Brian McLaren and Ramadan?

So I guess according to this article at World Net Daily (a quite conservative news forum (read: fundamentalist)) Brian McLaren will be celebrating the Muslim fast of Ramadan which is confirmed here and here on McLaren’s website.   Well, Ramadan has already started – Aug 21.  It happens on the 9th month of the Muslim year and that is different every with on our calendar.

So what is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the Muslim holy month of fasting for spiritual renewal and purification. It commemorates the month during which Muslims believe Mohammed received the Quran through divine revelation, and it calls Muslims to self-control, sacrificial generosity and solidarity with the poor, diligent reading of the Quran, and intensified prayer.

Why is McLaren celebrating it? On his website he writes:

We are not doing so in order to become Muslims: we are deeply committed Christians. But as Christians, we want to come close to our Muslim neighbors and to share this important part of life with them. Just as Jesus, a devout Jew, overcame religious prejudice and learned from a Syrophonecian woman and was inspired by her faith two thousand years ago (Matthew 15:21 ff, Mark 7:24 ff), we seek to learn from our Muslim sisters and brothers today.

Here is the question: should McLaren really be doing this in the fashion in which he is going about it, “to come close to our Muslim neighbors and to share this important part of life with them”?

Now of course there is the 30 Days Prayer Network who encourages Christians to pray for the Muslim world during this time – but that seems to be an altogether different take than what McLaren and whoever else is celebrating Ramadan with him is doing.

While I can understand his approach and see what he is trying to get at, I am not persuaded that his approach is the appropriate one – it is too much of an interfaith approach for my taste.  It is one thing talk with your Mislim friends about Ramadan and learn about its variances and nuances, but its entirely different thing to actually participate in it merely just be a nice person and be neighborly.  Rather we should be seeking to engage them to point them to Jesus Christ.

What say you?  Is this a dangerous trend in the emerging church or is this just a dangerous trend for Brian McLaren?


16 responses to “Brian McLaren and Ramadan?

  1. I don’t think it’s a dangerous trend in the emergent church (does anyone still self identify themselves as emergent?) I think it’s just McLaren being stupid.

  2. I can see your point Brian, however, I would wholeheartedly encourage a person to partake in something if they felt to do so. Mclaren has declared his view and I would agree that it is akin to Jesus sitting at the table of Zacchaeus of any other person for that matter. I think we need more Christians who would be willing to sit down with anyone other than another Christian. What is the difference between this and sitting down to watch the Super Bowl with a neighbour who is not a Christian? I do agree with your point about the inter-faith thing. I have many questions about its appropriateness.

    For me personally, I would find it boring and not the least bit interesting. But hey, I don’t have Muslim neighbours.

  3. I do not at all agree with a professed Christian observing the Ramadan fast which commemorates the worshiping of another god. This is another example of what the emergent church openly condones. God Jehovah is the only God that a Christian is to be worshiping. I am all for building relationships with those of a different faith but not adhering to there worship of a false god. I am not going to question his relationship with the Lord but he definitely needs to do some self evaluation.

  4. I used to live in a muslim country. During Ramadan I would not eat in front of any muslim, but I did not observe it myself. I would assume that only a person who identifies with a specific religion would observe it’s holy days. This is bizarre and I have a hard time reconciling this with proper christian conduct.

  5. Well, this is not surprising coming from McLaren. I agree with Nathan Stitt. There is a difference between respecting one and their religion and actually observing their HOLY DAYS.

    Before I became a follower of Christ, I observed Ramaddan with my Muslim roommate in undergrad. She was a nominal Muslim, which is akin to Christmas/Easter for nominal Christians. The devout Muslims obviously see these holy days differently. We fasted during the day and ate after sundown (read pig out. did I just use a pork reference???!). I didn’t pray with her. I would not celebrate Ramaddan with a Muslim friend today. I would respect their customs and preferences as I do with my Orthodox Jew friends, but that’s it.

    It seems McLaren is trying the Hudson Taylor approach to reaching Muslims. In doing so, I think he crosses the line of appearing to accept their “God” and beliefs no matter how much he denies and clarifies.

  6. Sheryl – I am not even convinced McLaren is ever out to be mission in the sense the Hudson Talyor was – while he dressed as the Heathen did – he did not live as the Hethen did (so far as I remember his story). To be sure, Taylor was out for the express purpose of converting the Heathen – I am concerned that this is not necessarily McLaren’s end goal – if so, he has not expressed it and his method, an interfaith approach, goes against that notion as interfaith dialogue or practice is expressly non-evangelical (intentionally not seeking to convert)(think the chaplaincy – it’s by in large an interfaith venture) but instead seeks to promote understanding between faiths and as McLaren has noted on his blog to expeirence the common ground and common good – in my personal opinion, this will get him nowhere if he is hoping to convert.

    As to the Superbowl – I am with Mark, the majority of Americans either idolize the players or idolize the entertainment aspects of the event.

