I just finished editing a fascinating article and series of responses on what is known (to a very small circle) as the C4/C5 controversy. Never mind the terminology, which concerns a sociological scale of different religious identities. The controversy is over the existence of Muslim followers of Jesus. They exist in great numbers throughout the world, I am told, and not in secret. They participate in Islamic life and religion, but they follow Jesus.
One may well ask, how can you follow two religions at once? The answer has to do with how the two faiths construe their identity.
Islam is a faith of nurture and context. If you are born a Muslim, you only stop being a Muslim if you decide not to be one. (There may be fervent Muslims and not-so-fervent Muslims, but they are all Muslims.)
Whereas followers of Jesus never consider birth central. It’s up to each person to believe and embrace the faith. You find Christian parents praying for their children to give their lives to Jesus. If the children don’t, they aren’t considered Christians.
Islam is a religion of law. God is beyond us, but his will is revealed. And thus Islam is closely identified with a Koran-inspired culture. (That’s why shariah law is a big deal.) If you live in that culture and appreciate that culture, you are living as a Muslim.
Whereas followers of Jesus are much more concerned with a personal relationship to Jesus. Sincerity and faith are the key. Living in a “Christian” culture may actually get in the way.
I think that is why separation of church and state first happened in so-called Christian nations. Followers of Jesus see their relationship to him as much more significant than the legal framework they live within.
A Muslim follower of Jesus is one who was born a Muslim and never divorced his culture and his heritage. He finds enough leeway in the Koran and in his community to allow him to follow Jesus and still remain firmly embedded in his Muslim heritage.
There’s lots of controversy about this movement. Some Muslim followers of Jesus have reportedly been murdered by other Muslims for refusing to stop declaring their allegiance to Jesus. And some Christian leaders are convinced Muslim followers of Jesus are trying to live a contradiction, pushed on by zealous missionaries.
I wonder whether these kinds of mixed allegiances will become more common in our globalized world.