“More Than a White Man’s Religion:" A conversation with Abdu Murray

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“More Than a White Man’s Religion”: A conversation with apologist Abdu Murray

June 19, 2023 -

“More Than a White Man’s Religion”: A conversation with apologist Abdu Murray

“More Than a White Man’s Religion”: A conversation with apologist Abdu Murray

“More Than a White Man’s Religion”: A conversation with apologist Abdu Murray

Abdu Murray, JD, and Dr. Mark Turman discuss Murray’s conversion from Islam, how the Bible is neither sexist nor racist, why Christianity historically propelled human rights, why he’s optimistic about race relations in the church, and the effect of Ravi Zacharias’ abuse.

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Show notes:

Abdu Murray, JD, begins by talking about his upbringing as a devout Muslim in Detroit, Michigan, and how he came to faith in Christ (1:45). As a now full-time apologist, Murray describes how the younger generation doubts Christianity because they question the Bible’s morality, which led him to write on sexism and racism in More Than a White Man’s Religion (9:05). Murray and Dr. Turman consider how deconstructing can be good, but how historically, Christian thought has led to greater human rights, for women and ethnic minorities. Murray explains the difference between description and prescription in the Bible (21:00). They consider how Anglo people weren’t the first Christ-followers and how Christianity is currently growing most in non-western places (26:40). They talk about why Murray is optimistic about the way churches have pursued diversity, that we can continue to heal from racism despite lingering challenges (33:18). Murray talks about his unique experience as a Muslim outsider in his community. They then celebrate how Jesus opposed sexism in his culture (40:25). They close by reflecting on the legacy of Ravi Zacharias, his treatment of women, and the need for a gracious savior (49:50).

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About the host

Mark Turman, DMin, is the executive director of Denison Forum. He received his DMin from Truett at Baylor and previously served as lead pastor of Crosspoint Church.

About the guest

Abdu Murray (JD, University of Michigan) is an apologist who has led dialogues, open forums, and debates around the world at universities, churches, and business and government gatherings. He hosts the podcast All Rise and is the author of many articles and three books, including Grand Central Question and Saving Truth.


Transcribed by Otter.ai

Mark Turman  00:10

Welcome to The Denison Forum Podcast. I’m Dr. Mark Turman, Executive Director at Denison forum and host for today’s conversation, conversations about faith culture, big topics and where they intersect and how we can make a difference as salt and light walking with Christ. Today we have a great conversation with Abdu, Murray, let me introduce him to you. He’s a graduate of the University of Michigan trained in law. He is also an apologist who has led debates, dialogues and forums around the world and churches, colleges, as well as in business and government settings. He is the host of the podcast, the defense rests, which you can find on your podcast platform. He is author, also the author of a new of numerous articles and three books, including Grand Central, central question, and saving truth. Today on the podcast, we’re going to talk to him about his book more than a white man’s religion, and hope that you’ll pick up that resource as well. And so today, welcome to the conversation. Abdu Murray, welcome to the Denison Forum Podcast. Would you like to say hello,


Abdu Murray  01:17

I’d love to say hello. Hi, Mark. And hi to everyone else who’s who’s tuning in and listening. Thanks for having me on. This is really a truly a pleasure and an honor.


Mark Turman  01:24

Well, it’s a great treat to get to know you and to learn some about your ministry. As we talked before we hit record. Tell us a little bit about your personal story. Many people perhaps listening to our podcasts are like, well, this could be interesting. We don’t meet somebody named Abduh, all the time. Yeah. So tell us a little about who you are. Yeah,


