An outspoken Baptist minister has come down hard against Christian churches that don’t accept gay marriage or question global warming, declaring that “Muslims and Christians worship the same God” but that Muslims are sometimes closer to the teaching of Jesus than Christian churches.
“There are Christians who worship a militant, violent God,” said Steve Chalke, pastor and founder of the UK-based Oasis charity. “There are Christians who worship a God who doesn’t want women in leadership. There are Christians who worship a God who says if you are gay you will burn in hell. There are Christians who worship a God who does not believe in global warming.”
Chalke said that these aberrant forms of Christianity are further from the gospel of Jesus than many Muslim beliefs.
“I know some emphases in Islamic teaching come closer to the teaching of Christ and the Bible than some teaching in Western churches,” he said.
Chalke also affirmed his belief that all believers ultimately worship one and the same God, even if they understand him in different ways.
“As individuals we all worship different shades of the same God,” he said. “If we say Islam is an evil religion and they worship a different God and Christianity is the only way to heaven then we are heading for World War Three,” he added.
Chalke argues that “negative radicalization is not an Islamic problem but a human one.”
While acknowledging that there are “huge differences” between Islam and Christianity, Chalke said that he finds certain elements of Islamic belief “very attractive,” such as the theology of ummah or community.
Still, Chalke prefers to identify himself as a Christian. “Ultimately the full interpretation of who Allah/God is can be seen through Jesus,” he said.
In 2013, Rev. Chalke caused a stir when he came out publicly in favor of gay marriage, comparing sexual orientation to being right-handed or left-handed.
“When we refuse to make room for gay people to live in loving, stable relationships, we consign them to lives of loneliness, secrecy, fear and even of deceit,” he wrote.
Chalke defended his shift in opinion by appealing to biblical scholarship, claiming that the Bible only condemns promiscuous homosexual practice rather than stable homoerotic relationships.
“A growing number of scholars, including evangelicals, argue that what the New Testament writers have in mind when they refer to homosexual practice could not have been the loving and stable same-sex unions of the sort that exist today,” he said.
The pastor blames the “tabloid media” for presenting Christians in a two-dimensional way, as “anti-gay, anti-abortion, boring.” Now pastors “have to spend half their time de-mythologizing Christianity,” he said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome