why Islam appears to be kicking christianity’s ass

(note: kicking ass for now)religion subtle


I am not a theologian nor particularly religiously knowledgeable. However Christianity, and its role around the world, is very important to a number of people I care about and respect. Through work and some friendships I have been on the periphery of the religious discussion and Christianity’s place in today’s world. I have an opinion and this point of view shares it. You will see some numbers which I have used to provide some perspective. I have used as sources a variety of online/USA Today articles and research.


The situation (or challenge)


There is absolutely a decline of Christianity (no matter how you look at the numbers). Suffice it to say within the world’s largest democracies Christianity is a declining portion of the population in all but South Korea and Japan.

Conversions away from the faith are the mainreason. From 1990 to 2008, the portion of American adults who self-identify as Christians has dropped 10 percentage points (from 86% to 76%), while the portion of those who report no religious affiliation has almost doubled — from 8% to 15%. All the while Atheism and other forms of non-belief have been expanding in the United States.

The total number of Muslims is a little more than one fifth of the world’s population, over a billion Muslims in the world, a majority in 50 nations. Just 2% of the world’s Muslims live in the West. The growth rate of the Muslim population, which averaged 1.9 between 2000 and 2006, is also far higher than the world’s population growth rate, which averaged 1.2% in the same period. It is also much faster than any other major religious group.

Nevertheless, even if a Muslim majority is coming it probably will not be soon. Over the last six years the Muslim population has grown only about two thirds of a percentage point a year faster than the world population.

It is interesting to note (and relevant to this writing) that a conference of Muslim leaders in Mecca in 1899 was called to discuss the decline of Islam. From then the second half of the twentieth century has seen a Muslim revival.

Possibly most importantly, Islam is growing in organizational strength, not just numbers. It has undergone massive restructuring in the last five years. Mosques and other institutions are proliferating, and Muslims are exerting their influence in such fields as education, censorship and politics. This is no accident. A document produced by a prominent Muslim leader in the UK in the early 1980s described the Islamic movement in the West as ‘an organized struggle to change the existing society into an Islamic Society with the Qur’an and Sunna as its base’.

Islam is organized and focused and has momentum.


Okay. Let’s not haggle over the exact numbers. Christianity has an issue and Islam is taking advantage.


Attacking the Issue: Separate Religion from Church

I believe Christians need to separate their belief in the religion from their bias toward a particular church. To me religion is the practice of believing in a higher power, or at minimum, subscribing to a particular set of values while the Church is simply a place, or a construct within, you go to learn these things.

I believe church (or churches) are confusing people. Each church seems to have a different set of rules as well as a different interpretation of the bible. Most critically it has become difficult to understand what is unifying between all the different church groups (and I admit .. it may be there .. that unifying aspect .. but the individual church rhetoric is so noisy I cannot hear it). Suffice it to say the current situation has discouraged even some of the faithful.


Let’s get more people to consider Christianity (then offer a specific church group).

Hey. I am not against competition. And I believe every spiritual path has the right to be passionate with regard to their beliefs and their path. What I do believe is troublesome is when the “in fighting” creates confusion and the entire industry suffers in totality.

religion jesus thanksEvery Christian church group should be passionate about their path to God. BUT. It shouldn’t come at the expense of the bigger issue – Christianity.

The best example I can think of at the moment is the US Armed Forces. I am quite sure that behind closed doors the Marines, Army, Air Force and Navy (and maybe the National Guard and Coast Guard and whatever) are pushing and pulling for their own self interest. And each branch has an identity and does whatever it can do to remind people of the difference. But come war the objective is clear, differences put aside and they work together to win. They understand the overall objective is more important than the individual constituents. Is there some chafing? Sure. Is there alignment on doing what is best for US interests? Sure.

There will be debate. There will be arguments. People will get pissed at each other (or whatever version of pissed off Christian leaders are permitted to be). But in the end the whole is stronger than the parts. I am confident no one, and I mean no one, can beat an aligned focused US Armed Forces initiative. And I would argue the same for Christianity.



Discipline. Rules.


One of the people I admire most in the world is a Marine highly decorated from his service in Vietnam. But my admiration and respect has little to do with decorations (although I admit it earns my ultimate respect), but rather with the man himself. He is a master coordinator, organizer and inspirer. As a CEO of a global franchise organization, he put in place the discipline and set of rules that defined who could be on his team and be successful. But that was the basics. He set out a framework of attitudinal “rules” and values as well as defined an organizational attitude. Instilled with these additional parameters, this organization, and others he has been associated with, clearly defined itself in the marketplace, gathered likeminded people and ultimately became globally successful and wealthy. So rules can include attitude as well as “things we have to do.”

Maybe Christianity needs the same discipline and rules as a successful franchise organization.

I apologize to theologians by comparing religion to a global franchise organization but the parallels are too great to ignore by a non-believer such as I. Disparate locations with a common goal and an objective to be more successful than the competition. If a 3000 unit franchise organization can figure out how to remain aligned enough globally to be efficient focused and successful, surely a Christian organization can.

