Mary sent me this article a while back about a trend of conversions to Islam by women in the UK.
Here’s an example story:
Women like Kristiane Backer, 43, a London-based former MTV presenter who had led the kind of liberal Western-style life that I yearned for as a teenager, yet who turned her back on it and embraced Islam instead. Her reason? The ‘anything goes’ permissive society that I coveted had proved to be a superficial void.
The turning point for Kristiane came when she met and briefly dated the former Pakistani cricketer and Muslim Imran Khan in 1992 during the height of her career. He took her to Pakistan where she says she was immediately touched by spirituality and the warmth of the people.
Kristiane says: ‘Though our relationship didn’t last, I began to study the Muslim faith and eventually converted. Because of the nature of my job, I’d been out interviewing rock stars, travelling all over the world and following every trend, yet I’d felt empty inside. Now, at last, I had contentment because Islam had given me a purpose in life.’
‘In the West, we are stressed for superficial reasons, like what clothes to wear. In Islam, everyone looks to a higher goal. Everything is done to please God. It was a completely different value system.
‘Despite my lifestyle, I felt empty inside and realised how liberating it was to be a Muslim. To follow only one god makes life purer. You are not chasing every fad.
‘I grew up in Germany in a not very religious Protestant family. I drank and I partied, but I realised that we need to behave well now so we have a good after-life. We are responsible for our own actions.’
For a significant amount of women, their first contact with Islam comes from dating a Muslim boyfriend. Lynne Ali, 31, from Dagenham in Essex, freely admits to having been ‘a typical white hard-partying teenager’.
She says: ‘I would go out and get drunk with friends, wear tight and revealing clothing and date boys.
‘I also worked part-time as a DJ, so I was really into the club scene. I used to pray a bit as a Christian, but I used God as a sort of doctor, to fix things in my life. If anyone asked, I would’ve said that, generally, I was happy living life in the fast lane.’
But when she met her boyfriend, Zahid, at university, something dramatic happened.
She says: ‘His sister started talking to me about Islam, and it was as if everything in my life fitted into place. I think, underneath it all, I must have been searching for something, and I wasn’t feeling fulfilled by my hard-drinking party lifestyle.’
Why is this happening? Why are women in the West choosing Islam? Is it because Islam is tested and found to be true?
I have a hypothesis, but I am open to hearing other ideas. I think that what these women are looking for is not really truth, but community and a system of rules that they can follow in order to feel accepted by the community and to feel less guilty about the mistakes they made in the past. It’s not like they are undertaking some survey of religions and evaluating each one based on logical and evidential criteria. It’s not like they watched debates and listened to multiple sides in conflict. No. It’s that they partied a lot, then felt guilty, then picked a religion with rules about prayer and dress, (easy things they can show off and talk about), that would make their guilt go away. They turned over a new leaf and their new community-approved behavior is giving them acceptance and self-esteem. Truth has nothing to do with their search, and they don’t think that anyone else’s view is “false” either. They have no intention of arguing for their new convictions with other faith communities to see whose view is true. The point of their conversion is NOT to be RIGHT, it’s to FEEL GOOD about themselves after all the bad things they did. Religion is really on the same level as yoga, vegetarianism, recycling or pilades – it’s about subjective experience and feelings not about objective truth.
I identify this phenomenon primarily with women, but many men do it too. I would say something like 70% of women and 30% of men have this subjective approach to religion. This is why I complain about the “feminization” of Christianity. But Biblical Christianity is not feminized – it’s not postmodern, it’s not relativistic and it’s not universalist. We Christians should not want to appeal to the felt needs of people looking for community and self-esteem. We are a community based on truth, not a community based on feelings and needs and emotions. If religion is nothing but community and emotions, then there is nothing special about Jesus. He’s just one flavor – you can choose him if you like him, but if you don’t like him then you aren’t rationally obligated (by arguments and evidence) to choose him. I am appalled some people think of religion this way. It annoys me intensely. They are treating religion as the search for handbag or a new pair of shoes – shopping therapy to assuage guilty feelings.
When I see people choosing their religion like these women, it really causes me to wonder what is really going on in our churches. Is that all we are – a country club where people sing and feel a sense of belonging to a community and that some untested spirit in the sky is taking care of them? I know that the Bible doesn’t sanction a subjective approach to religion, but what if the church gets feminized and just dumps the Bible and focuses on creating tolerant welcoming communities and self-esteem building? Do we really believe that these moral rules are authoritative, and that they reflect God’s character and his design for us – our moral obligations? What if we minimize truth and sin and Hell and just give people a country club where people can discuss the weather, vacations and their kids’ extracurricular activities, and sing songs together, and assuage their guilt over their mispent youths. I am not saying that Christians have to be morally perfect – but maybe we would project seriousness about these matters if we were a little more informed and a little more self-sacrificial.
The question I have is – why don’t Christians make a bigger deal about the importance of truth so they can distinguish Christianity from other religions, and why don’t we do a better job of explaining our moral rules, (e.g. – chastity, pro-life, pro-marriage), with real logic and real evidence? Maybe if we made our Biblical criteria (truth) known, then people who choose Islam would realize that they were just jumping at religions based on their personal preferences, and neglecting to ask which one is true. Maybe then we would have something to offer other than nice buildings, “non-judgmental” (moral relativist) people, and good worship songs that make people have happy feelings. I know that people actually choose churches based on superficial things like whether they like the building or the songs. It makes me sick. It makes me sick to think that atheists are looking at us and thinking that we are all just irrational weaklings mouthing words that we have no reason to believe, and adopting rules in order to feel good about ourselves. Do people in the church have any idea how this looks to outsiders? They’re not stupid. They can tell authentic Christians from fakes.