Abdu Murray  01:45

absolutely. And you know, the name to its Abdul and Mary, you’re like, what, what’s the deal with the Arabic first name and the Scottish last name. And essentially, it’s this the Anglicans ation of my last name. Last name was William. But when we came over, they said, What’s your last name? And we said, and they said, Okay, that sounds like a Scottish guy saying, Marie. So they changed our name for us, essentially. But so I was raised, born and raised in the United States, but raised in a Muslim family, a strong, very committed Muslim family of Shiite Muslim. So there’s the Sunni, which are the majority. And there’s a minority, which is the Sunni, sorry, the Shia. And largely, the beliefs are the same. A couple of small differences, but nothing that would call the one the Orthodox or not, but I was committed to it, I was pretty serious about it. And growing up in the southeast Detroit, Michigan area, at some point during a conversation or during the relationship I would have with somebody, I wouldn’t want to show somebody why Islam was true. And whatever it is, they believed if it was different than Islam was false. So I went about trying to knock the faith out of people and replace it, the vacuum with Islam. And that was an equal app, equal opportunity face knocker out or ever. It wasn’t just Christians. They were low hanging fruit. Because back, you know, back in the 80s, and the 90s, it was fashionable to say you were a Christian, even if you didn’t really mean it. That’s over now, which is a good thing in some senses, because now I know who believes what they really believe. But back then it was still fashionable. And I would often say, Hey, why are you a Christian? And they would say, Well, I don’t know. We’re Presbyterians, or you pick the denomination, but they’d say that that was what they were because they went to that church, they’re pretty sure. Christmas and Easter, and I’m like, so you’re telling me that you believe trust your eternal soul to a worldview that someone else has thought through? Have you thought it through yourself? Because tradition is not good enough? And then I would go and say to them, Hey, you know, tradition, here’s why the Quran is the word of God, and the Bible has been changed, etc, etc. To be you know, just to sum it up quickly. Along the way, there were some Christians who actually knew what they were talking about, and could actually respond to the objections that I was raising, and then had a couple of questions of their own, that I had to answer. And so along the way, I began to see that the Bible actually agreed with me in the sense because John the Baptist, and Luke chapter three, verses seven and following, you know, his talk to those who are coming to him, and he says, Who told you to flee from the wrath to come? Meaning, of course, God’s judgment. And then he says, Do not even begin to think to yourself, you have Abraham as your father, For I tell you, God can raise up children of Abraham from the stones. In other words, your DNA won’t save you. Your tradition won’t save you truth is what saves, and that’s what I was saying. But what had stuck with me was that I had never actually turned that barrel of that gun on myself, I would have never turned that microscope back onto myself and said, Why do you actually believe what you believe? I had put Christians on the defensive for so long that no one ever really dared ask me why I believe what I believe. So now, John the Baptist words which are terribly ironic, because I thought that his words had been corrupted. And the Quran came to fix all that his words challenged me to say, Do you believe it because it’s true or because it’s tradition, I had fooled myself into believing it was because it was true. And so that put me on a nine year journey to evaluate Islam, Christianity and every other ism and schism that’s out there and find out what’s really true. And over the course of that nine years, I began to see that the very things that I was rejecting in Christianity because I thought that they were insults to God’s greatness were the very things that actually demonstrate and prove out his greatness. So over the course of that nine years, I began to see that the evidence historical, philosophical, scientific, you name it really started to shore up the Christian faith. And how I put it oftentimes, Mark is that it wasn’t that the answers were hard to find, I found sufficient answers enough to give my life to Christ within two years, it took me nine years, not because the answers were hard to find, because the answers were hard to embrace. Because when you change your worldview, you change so much, and there’s consequences to that. But over the course of some time, I began to see that whatever price I might pay, compared to no way to the price that was paid for me. And it also compared to no way to the comfort that would be mine eventually, if this was true, and because it was true that comfort was to be mine. And I wanted people to know about it. So ever since then, I’ve trained as a lawyer, I was a partner at two major law firms in Detroit. I eventually be going into full time ministry, because I’m a natural born advocate as somebody who had an affinity for the law. But now I’m an advocate for the gospel and for the credibility.


Mark Turman  06:41

So how long has it been since you left the practice of law?


Abdu Murray  06:44

Well, I’m still licensed as an attorney. But I’ve been doing full time ministry since 2013.


Mark Turman  06:50

Okay, and so you speak about some of the costs associated with your changing worldview, your embrace of Christ. Was that significantly on a personal level? I would imagine being raised in a Muslim family.