Setting the rules.


There has to be some required actions to support the words, i.e., things we have to do. “I am a Christian” cannot simply be rhetoric. And therein lies the tricky part for Christianity – setting the rules to be a Christian. Tangible actionable rules. I won’t suggest them here. That is to be decided by Christians.

But here is a hint on how it starts. With all Christian groups in one room at one time.

The Discussion begins ….

“Is Christianity the best path to God (in the group’s eyes)?” This is a simple yes or no answer.

“Great. We are all agreed.”

“Why do we agree?” One sentence (preferably using words people can understand). This is a Christian’s belief in why a person should want to be a Christian believer.

So what are the rules to be a Christian? And if this is the ten commandments that is okay but let’s make sure everyone defines them all the same way. Or if you want to say 5 commandments have a higher priority than the other 5, great, do it. But agree and state the rules.

Who communicates the education? Whew. This is a challenging one. The Pope is probably the most well known Christian spokesperson. And let’s say he is not biased toward Catholicism (like he is doing today trying to find a common platform for all religions). I just don’t think it would work. He has Catholic rules (on top of Christian rules) he needs to follow. Hey. That’s cool. That just means Christianity needs to find someone who can share in a clear, non-condescending way what Christianity stands for and what makes a “Christian” (the basics). I don’t really have an idea here but you get the point.


Having the discipline to maintain the Rules


“Oops. I believe in a Christian God but I just got cut from the team.”


(A brief message from God)

Well, yes, you did just get cut. Sorry about that. But to be on this team you have to follow my rules and you have to have the same attitude. Once you follow the basic rules you can surely rejoin the team. Whatever portion of the Christian team you want to join in fact. (that means whatever church you would like to join)

Let me be specific on those of you who just got cut.


You nutcases. The extremists. Dear nutcases, while your fervent belief is admirable you just aren’t following the rules. In fact you are breaking them. And, I have to be honest, not only do I believe you should be cut from the team, but I also believe you should be punished for breaking the rules. I will proactively squash behavior that breaks the rules (mostly those of you who use violence to advance our beliefs).

Oh get off my case. I believe we should squash any violent behavior to further a particular belief in God (regardless of the religion) but you guys REALLY piss me off cause you are Christians doing it in my name. So before I think about addressing violent Islam extremism I am gonna take care of my own house first. So beware if you BREAK rules.

You “spiritual” people. The ones who don’t believe in organized religion but believe in god. Sorry. You are cut from the team too. It’s not that you are breaking rules you just refuse to follow them. Any of them (and I am giving you a lot of paths to choose from). So I cannot condone your attitude or actions. I sincerely don’t believe the path you are taking is the right path to a Christian God. Hey. It’s cool. You can do your own thing but you just cannot be on my team. Unlike the nutcases you don’t piss me off. I am just a little sad because I don’t believe you are on the right path. Any time you want to follow my rules I would welcome you with open arms.


So now that I have cut people from the team how can I recruit people I want?

Sincerely, God.


Educating people.


I am a marketing professional. Most importantly, I believe marketing is really religion god literallyabout educating people about meaningful things so they can make meaningful decisions. If there was ever a time where marketing – or whatever you would want to call an external “what is Christianity?” education program – makes sense, this is the time. Islam has drawn a line in the sand. They do not try to “contextualize their beliefs to a new generation” (I heard that from someone) but rather simply state who and what the religious beliefs are for and about. It’s time for all Christian churches to step up and do the same.


Where the Education could fall apart (“Oh, that tricky forgiveness.”)


Remember those rules I talked about earlier? Well, they apply to the Christian internal staff exponentially. Yes. Christianity’s internal ‘staff.’ In the Christian company the employees need to tow the line or get fired. Clergy (however defined in each Christian sector) need to uphold the ‘rules’ in order to keep discipline.

Break the rules? Get fired.

Ignore the rules? Get fired.

No excuses. No forgiveness. No exceptions. Sound extreme? You betcha.

Here is why I believe it has to be this extreme.

Let’s go back to the Marines as an example. Superlative training. Tight discipline. Exceptional rules. Defined decision making flexibility. Why all of this definition in action and attitude?

Not being disciplined kills Marines.

So let’s look at Religious leaders. It’s pretty simple. Not being disciplined and not following the rules means Christianity loses.

That is what is at stake. That is why rules were set up in the first place. That is what it takes to be a leader. And that is why religious leaders need to be set to a higher standard.

Winning will be founded upon consistent, believable, education. And people will only believe if the leaders (educators) consistently follow the rules themselves.

Winning with values (setting the standard) An Example.

