Fatwa, the Bible, and Us


Would you join a religion that permitted men to have sex with the women they captured in war? What if this religion codified this behavior in its holy book?


In a raid last spring on ISIS in Syria, a document was uncovered which outlines 15 points related to the keeping and raping of women captives.


The document, released to the public in the fall of 2015, had the authority of a “fatwa.” Do you have a question about a moral/religious issue? Is the teaching unclear? Call a religious expert who will give you a legal ruling – a “fatwa” – on the issue.


It’s Fatwa 64. You can read it here. A theology of rape.


Disturbing. Disgusting. Sickening. Shocking.


It is so repulsive I won’t put it in print.


Here’s my dilemma. There are in print, in another holy book, guidelines for the treatment of women captured in battle.


“When the LORD your God lets you capture the city, kill every man in it. You may however, take for yourselves the women, the children, the livestock, and everything else in the city. You may use everything that belongs to your enemies. The LORD has given it to you. That is how you are to deal with those cities that are far away from the land you will settle in. But when you capture cities in the land that the LORD your God is giving you, kill them all. Completely destroy all the people…” (Deuteronomy 20:10-16).


“When you go out to battle against your enemies, and the LORD your God delivers them into your hands and you take them away captive, and see among the captives a beautiful woman, and have a desire for her and would take her as a wife for yourself, then you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall shave her head and trim her nails. She shall also remove the clothes of her captivity and shall remain in your house and mourn her father and mother a full month; and after that you may go in to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife. It shall be, if you are not pleased with her then you shall let her go wherever she wishes; but you shall certainly not sell her for money, you shall not mistreat her, because you have humbled her” (Deuteronomy 21:10-14). I underlined “humbled” because the same Hebrew word is used in Judges 20:5 where it is translated “rape.”


“Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept a man” (Numbers 31:17-18).


So Moses and Eleazar the priest did as the LORD commanded Moses. The plunder remaining from the spoils that the soldiers took was 675,000 sheep, 72,000 cattle, 61,000 donkey and 32,000 women who had never slept with a man” (Numbers 31:30-31, 35). Like the animals, the virgins are property to be divvied up.



In keeping with the guidelines set before them, it is recorded that the Israelites, to make up for a deficit of women in the Hebrew tribe of Benjamin,

“sent 12,000 fighting men with instructions to go to Jabesh Gilead and put to the sword those living there, including the women and children. ‘This is what you are to do,’ they said. ‘Kill every male and every woman who is not a virgin.’ They found among the people living in Jabesh Gilead 400 young women who had never slept with a man, and they took them to the camp at Shiloh in Canaan…So the Benjamites returned at that time and were given the women of Jabesh Gilead who had been spared. But there were not enough for all of them” (Judges 21:10-14).


Not enough women for all of them? What to do? What to do?


“So they instructed the Benjamites, saying, ‘Go and hide in the vineyards and watch. When the young women of Shiloh come out to join in the dancing, rush from the vineyards and each of you seize one of them to be your wife’” (Judges 21:20-21).


Well, at least this time, they only took the virgin girls without slaughtering everyone else.


Do you have the same dilemma as I?
We rightfully condemn Fatwa 64. So, what do we do with these guidelines and accounts found in the Christian’s holy book, the Bible?


Despite what some may think, I’m not trying to undermine the Bible or mess with anyone’s faith.


But, is it fair to think that anyone who is a serious student of Scripture has to face these passages and the issues they raise head on?


Isn’t it our Christian responsibility to take this on and not avoid it.


Since the Constitution demands that “no religious test ever be required as qualification to any office or public trust…” I’m not going to give a test. But I did learn a couple of lessons from a test given to Trump.


Candidate Trump was asked what his favorite Bible verse was after he said it was his favorite book.


“Well, I wouldn’t want to get into it, because to me that’s very personal. You know, when I talk about the Bible, it’s very personal, so I don’t want to get into verses.”


