In Egypt, the highest civil court ruled that some people who had converted from being Coptic Christians to Muslims could legally convert back to Christianity. This is not the usual for Muslim countries. The ruling did not address the issue of whether or not people in Egypt who had never been Christians could convert to Christianity from Islam.
It is very weak of Islam that it is the law of Islam that everyone must remain Muslim or face the penalty, which traditionally has been death. There's a great deal of capital punishment in Islam just as there is in Old Testament Judaism. There is no capital punishment in Christianity (real Christianity that is).
At the same time this is happening in Egypt, there are Fundamentalist Muslims in various countries pushing for the strictest sharia. Sharia is "Islamic law," which term is a redundant expression, since Islam is law just as Christianity is law. They are both rules to live by. According to Jesus, those who have been told and reject Christianity (the laws of behavior and belief) will not continue on to the real life.
In England, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has raised a number of issues that offend or confuse people. For instance, he said recently one doesn't have to believe in the virgin birth to be a Christian. If memory serves, he said he personally believes it. The problem this raises is one of where to draw the line on literal versus figurative interpretation. He also does not hold with 6 24-hour days of Creation. That particular issue concerns the connotation of the terms "hour" and "day." After all, Einstein's observation is correct that time in the sense meant by "24-hours" is directly tied to light where the temporal terms are understood mundanely or literally as the self-styled Fundamentalist mean the term "literal." In the beginning of the Book of Genesis, the first thing is not "let there be light."
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. (Genesis 1:1-3)
Now, one may argue that those versus themselves are not in chronological order or more to the point, not in sequential order. One may also argue that this whole issue is absurd. It matters though, because so many people construct their entire lives on it (literal interpretation) right up to condoning war and greed and even sexual depravity as so-called Christians and in spite of Jesus's clear and plain expression and exemplary life to the contrary.
Well, another issue Rowan has raised is letting Muslims in Britain resort to sharia where the parties agree to such arbitration just as Jews are allowed to be bound by Jewish arbitration in the court entitled "Beth Din." ("Sharia law in UK is 'unavoidable'," BBC. February 7, 2008.) We have arbitration in the U.S. We have a range of options concerning arbitration. It can be better than the civil courts. It can be faster, less expensive, and more thoughtful (depending upon the arbiter(s)). Rowan Williams is suggesting sharia concerning only in limited areas of the British legal system. He isn't saying that sharia should be allowed without limitations.
What is the Real Liberal Christian Church position on this? The fact is that Jesus didn't force anyone to do anything, ever. The entire legal system he advocated was doing the New Commandment, the Golden rule, the First Great Commandment and the Second like it, and all things consistent with those. In truth, all of those commandments are ultimately one and the same. They all rise to consistency. Jesus's whole teaching and life can be summed up as having total faith in consistency. God is consistent according to Jesus. That's why one can count on God's promises related by Jesus.
The legal system in Britain is not Christian. It is coercive. Sharia is also coercive. The secular laws of the U.S. are coercive as well. Some may think that Christianity is coercive, but that's a misreading. Even where Jesus says to use progressive discipline [Matthew 18:16-18], in the end the punishment doesn't come from the Church. The members are simply left with no other choice but to conclude that the resister is a heathen. There's no punishment prescribed. Unlike the secular law and misguided religions, the real Church doesn't reserve any right to use violence. The secular law in the U.S. is said to reserve to the government a monopoly on the right to use violence.
Therefore, what is Archbishop Williams talking about? Why is he saying anything regarding British secular law? Mind you, British law is not as secular as U.S. law. He's being ecumenical (heading in the direction of unified belief and system) and pluralistic (peaceful coexistence within the one nation-state of divergent religions, etc.). We believe he thinks that such ecumenicism will lead to moderating sharia in general, even around the world. He has his point; however, such efforts always become diverting when the call for complete Christianity is weakened or understated or absent, etc.
For instance, we wrote in our last post ("Roman Catholics do Jews No Favor Kowtowing") about how accommodating the offended feelings of Jews about Christianity is a fundamental error. Williams himself cites an example from a slightly different perspective. He mentioned the problem raised by British law not allowing the Catholic adoption agencies there to preclude adopting out children to homosexuals. I wrote about this myself at the time. It's a terrible law that says to the Christian religion that it must place children with homosexuals or it may not place children at all.
That law completely ignores the real and censored dangers (See my post: "Homosexuals: What they ignore") of society sliding down, down, down into decadence, which is happening and for which society and the entire planet is being made to pay severe prices offset only by God's perfect recognition of the efforts of people to slow, stop, and reverse that slide.
Now, the Archbishop's remarks started a firestorm. He has apologized for "unclarity" and "clumsiness." However, he wasn't unclear or clumsy (Listen) as those go. He just apologized when he should not have. A good recent example concerns Arun Gandhi, a grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, who resigned as president from the Institute for Nonviolence and apologized for the way he wrote about certain Jews and their reprehensible attitudes toward, and treatment of, Palestinians and others. (See our post: "The Gall and Hypocrisy of Abraham H. Foxman to Call Arun Gandhi a Bigot.") Many people take things wrong on purpose.
The Archbishop was semantically and theologically wrong though to say that there is not one law for everyone. If the British law allows for any aspects of sharia, then those aspects of sharia are of that one law. Now "one" here is understood completely mundanely, because the real one law is the New Commandment. Anything running contrary to it is ultimately illegal (not sanctified by God).
We are constantly seeing people being asked to or expected to apologize when in fact the listeners are the one's who are lacking. The fact is that detractors cannot withstand the same level of expectations concerning precise speech. If the same spotlight is shown back, only God shines.
If you are interested in the details of the Archbishop's questions raised, read his whole lecture to the Royal Courts of Justice.Thursday 07 February 2008.
What this whole thing points out is one of the main themes of the Real Liberal Christian Church. The secular and the religious (Christianity here) are irreconcilable houses. A divided house will not stand. The secular will fall to be replaced by real Christianity, not the traditional but the original that Jesus intends. This is what the prophecy is all about. The evil (selfishness) in people's hearts will be cut off and burned up never to return. It is the coming enlightenment. Archbishop Williams is looking to ways that would avoid that fall. There is his error. There is also the error of those who most rail against him. For an example of an attack upon his talk, see,by Melanie Phillips. The Spectator. February 9, 2008. The house she upholds will fall.
Also, we didn't go into the issue of homosexuality and the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church in America. Williams has stood against the leadership of the Episcopal Church in its drive to bring in homosexuals. Rowan Williams is personally accepting of homosexuality, something I am not. Oh, I'm not for stoning homosexuals. I'm just not for saying their lifestyle is acceptable, because it isn't. It's immoral and they do have a choice. Everyone has a choice. No one has to have sex of any kind.