Building bridges between different faith communities can be a challenge, especially if the end goal is conversion. Part of true interfaith dialogue is an acknowledgment that the real goal is finding common spaces and that conversion is unlikely. When the focus is on winning adherents to a faith, it ceases to be a bridge-building exercise and becomes missionary work. This is the case with the Camel Method, developed by Kevin Greeson to bring Muslims to Christianity by using the Qur’an.
Camel is an acronym for Chosen Angels Miracles Eternal Life. This method aims to win Muslim converts to Christianity by beginning with passages about Jesus in the Qur’an. For example, a missionary using this method would make reference to the 19th chapter, Surah Maryam, which tells the story of the birth of Jesus, Isa in the Qur’an, and ask if any other prophet had such a miraculous birth.
The Muslim would respond that in fact Jesus is the only one. Then a reference to Jesus’s miracles is made from the 3rd chapter in the Qur’an, Surah Al Imran, verse 49:
And make him a messenger to the children of Israel: That I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, that I determine for you out of dust like the form of a bird, then I breathe into it and it becomes a bird with Allah’s permission and I heal the blind and the leprous, and bring the dead to life with Allah’s permission and I inform you of what you should eat and what you should store in your houses; most surely there is a sign in this for you, if you are believers.
The question that follows is whether any other prophet in the Qur’an was given such miraculous abilities, especially raising the dead and of course the answer is no. This line of questioning, according to the method, is supposed to lead the Muslim to the Bible and its view of Jesus.
Many Christians are critical of this method because of its use of the Qur’an, which they argue gives the text credence. They also assert that it is unfaithful to the Christian message because some of its missionaries will use “Allah” to refer to God and that it will confuse the differences between the two faiths. Finally, critics say that it is deceitful.
When I read about this story, I was simultaneously disturbed and fascinated. I was disturbed not only by the offensive name of the method, but importantly by the fact that the method assumes that Muslims do not have a clear understanding of Jesus and his role in Islam, when in fact it is the missionaries who do not. Muslims know and believe in Jesus’s miraculous birth and his abilities to perform miracles, but it is highlighted that the true source of power is God. Moreover, in the Qur’an, a prophet is clearly defined as a human being; thus, even if someone reminded a Muslim that Jesus raised the dead, Islam’s response is that it is God who gave him that ability as he gave other prophets miracles.
I agree with critics that the method is deceitful, although not in the same way, because at the outset it says it is trying to build bridges when in reality it presumes that Muslims are easily manipulated and that the Qur’an, unlike the Bible, can be easily deconstructed. There is no respect for the Qur’an and its place for Muslims or Islam.
While I was disturbed, I was also fascinated by the lengths people will go to win adherents to a faith, no matter what faith it is, instead of focusing on interfaith dialogue and accepting our differences. With the world in the state that it is, the focus should be on respecting each others beliefs.
Have you heard of the Camel Method? What is your reaction? Do you think a method that seeks to convert can build bridges? Please share your thoughts below.