Abdu Murray  07:03

Yeah, and, yeah, we so I’ve, uh, I won’t tell it all the details. But I’ve always had a close family always wonderfully close family. And, of course, you can imagine this is rough. This is a hard thing. I mean, anybody who’s a Christian who’s listening to this watch, if you’re, if your son or daughter came up to you and said, Hey, I’m an atheist, or I’m a Buddhist, or I’m a Muslim, that wouldn’t go so great in your faith, right? Naturally, so because you’re committed to something and you want the best for them. But God is good. And my family and I are close. It’s been, you know, there hasn’t had hasn’t been devoid of challenges, but we’re close. But a big part of it, you know, Mark was my identity, I really loved being a Muslim, I liked being a standout, you know, we were sort of the develop of olive oil and the pot of rice in the area I grew up in. So we were we stood out in our sort of Tang, now the area is incredibly diverse, not only ethnically religiously, as well, but back then not so much. So we, I really liked that identity. And I liked the religiosity to it and all that. So amongst the many costs, the personal one was that sense of dying to myself. And I had to really, actually live out what it means to die to self and find a new and true, I would say, identity, I think all of our identities are our marred effects of the fall. And so all of our religiosity and our identities to try to grasp religiosity are effects of the fall and try to attempt to justify ourselves or even deify ourselves, without really realizing it, is when we find our true identity as those who have fallen, but those who are made in God’s image and who had been redeemed, that’s when the true identity comes. So though you have to die to yourself in a significant way, you really, truly find yourself, which is why Jesus’s words are so poignant when he says whoever loses his life for my sake shall find it because you find out who you really are.


Mark Turman  09:05

Yeah, it’s such a you know, it feels like in some ways, right? That this word identity has just become one of the watchwords of our culture over the last, I don’t know, 10 years maybe a little bit longer, but the idea of of identity is really core to the Bible, right and is core to the fundamentals of the these questions that we are always asking, Who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here? Those are all in some ways, identity questions. We were talking earlier about Chris Brooks, a pastor in your area, from the Detroit area he he was on our podcast a few months ago. He said, You know, we’re in a time when people are really asking anthropological questions. They’re asking fundamental questions about what does it mean to be a human being and that’s, that’s really what identity is all about. So, you know, we sometimes think that some of these words and ideas that float around are new, the issue issue of identity is not new at all. And having that identity renewed in Christ is fundamental to what the gospel is all about. So, we’re going to talk today about your book has an interesting title, I want to know about where the title came from more than a white man’s religion that probably just alerts people’s ears. And let me give you a little backdrop to this. I was part of a small group, about a year, almost maybe two years now. And we would meet on Wednesday nights, and we studied a number of Paul’s letters we studied Philippians, and Ephesians, and Colossians. And, you know, we we went through all of those had great conversations and all that. But then I asked them to engage a book on the topic of racism, and what does the Bible teach about racism and that type of thing. And after about three meetings, I just stopped them all. So you know, it’s just interesting to me how much more energized you are about this topic than any of the conversations we’ve had about the biblical letters that we were talking about. And that you could just tell the conversation was was much, much more animated, and extended? What is it that what prompted you to write on this topic of racism and sexism?