    I do agree with Nate as well – it’s one thing to respect other holy-days but entirely another to actually observe them – that is almost a kind of syncretism. The Israelites got in lots of trouble for doing this very sort of thing. I might suppose if you were in a muslim country perhaps you might go through it once to see how it works and know what happens to increase your understanding of the practice for missionary purposes but I think that would be different than what McLaren is doing, in my opinion.

    Great comments everybody.

  7. Brian– interesting you’d bring up the Israelites as a comparison. That was my initial thought when reading your post. to me, McLaren has been going further away from Christ in his search for “reaching the culture.” syncretism does seem an appropriate description. I’d like to know if Muslims are following Christ as a result of this.

    I would quibble with your point about practicing Ramaddan if living in a Muslim country. I think it would be the opposite effect with believers distinguishing their lives and faith and not observing Ramaddan. At least that is my experience living in other countries and affiliation with military chaplaincy. This would be a good case study for a missions class!

  8. What say you? Is this a dangerous trend in the emerging church or is this just a dangerous trend for Brian McLaren?

    Brian, my only objection to McLaren’s actions is that his purpose is too altruistic instead of evangelistic.

  9. 1. No one has yet mentioned how McLaren contorted the text he used (Jesus and the Syro-Phoneician woman).
    2. I pastor in the Twin Cities and we have a significant Muslim population. I also have Muslim friends. They do not ask that I observe Ramadan with them. I have not done a full Ramadan, but did do a partial one a few years ago because we were with one of our Muslim friends to break fast one evening. I have to tell you it’s a brutal way to fast! Starve, gorge, starve, gorge…YUCK. They had THREE MEALS in one long evening! I was so sick when I left I had to do a regular fast just to feel better.

    3. It is fasting that has given me a huge entre into the Muslim community, though. Several years ago the Lord led me into a 40 day fast. It was modified at some points (fresh vegetables for a few days in the middle because my body was not doing so well, fresh juices instead of just water, etc.), but I was attempting to follow the Lord’s direction. When my Muslim friends discovered I wasn’t eating AT ALL day OR night, they were blown away. (It was kind of humorous.) But in that their level of respect increased because they realized Christians have disciplines as well.

    4. Friends of mine who minister to Muslims will observe Lent in some fashion because they want to be a part of Christian tradition. It also is an identity point for Muslims as well. There is door of opportunity. Muslims have a tendency to think Christians have no discipline (and they would be right in many respects), so when we demonstrate a heart for traditions and observances, they are more attentive.

    As American Christians I think we find too many ways to say, “I don’t HAVE to do that” instead of walking in some traditions and disciplines that not only deepen our walk with the Lord but open up doors of opportunities to other peoples.

  10. I don’t know Brian McLaren myself but if it’s true that his goal is “to promote “the common good, together with people of other faith traditions” then I think it won’t do much good.

    Many Muslims try to learn some of my Christian traditions, but it doesn’t bring them to Christ. Nor does it convince me that my Muslim friends want to get saved just because they learn a bit about “Christian” customs.

    Muslims that I know are certainly not wanting me to fast with them, what they would love is that I give up my faith and observe their “Holy month of Ramadan as a good Muslim”. And I believe that is the difference. Religion is not the issue, for me the issue is salvation.

  11. I enjoyed reading your comments and noticed different point of views and some misunderstanding which stemmed from a luck of knowledge or knowing the other without being bias. I am a Muslim whose part of the family is Christians, precisely Catholic, and when I say Catholic, I mean that I have family members who devote their time building churches, helping those in needs, and the like. All these don’t mean that there is a difference between me, as a Muslim, and my family as Christians. There is always a mutual respect.
    I read the original quote by Mr Brian, and it is his personal choice and he is the only one responsible of it, and it is all limited in his relation to his Creator.

    Another thing, some of you claim that Muslims believe in different God, meaning Creator, and this conclusion is a result of stereotypes, propaganda, geopolitical tensions that was known in early Christianity when changes were made and give a version of what is called “the Bible”. Muslims believe in One God, The Creator of the Universe, The Lord. We LOVE Jesus, Masih or Isa in Arabic, peace of God be upon him and all prophets, and his mother, the pure mother of all mothers Mary or Merriam in Arabic peace of God be upon her as well. Even in the Quran, The Holly Book that some criticize without even reading it, gives a special honor to Jesus’ mother by having a verse in her name “Merriam” peace of God be upon her. More than that, we Muslims give names to our kids as Merriam and Isa, showing respect and having them as good examples in our lives. As Merriam being a good example of a pure woman who protects her dignity and being modest, and Jesus as an example of devotion and patience, and showing Mercy against his enemies who tried to prosecute him when he tried to show them guidance.
    Islam as a religion means submission, and it is monotheistic religion as Judaism and Christianity, and it is the religion of our father Abraham, the father of all prophets, peace of God be upon him and all prophets that we know and don’t know. God creates us in different shapes, gender, color to know each other. and the difference between us in the Sight of Our Creator is our DEEDS.
    The last thing that I would like to mention, and I don’t mean to preach, is the word Allah that causes many problems. Some Christians curse God by referring to Allah as satan, may God forgive you and all of us. Although the word Allah exists in Semitic languages as you can read אֱלָהָא ʼĔlāhā in Biblical Aramaic and ܐܰܠܳܗܳܐ ʼAlâhâ or ʼĀlōho in Syriac, still some Christians who are brainwashed by their leaders, meaning pastors or ministers, that Allah refers to a name satan, and more than that the bible that Christians nowadays is a translation of the source and Arab Christians use the word Allah referring to God as in Palestine, Jordan, Syria where there are still some speak Aramaic.