I respect Arthur Blank (past Home Depot CEO and current owner of Atlanta falcons). It is obvious he likes to win. It is obvious he creates organizations that like to win and are empowered to be successful. And he does it within a tight value construct. Let’s look at Michael Vick. A franchise player leading a franchise to high winning levels. But then Michael went and broke a value line. Now I am sure Arthur could find it in his heart to forgive Michael for his actions – but he wasn’t going to do it within his organization. He had rules and his franchise player broke them and he was asked to leave at a huge expense to Arthur and the team (unconditionally released so the organization received no compensation if someone else forgave him and gave him a chance). Arthur realized that his players were role models for his values and even though one who was extremely important crossed that value line Arthur let him go. Great short term lesson. And an even better long term lesson is how he went out and found additional players who wanted to be role models and they are winning again. This is called winning with values. And Christianity should take these lessons to heart. Winning your way can be done.


Concluding thoughts.

I don’t think America is getting less Christian at all. However, I do believe more and more Americans are totally turned off by the Religious Right and their political agenda. Nine times out of ten when you see a well-known Christian appearing on a TV news show, it’s to push his own conservative social views, not to further the truth of Christianity.

Fortunately for Christianity, while I believe the religion is getting its ass kicked by Islam at the moment, we are only in about round 5 of a 10 round bout. And fortunately while getting knocked around and behind in points and rounds they haven’t been knocked out yet. Five more rounds to go (assuming they don’t get sucker punched at some point).

About winning the last 5 rounds of the fight.

Do I see a knockout for Christianity? Nope.

First. Islam is pretty well defined. And they aren’t dopes and their religious beliefs are not nutso. (they do believe in God you know). The religion struggles with extremists but their moderate traditionalists will step up to the plate one day.

Second. History has proven no religion gets “knocked out.” Certainly can get knocked around but many people associate different paths to God. That won’t change. Human nature is choice. One would tend to believ
e (me being the one in this case) that God likes people having a choice in their beliefs.

Third. Islam has the momentum. I read somewhere it is the fastest growing religion globally. And not everyone joining is being coerced. I believe their clarity of “what Islam is” is allowing people to make a distinct choice. (of course, non believers beware)

Fourth. I just cannot envision a Christian knockout punch. That doesn’t mean it won’t appear I just cannot see it at the moment.

Can Christianity win the fight? Absolutely yes. Tricky and challenging but I believe it can be done. I truly believe in my heart that winning the bout revolves around clear definition and cutting people from the team, in particular, the nutso Christian extremists and internal staff (priests and such) who have broken the rules. Taking those specific actions – vocally, clearly, unequivocally – differentiates Christianity from Islam.

Currently Christianity is mush and its extremists are uncoordinated and verbally inept in the PR department. Islamic moderates are silent and Islam extremists are vocal (coordinated as a group, clear in its communications and beliefs – regardless of how wacky they may be — and they have the PR game down).


Three thoughts in taking steps to stop getting your ass kicked:


1. Get Organized. Remember. It is called organized religion not organization religion. Get organized but don’t let organizations get in the way.

  • Organized idea 1: As outlined earlier get the different Christian perspectives together and gain alignment. Be organized and focused on the core aspects.
  • Organized idea 2: Ralph Nader just published an interesting book “Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!”highlighting a thought that the way to create change was to have the most successful business leaders gather together and lead the change America needs. Why can’t Christian non-church tied business leaders do the same?



2. Create construct. Cut contradictions. Focus on the core aspects and create a construct for people to simplify, focus and understand. I understand religion has “dimensions” but on core aspects there should be no contradictions within Christian belief. If there are “rules of the road” then set them up. Be clear. For example, “You can do this but you cannot do this.” You know what I mean. If the “organized group” cannot agree on this construct then how the heck do you think the general public will be able to agree with anything?



3. Discipline. Christian leaders (upper, middle and lower management) all need to follow the rules. Those they lead maybe make “human” mistakes and earn forgiveness but leaders are role models and cannot be permitted to make ‘core aspect’ mistakes and be forgiven. The leadership team is judged on how disciplined it is in following the master design/construct. This isn’t easy but nothing really good is.


That’s it.

That is what was on my mind.

You can certainly debate individual points. But don’t let that stop you from thinking about the overall perspective because something needs to be done.


“Staying the course” is not an option. And maybe what I wrote can be a spark for someone else defining “what is right” if this isn’t. Good luck.

About the author: Bruce McTague is probably considered a non-believer by Christians and Muslims. But he does believe in God. He would lean toward the Christian version of God but mostly believes that people should have the right to choose and make an educated choice with regard to religion and their path to God. He is, in general, a supporter of organized religion and its directed thinking of God. Despite not having a specific religion nor attends church he finds that in times of desperation and depression it is comforting to think that God maybe looking over his particular little corner of the world. And maybe he feels passionate about this topic because in the end he believes that God represents Hope. And everyone everywhere deserves to have hope.



Additional note: written while “One” by U2 was playing – the version with Mary J Blige – this may have inadvertently inspired some thoughts. I recommend everyone listening to this version.

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Written by Bruce