Abdu Murray  11:23

Yeah. And it’s the illustration you just gave her the story you just told is, in many ways, just a it’s illustrative of why I wrote this. And I’ve spoken at a lot of open forums and a lot of universities around the world in fact, and I noticed a shift in the the tenor of the questions that were being asked by skeptics, or even Christians whose faith we’re probably hanging by the thinnest of threads and in the era of deconstruction. And the shift had gone from the primary questions being questions of propositional truths, like, you know, did the Luke get it right? That was Aeneas was Tetrarch of Avila, in the beginning of his gospel? Did David really exist? Do we have any historical evidence for any of the issues that the Bible says were actually historical things? You know, science and faith? And are there contradictions here and there? What about this? What about that? Those were propositional issues and propositional truths that you could what I call hard apologetics, it’s like sort of like the hard sciences, not difficult, but I mean, like hard like, objectively knowable things, what’s shifted as those questions are still being asked, but the primary questions are now does Christianity condone something something a phobia, you know, where you just add the word phobic or phobia to the end of it? And that’s the sort of prejudice that it espouses. And the question is, does the Christian faith actually espouse this? Is it racist? Does it condone slavery? Does it make women into second class citizens? So what you’ll see is that the questions have shifted away from primarily being on these hard hard sort of propositional historical scientific truth issues to now their moral questions. So the primary questions are no longer is the Bible. True, the primary questions are is the Bible moral? Because we’re in an age where identity politics are the most important part of politics, and the issue of justice, everything has the word justice, sort of appended to it. So you have racial justice, gender, justice, climate justice, all these things with Justice on it. So we’re talking about in a, in a good way, in some senses, and in the bad way, dangerous way, in other senses, a morally obsessed culture. So naturally, they’re asking the question isn’t moral. So I was writing this book, reading a chapter in another book that actually addressed how Jesus is not a product of his time, that he actually spoke in ways that transcend time how I put it, as Jesus’s words are have are a passport, that has many stamps across different cultures, but also across different times. So he speaks to the contemporary issues of his day, but he speaks timelessly to the issues of our day. And as I was writing that chapter, it ballooned from a 20 page thing to an 80 page to a 90 page thing. So I called my my agent, and I said, Hey, I think I have a book here. And then, of course, in the middle of that, not only that the pandemic happened, but George Floyd happened. And that ignited a global conversation on race. And then George Floyd got politicized. And then it became upended in our political with regard to the event Jellicle faith and we’re also in the throes of the me to movement and Christian faith, specifically, evangelicalism, but Christian faith broadly was sucked into this thing. Sometimes it was our fault as Christians and other times it wasn’t deserved, but it got sucked in another lot nonetheless and became acquainted with the ideas of racism and sexism and judgmentalism and all these different so called phobias. So in order to address the urgency of the culture and the urgency of the issue at hand, I wanted to write a book that addressed the toughest questions that culture is asking. And of course, there are tough passages in the Bible we have to wrestle with that suggest that slavery is okay. I don’t think that the Bible actually says that. But upon first reading, what might get that it suggests that women are second class citizens to men? I don’t think it actually says that. But upon first reading, and might get it that way. How do you carefully actually read the scriptures, but then apply these through the lens of the life of Jesus. And the bottom line mark was that we are in the throes of a cultural moment that is ripping us apart due to polarization. And the Bible is being jettisoned out the window as the cause for some of these things. And what I wanted to prove was that the Bible is actually the cure for the very things it’s being blamed for.


Mark Turman  15:56

Wow, yeah. And really, really great insight to kind of summarize, tell me if I’m on the right track with you, is that the the conversations of you know, Is God real? Is Jesus real? Those questions are still really there. They’re very, very much people really still asking those what we sometimes referred to here, as the traditional apologetic questions, they’re still there, they’re still important. Still need to speak to those but but now we’ve kind of entered into a deal of, okay, if God is real, is he good? Yes. Is and is he good as presented in the Bible? And in the person? Not only persons three? God, three and one. Is he not only real but is he good? Yeah. And is he just and I love the metaphor that you use from the the train station in India, about people surging onto the train cars, we’ve even in recent days seen a train accident in India, where that tragically was revealed in a dramatic way. But as I read through your book, in that area, that starting metaphor, it made me think particularly about our approach to transgenderism that we’ve just rushed into, well, this just must be right with with almost no real significant questioning about all of the ramifications of it. And we see the world do that in a lot of ways, whether it’s supposedly this death by dignity, movement, euthanasia, transgender as well, if somebody thinks it or feels it or says it, we just need to run to it. And not not question it. And that’s kind of the surge with Christian, as you lay it out with Christianity on a broad stroke. Well, all of these problems related to racism, sexism came because nobody’s been questioning Christianity. Is that, is that what you’re driving it?