    We Muslims don’t need to accept Jesus to be saved as some of you believe, but Jesus peace of God be upon him is with us in our daily lives, in our hearts, in every actions. What we see now is corruption and meaningless conflict between the three monotheist religions when all of them worship One God, but some corrupted men use this conflict to gain material things in this life which worth nothing in the Hereafter. On the Day of Judgment, everyone will be questioned and judged according to our deeds, and our prophets will be a witness against us and the lies we forged against them.
    Here is one of verses that talks about Jesus peace of God be upon him and his birth.

    “And remember thy Lord much and glorify HIM in the evening and in the early morning.’ And remember when the angels said, ‘ALLAH has chosen thee and purified thee and chosen thee above all women of the time.

    ‘O Mary, be obedient to thy Lord and prostrate thyself and worship the one God with those who worship HIM.’

    This is of the tidings of things unseen which WE reveal to thee. And thou was not with them when they cast their arrows, as to which of them should be the guardian of Mary, nor was thou with them when they disputed with one another.
    When the angels said, ‘O Mary, ALLAH gives thee glad tidings of a son through a word from HIM; his name shall be the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, honoured in this world and in the next, and of those who are granted nearness to God;
    ‘And he shall speak to the people in the cradle, and when of middle age, and he shall be of the righteous.
    She said, ‘My Lord, how shall I have a son, when no man has touched me? He said, ‘Such is the way of ALLAH. HE creates what HE pleases. When HE decrees a thing HE says to it ‘Be,’ and it is;”—Qur’an, Surah 3:38-48

    As Dr. Jerald Dirks said ” “There is some irony in the fact that the supposedly best, brightest, and most idealistic of ministers-to-be are selected for the very best of seminary education, e.g. that offered at that time at the Harvard Divinity School. The irony is that, given such an education, the seminarian is exposed to … much … historical truth. .. As such, it is no real wonder that almost a majority of such seminary graduates leave seminary, not to “fill pulpits”, where they would be asked to preach that which they know is not true, but to enter the various counseling professions. Such was also the case for me, as I went on to earn a master’s and doctorate in clinical psychology.”
    May God’s peace be upon you!

  12. Muslim Believe In JESUS
    (Peace be upon him)

    to know more please visit

    We are presenting this not to placate you out of policy or diplomacy. We are only articulating what our Creator had commanded us in the Noble Qur’an (Which is translated as follows);

    “Say (O Muslim), “We believe in Allah and that which has been sent down to us and that which has been sent down to Abraham (Abraham), Isma’il (Ishmael), Ishaque (Isaac), Ya’qub (Jacob), and to Al-Asbat [the twelve sons of Ya’cub (Jacob)], and that which has been given to Musa (Moses) and ‘Iesa (Jesus), and that which has been given to the Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and to Him we have submitted (in Islam)”. [Chapter 2: verse 136]

    As Muslims we have no choice. We had said in many words:


    Islam respects all religions. Nevertheless, Muslims consider the view of Christendom to be a misguided one. The Noble Qur’an highlights the important aspects of Jesus (Peace Be Upon Him) mother, his birth, his mission and his ascension to heaven.
    Story of Jesus (Peace Be Upon Him) in the Noble Qur’an starts with the conception of his mother, Mary, when the wife of Imran, Mary’s mother, vowed to dedicate her child to the service of God in the temple. This is mentioned in the following verses (Which is translated as follows);

    “(Remember) when the wife of ‘Imran said: “O my Lord! I have vowed to You what (the child that) is in my womb to be dedicated for Your services (free from all worldly work; to serve Your place of worship), so accept this, from me. Verily, You are the All-Hearer, the All-Knowing” “Then when she delivered her child [Maryam (Mary)], she said: “O my Lord! I have delivered a female child,” — and Allah knew better what she delivered, — “And the male is not like the female, and I have named her Maryam (Mary), and I seek refuge with You (Allah) for her and for her offspring from Shaitan (Satan), the outcast.” “So her Lord (Allah) accepted her with goodly acceptance, He made her grow in a good manner and put her under the care of Zakariya (Zachariya). Every time he entered Al-Mihrab (a praying place or private room) to (visit) her, he found her supplied with sustenance. He said: “O Maryam (Mary)! from where have you got this?” She said “This is from Allah” Verily, Allah provides sustenance to whom He wills, without limit” [Chapter 3: verses 35-37]

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