It has become necessary for us to at least understand Islam because it is one of the fastest growing religions in the world. I believe that 9-11, the harassment, and the media may contribute to its accelerated growth in the U.S. One California school is now requiring a mandatory course on Islam which involves Islamic practices such as saying prayers to Allah, wearing Muslim clothing, and adopting a Muslim name. Tolerance and understanding is one thing, but acceptance is quite another.
If Islam is like any other cult (a religion founded on a charismatic, authoritative human who claims to be divine), the attraction to it is really no different than other cults we have dealt with in the past. Why the attraction to cults? Cults typically meet some vary basic needs for people. A mood of relativity now permeates our culture. Getting involved with a group that both "has the answers" and demand a full commitment can be attractive. Typically, there is little ambiguity among members of a cult as to what they stand for. That belief nearly always translates into action. Another need is the need for human community. Usually, being a member of a cult is inseparable from being a member of the group. A member becomes intimately involved with the group. The strongest relationships that a cult member has are with other members of the cult. Outside relationships are usually superficial compared to relationships within the cult. Maybe this is why cults are so prevalent on college campuses. Young people leave family and friends behind when they go to college and subsequently crave a sense of belonging. Another factor is the need for meaning. Does life have any meaning? This question becomes more acute with the rise in leisure time. There is also a need for authority. No one truly wants extreme freedom because neither freedom nor authority is an absolute. There is also a need for personal involvement. Many cults expect and in some cases demand service and even benevolent work of some sort from their members. Religion in a cult typically involves all of life.
Do you see what is happening? These are needs that fit squarely with the church's function and mission. However, I can emphatically say that our "traditional" church paradigm is not meeting any of these needs. What we need is a new paradigm for "church." It might be better to say that we need to restore the "original paradigm" for church. By God's design, the church is supposed to fill these voids. We need to think outside of the box we have drawn around ourselves. Now I'll leave you to think about this some more and talk with each other about it.