When I was a
child, growing up in the sixties and seventies just a few blocks away from the notorious
Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, I was surrounded by the hippie
movement. It was a “turn on, tune in, drop out” age of sexual freedom, cultural
revolution and social recklessness.
Happily, I was never caught up in the hippie
movement, but being so close to it, I could not help but observe its
development. One thing I clearly remember is how many hippies were labeled “Jesus
freaks.” As I surf my childhood memories, nearly four decades later, this
euphemism strikes me as having been decidedly peculiar. These hippies were considered
“Jesus freaks” because they dressed as Jesus did, grew their hair as he did,
renounced materialism as he did, and propagated devotion to God, peace, charity
and communal love.
Now, many whom embarked upon this path fell into
hallucinogenic drug use and wanton sexual proclivities—practices which are far
from the example of Jesus—but this is not why these hippies were called Jesus
freaks. Rather, they were called Jesus freaks for their long hair, loose
clothing, asceticism, communal unity and passivism, all a result of their
effort to live like Jesus. The House of Love and Prayer, located nearby in the
avenues, was a collecting point for many of these well-meaning souls, and the
title of the institution reflected their focus in life.
Looking back, what seems strange to me now is
not that people would wish to embody Jesus’ values, but that others would
criticize them for it. What seems even stranger is that few Christians, in the
modern day, match this profile. Indeed, what seemed most strange to me,
prior to my conversion to Islam, is that Muslims seemed to embody Jesus’ values
better than Christians.
Now, that assertion requires an explanation, and
it goes like this: To begin with, both Christianity and Islam consider Jesus to
have been a prophet of their religion. However, whereas Jesus’ teachings have
been lost from the creed and practices of most Christians (see my article, Where
is the “Christ” in “Christianity?”), these same teachings are respected and
evident in Islam.
Let us look at some examples.
1. Jesus was bearded, as are most Muslims, but only the rare Christian.
2. Jesus dressed modestly. If we close our eyes and form a mental
picture, we see flowing robes, from wrists to ankles—much like the loose
Arabian thobes and the Indio-Pakistani shalwar kameez, typical of the Muslims
of those areas. What we don’t imagine is the revealing or seductive clothing
so ubiquitous in Christian cultures.
3. Jesus’ mother covered her hair, and this practice was maintained among
the Christian women of the Holy Land up to the middle of the twentieth century.
Again, this is a practice maintained among Muslims as well as Orthodox Jews (of
which Jesus was one), but not among modern day Christians.
1. Jesus focused upon salvation and eschewed finery. How many “righteous”
Christians fit this “It’s not just on Sundays” profile? Now how many “five
prayers a day, every day of the year” Muslims?
2. Jesus spoke with humility and kindness. He didn’t “showboat.” When we
think of his speeches, we don’t imagine theatrics. He was a simple man known
for quality and truth. How many preachers and how many evangelists follow this
3. Jesus taught his disciples to offer the greeting of “Peace” (Luke 10:5),
and then set the example: “Peace be with you” (Luke 24:36, John 20:19, John
20:21, John 20:26). Who continues this practice to this day, Christians or
Muslims? “Peace be with you” is the meaning of the Muslim greeting, “Assalam
alaikum.” Interestingly enough, we find this greeting in Judaism as well
(Genesis 43:23, Numbers 6:26, Judges 6:23, I Samuel 1:17 and I Samuel 25:6).
1. Jesus was circumcised (Luke 2:21). Paul taught it wasn’t necessary
(Rom 4:11 and Gal 5:2). Muslims believe it is.
2. Jesus didn’t eat pork, in keeping with Old Testament law (Leviticus
11:7 and Deuteronomy 14:8). Muslims also believe pork is forbidden. Christians
… well, you get the idea.
Jesus didn’t give or take usury, in compliance with
the Old Testament prohibition (Exodus
22:25). Usury is forbidden in the Old Testament and the Quran, as it was
forbidden in the religion of Jesus. The economies of most Christian countries,
however, are structured upon usury.
4. Jesus didn’t fornicate, and abstained from extramarital contact with
women. Now, this issue extends to the least physical contact with the opposite
sex. With the exception of performing religious rituals and helping those in
need, Jesus never even touched a woman other than his mother. Strictly
practicing Orthodox Jews maintain this practice to this day in observance of
Old Testament law. Likewise, practicing Muslims don’t even shake hands between
the sexes. Can Christian “hug your neighbor” and “kiss the bride”
congregations make the same claim?
Practices of Worship
1. Jesus purified himself with washing prior to prayer, as was the
practice of the pious prophets who preceded him (see Exodus 40:31-32 in
reference to Moses and Aaron), and as is the practice of Muslims.
2. Jesus prayed in prostration (Matthew 26:39), like the other prophets
(see Nehemiah 8:6 with regard to Ezra and the people, Joshua 5:14 for Joshua,
Genesis 17:3 and 24:52 for Abraham, Exodus 34:8 and Numbers 20:6 for Moses and
Aaron). Who prays like that, Christians or Muslims?
Jesus fasted for more than a month at a time
(Matthew 4:2 and Luke 4:2), as did the pious before him (Exodus 34:28, I Kings
19:8), and as do Muslims in the annual fast of the month of Ramadan.
Jesus made pilgrimage for the purpose of worship,
as all Orthodox Jews aspire to do. The Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca is well
known, and is alluded to in the Bible (see The First and Final Commandment).
Matters of Creed
1. Jesus taught the oneness of God (Mark 12:29-30, Matthew 22:37 and Luke
10:27), as conveyed in the first commandment (Exodus 20:3). Nowhere did he
declare the Trinity.
2. Jesus declared himself a man and a prophet of God (see above), and
nowhere claimed divinity or divine sonship. Which creed are the above points
more consistent with—the Trinitarian formula or the absolute monotheism of
In short, Muslims appear to be the “Jesus freaks”
of modern day, if by that expression we mean those who live by God’s laws and
Carmichael notes, “… for a whole generation
after Jesus’ death his followers were pious Jews and proud of it, had attracted
into their fold members of the professional religious classes, and did not
deviate even from the burdensome ceremonial laws.”
One wonders what happened between the practices
of the first generation of Jesus’ followers and the Christians of modern day. At
the same time, we have to respect the fact that Muslims exemplify Jesus’
teachings more than Christians do. Furthermore, we should remember that the
Old Testament foretold three prophets to follow. John the Baptist and Jesus
Christ were numbers one and two, and Jesus Christ himself predicted the third
and last. Hence, both Old and New Testaments speak of a final prophet, and we
would be amiss if we didn’t consider that final prophet to be Muhammad, and the
final revelation to be that of Islam.
Copyright © 2007 Laurence B. Brown.
Laurence B. Brown, MD, can be contacted at BrownL38@yahoo.com.
He is the author of The First and Final Commandment (Amana
Publications) and Bearing True Witness (Dar-us-Salam). Forthcoming
books are a historical thriller, The Eighth Scroll, and a second edition
of The First and Final Commandment, rewritten and divided into MisGod'ed
and its sequel, God’ed.