophetic books and clearly describes the end of time (Revelation). The Koran contains few of these things and sports numerous historical errors.
- The Bible contains beautiful poetry, songs, and wisdom literature and shares some of the most memorable sayings and parables the world has even heard. The Koran has nothing memorable and is very poorly written.
- The Bible speaks of a God of love who came to earth to die and redeem humanity from their rebellion and sin. The Koran describes a warring and distant God who tells his followers in 109 different war verses to kill others to advance their cause. Here are three examples from the Koran: “Seize them and put them to death wherever you find them” (Sura 4:89). “Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you” (Sura 9:123). “When you meet unbelievers in the battlefield, strike off their heads and, when you have laid them low, bind your captives firmly” (Sura 47:4).
- Muslims don’t like to translate the Koran into other languages because it is an embarrassment. Followers of Christ are passionately trying to translate the Bible into all 7,000 languages that all might come to know the Savior.
Let’s first of all admit that the Bible and the Koran are not the same. The Bible is a symphony of revelation. The Koran is not. That’s the simple truth.
And the Koran is at the heart of the problem with Islam. Those doing terrorism and promoting “holy war” in the world today are reading and taking seriously Mohammed’s poorly written book.
You saw the Koran on the table of the killer’s home in San Bernardino.
The Koran is the problem.
Let’s also be honest about those who call themselves Muslims around the world–both Sunni and Shiite. First of all, most of them are peaceful people who don’t believe in killing innocent folks if left to their consciences and sensibilities.
Most human beings don’t murder people.
Secondly, many Muslims in the 55 Muslim-majority nations (primarily in North Africa, the Middle East and Asia) and also scattered elsewhere are “nominal” in their beliefs. They may or may not attend a mosque. They have a general belief in Allah and some of the moral principles of their tradition.
But they don’t sanction murder, sharia law, and other hard core teachings of the Koran (Writings), Hadith (Traditions) or Sunna (Practices) found in Islamic theocracies.
Most Muslims in the world are peaceful people or nominal followers. We don’t need to fear them–and freedom of expression is theirs in all free societies as Senator Sasse affirms.
It’s the other group of Muslims we are fighting–the ones that follow the Koran. These include ISIS, Boko Haram, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the imams and spiritual leaders in numerous Muslim nations.
The greatest freedom threat to the world right now is the ISIS caliphate. They are ruthless killers who must be defeated militarily.
That’s the role of governments.
But when we think of global Islam, what one thing should be encouraged that could positively influence its one billion followers?
Rejecting the Koran. Starting an Islamic Reformation that repudiates the false teachings of Mohammed.
Muslims can keep four of their five pillars of faith:
- Prayer (Salah). Talking to God (Allah is the generic word for God in Arabic) is a good thing.
- Fasting (Sawm). Usually done during Ramadan to focus on dying to fleshly desires.
- Giving (Zakat). Encouraged by all people and beliefs.
- Pilgrimage (Hajj). Maybe this is a stretch, but allow the trip to include Jerusalem and other sacred parts of the Middle East.
But Number One must go–the Confession (Shahadah). Mohammed’s jihadi words and actions are not inspired and he and his book must be rejected.
“Submission to God” (Islam) is good. The Koran’s distortion of God’s true nature and false methods of submission are not.
Let’s expose the Koran. Read it for yourself. Then encourage peaceful Muslims to break its chains and reject its murderous violence (and slavery, subjugation of women etc.). Let’s expose mosques that preach venom. Let’s work for a needed reformation of Islam all over the world.
And finally, let’s pray that all Muslims worldwide add one crucial pillar to their understanding:
“God so loved the world that He gave His Only Son (Isa). That whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”