Christianity vs Islam: Countercyclicity?

By Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung

“Countercyclicity” means that both move through history in cycles, up and down; with one moving up when the other moves down.

Christianity started with its founder crucified, like the first pope St Peter; Christians were tortured, killed, expelled from Jewish Palestine. But then indeed up, as religio licita in the Roman Empire in 313, defined in Nicaea in 325 by Emperor Constantine. The Empire split in 395, with a Catholic Church in the West – contracting, monastic after the Western Empire fell in 476 – and an Orthodox Church in the East, till Constantinople became Istanbul in 1453 – Moscow became “the Third Rome”.

Islam started with the Prophet’s hizrat, migration from Mecca to Medina as city-state under Mohammed till he died in 632. From then till the end of the umayyad Damascus dynasty in 750, Islam covered the lands from Iberia (not Asturias) as the caliphate of Cordoba in 711, to Iran. Moving on, the abassid Baghdad dynasty till the 1258 massacre by Mongols, the sultanates of Delhi in 1192, Pattani now Thailand, Aceh in Sumatra; Sulu and Maguindanao in Mindanao, Philippines in 1405, 1490s.

Ahead of expansionist Christian Magellan 1520-21. After Columbus 1492 – the arch-year of Christian expansion – conquering the caliphate around Granada, killing, ethnic cleansing, of Moros and Jews, and the bolla papale of Pope Alejandro VI, 4 May 1493, legitimizing colonization and imperialism in most of the world. The East Roman Empire hanged on a thousand years while contracting; Istanbul became the center of the huge Ottoman Empire in 1517, stagnated, succumbed in 1922-4 to expansionist Christian powers: Sykes-Picot. Expansion, till Gandhi liberated India in 1947, USA did not win in Korea in 1953, colonialism ended in 1960, Vietnam defeat in 1975, USA-West losing in Muslim Central-West Asia in the 2000s.

“The West running out of steam”? Indeed, nothing human is forever. But why are the cycles related negatively, both in West and East?

Conquering each other? No. One declines before the other expands.

The five “world religions” are Judaism (0.2%); Christianity (33%; 17% Catholics, 6% Protestants, 4% Orthodox); Islam (21%); Hinduism (14%) and Buddhism (6%). They differ. Christianity-Islam, above half of humanity, are singularist, the only truth, and universalist, for the whole world. Hence missionary work and clashes. A solution was Christian-Islamic space divided with Islam in the desert, Christianity in the temperate zone, Hinduism in India, and Buddhism in the tropics.

Judaism is for the Chosen few, Hinduism a pluralism of faiths; and buddhism is pluralist, like in the Chinese and Japanese amalgams. The problem is mutually exclusive Christianity-Islam. Monotheist?

Judaism-Islam are monotheist; Catholicism even quaternarian[i]:

A trinitarian version is clear in Matthew 28:19, baptized “in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”, three faces of one God. The Father and his emanation, the Holy Spirit, are the church pillars, the Holy Spirit received by the believers, starting with the popes. Headed by the Pope, a curia of learned interpreters, the congregation.

With a counterpoint in the semi-divine love for the neighbor, the enemy, samaritan work; liberation from Empire and Pharisees. And “Ave Maria, ora pro nobis“, interceding for the sinners – peccatoribus. Something human, missing in the intellectual wisdom of the Qur’an.

The Holy Spirit and Mary begat Jesus by immaculate conception. A family with contradictions: a stern Church against a loving Jesus & Mary. Nothing like this in Islam: a one-line article of faith in one God, Alla’h and the Prophet, shahadah, against a dozen lines in three articles for Father-Son-Holy Spirit; some dogmas very hard to believe.

Islam has the Mosque headed by an imam, leader (no pope), the ulema of learned interpreters, and the vast ummah of the believers.

Islam adds action: salat-prayer/hajj-pilgrimage for togetherness, zakat-giving/ramadan-fasting for sharing: five times a day, a month, once a life. Protestantism focuses on ceremony and the life of Christ twice a year–Christmas for birth, Easter for death-resurrection, for “that of God”, the rest for “that of Caesar”, opening for secularism.

Contents so similar, except for the christology, yet so different.

Missionary Christianity based on the Church, Jesus-Mary love and economic-military-political power; Islam on the Mosque, togetherness and sharing, and jihad: by example, the word, honest trade and the tip of the sword if Islam is trampled upon (but who decides when?). The West, evangelism, uses bombs, drones, snipers offensively, all over.

We now enter a period with Islam expanding into Christian-secular lands; Islam having something concrete to offer which West needs.

In the West the State side-tracked Jesus-Mary, turning love for thy neighbor into welfare state bureaucracy; creating loneliness, I-culture alienation; Islam offers togetherness, we-culture sharing.

As to economic power: the West is richest; no Muslim country in the BRICS (Indonesia may one day, making BRIICS). But the West, out-competed in the real economy, turned to finance economy-speculation, going down with crisis after crisis.

Up comes Islamic banking, the shariah banning money relations interest, commissions only, in favor of deeper economic cooperation for mutual and equal benefit and up and down together. Peace. Moreover, Islam seems also to be beating the “strongest power on earth”, the USA, militarily; again and again.

PROGNOSIS I: massive conversion to Islam; less dogma, more action.

PROGNOSIS II: Islamic Banking will inspire Western economy.

PROGNOSIS III: Christianity turns to Jesus-Mary love, Islam follows.

The West will find Islam more tolerant of them than vice versa; but on Islam’s premises: abrahamic non-Muslims as second class citizens.

Dialogue is good but time has now come for mutual learning, for both-and, the two largest faiths picking the best from each other.

Reviving the Jewish-Christian-Muslim convivencia of Cordoba-Granada.


[i]. The present Jesuit Pope Francis tries to bridge the gap, both the freshness of the gospels about Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

Originally published here.

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