“There’s no verse that means a lot to you?” the questioner asked.


“The Bible means a lot to me, but I don’t want to get into specifics,” Trump answered.


Another question: “Are you an Old Testament or a New Testament guy?”

“Probably equal,” Trump said. “I think it’s just an incredible, the whole Bible is an incredible-“ Trump then trailed off for a brief second before joking that the Bible is his favorite book while his book, “The Art of the Deal” comes in second.


But, we do need to get into “specifics.”

We need to carefully, diligently analyze the Bible – both Old and New Testaments – to understand and determine how we’d answer the question: “Are you an Old Testament or a New Testament guy?”


There is disagreement, obviously, on how this issue should be handled. But maybe we can all agree on this: “…whoever claims to belong to him, must live as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6).


“Christians Only?”


christians only 2.jpg

We are all trying to figure out the best path to peace out of the terror that is in our world today. One path chosen by some Presidential candidates is to make sure that the only refugees allowed to take a path into the U.S. are Christian. To steal a line from SNL, “Isn’t that special?”

The basis for the “Christian only” policy?

In one candidate’s own words: “There is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror.”

Let’s stay away from the political and go with the theological. I’ve got to ask:

First, How do we screen the refugees to ensure that Jesus is just all right with them? How do we prove someone is or isn’t a Christian? Is it a baptismal certificate? A fish bumper sticker? A date of when they walked the aisle, written in the front page of their Bible? A secret handshake? Do we go back to Biblical times and follow the pattern of identity given by God to Jewish men? Yikes.

Second, What if some non-Christian just pretended to be Christian in order to sneak into America?

Third, No Christian terrorists? “There is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror.” Really? Maybe this is about history as well as theology.
History has in it plenty of episodes of “Christians committing acts of terror”: 700 years of “Inquisition.”

The politician goes on to say, “If there were a group of radical Christians pledging to murder anyone who had a different religious view than they, we would have a different national security situation.” We could ask the Waldensians about what happens when you have a “different religious view” than the established church. We could ask the people of Oklahoma City and Charleston about the reality of Christian terrorism.

Then there is this page from history expressed on the pages of Jews, God, and History by Max I. Dimont, “New industries develop special skills, and the Nazi concentration camp industry was no exception. Adept Sonderkommandos learned to apply grappling hooks with skill to separate bodies. Trained technicians learned to pry dead lips apart and deftly knock out gold-filled teeth. Talented barbers dexterously shaved the heads of dead women. Six days a week, the new elite worked in the concentration camps. On Sunday, they rested, went to church with their wives and children, and after church talked with horror about the eastern front where Russians were killing German soldiers, and commented on the barbarity of the Americans, who were dropping bombs on civilians.

 History has shown that followers of Jesus have not always acted like Jesus.

Another candidate, proposing the “Christians only” view, was asked by a reporter about how he would determine who is a Christian. Here’s his answer “I mean, you can prove you’re a Christian.   I think you can prove it. If you can’t prove it, you are on the side of caution.”

 “How do you know if someone is a Christian?” is a legitimate question. Here’s Jesus’ answer:

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

“We know that we have passed from death to life because we love each other”
(1 John 3:14).

Just in case some interpret “each other” and “one another” only to apply to “other” Christians, there’s this zinger:

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45).

As usual, I have more questions than answers:

If love is the proof of following Christ, then how many of us would be allowed in?

Should refugees pass a test before being allowed in? My limited understanding of the process in place leads me to believe that there is some kind of test.

Is Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals onto something when he says, “Of course we want to keep terrorists out of our country, but let’s not punish the victims of ISIS for the sins of ISIS.”

Does proposing a “Christian only” test show a misunderstanding of both Christianity and Islam?

How do we express the life and ways of Jesus in our world?  A member of a small group I attend is posing this question for discussion at our group’s gathering tonight: “What would Jesus do with a murderous Parisian terrorist?”

Your answer?