Abdu Murray  17:55

Yeah, in fact, the questions that do come in terms of saying, hey, Christianity is responsible for these things are incredibly superficial, but they’re very powerful rhetorically, you know. I mean, you think about when you go, and you run it, the transgender issues, but you could sexuality issues, and you see sort of the secular creed that some people put outside of their home. And they’ll say, you know, in this house, we believe that love is love. And then they go on to say certain things. Well, you think about that. The bumper sticker, sort of phrase Love is love. That’s powerful. Because first of all, it says really nothing. I mean, it’s tautological The sky is blue, because the sky is blue. Okay, but why and you don’t really go into any depth, but it’s rhetorically powerful, claiming that Christianity was the religion of the slave traders, claiming that religious identity. Christianity was the religion of the Jim Crow proponents. While it may be at least superficially accurate, has this like Stark, bam, pull to it, and man, you want to you want to get on that train as much as you can. Because we’re very rightfully concerned with equality and justice and these kinds of things. We shouldn’t be concerned with these things. And so Christianity has been accused, but I don’t think actually tried. I think it has not been actually submitted if I’m going to borrow a metaphor from my lawyer background. It’s been accused found guilty without due process.


Mark Turman  19:27

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Abdu Murray  20:09

And someone went to use had 2000 years of due process. Yeah. So let’s look at that 2000 years and find out some things about the way in which it was the Christian message that actually brought the end of slavery, the actual advent of personhood into the Roman Empire happened, not because the Romans woke up to the idea, they wouldn’t have even found it intelligible. As David on the heart says, It was the Christian message that we’re all equally sinners, but all equally made in God’s image, and therefore all equally offered redemption. That was the birth of equality. And that’s where you really had this. So if we look at the evidence, and as you try Christianity, and look at the text itself through the lens of the life of Jesus, I think we’ll find it not only not wanting, but will be wanting for it, to actually cure the things of ALS. So it’s not a matter of just believing it, it’s a matter of believing it and then putting it into action.


Mark Turman  21:00

And I want to get to that a minute as it relates particularly to racism. But I want to step back for a moment you talked about the use the word, deconstruction, which has become significant in our, our conversations, speak a little bit about because your own testimony kind of reveals this, the importance and necessary, you know, all of us grow up in some tradition. I, you know, I started my life in the tradition of the Roman Catholic Church. My family was deeply, deeply committed and highly, highly involved. And so everybody, whether you’re growing up in a faith oriented family or not, you’re handed a tradition of some kind. And the word deconstruction may not be the best word. But all of us need to come to a place where we seriously asked these questions about what do we believe and why? And talk a little bit I heard you speak in a YouTube presentation you did, about the importance of understanding when you come to the Bible about the difference between what is described and what is prescribed? Yeah, can you kind of unpack that a little bit?


Abdu Murray  22:10

Absolutely. And this is critical, especially in the context of deconstruction, because sometimes people find and deconstruction by itself, as you pointed out, it’s not a bad thing. If you’re calling yourself to challenge assumptions, do I believe something because it’s true or because I’m supposed to. And ultimately, a deconstruction is not destruction, it’s deconstructing something, it’s like sort of reverse engineering something so that you can build it back up again. And if you do it responsibly, I think with the Christian faith, you’ll find that it’s stronger than it was before. But of course, deconstruction has led a lot of folks to just abandon the Christian faith, because it’s racist, sexist, and all these kinds of things, or they’ve had church or whatever. And one of the reasons why they do that is because they look in the Bible, and they see descriptions of slavery, they see descriptions of the mistreatment of women, they see these things that are described. And then they automatically think that because it’s described, it’s therefore also prescribed. So these words are very important, because description just means saying something describing something the way it is, prescribing something is saying the way something ought to be. So when the The Bible describes slavery, often it describes child sacrifice. Often, it describes horrible actions often. And always, those things are judged by God. Those are judged as bad behaviors, but it doesn’t prescribe. It doesn’t say that we shouldn’t be doing those things. In fact, it says we shouldn’t be doing those things. So even when the Bible seems to have laws, for example, that would justify slavery. Among the Israelites, or among Israelites with non Israelites, it’s not actually doing that it’s either describing the horrors of slavery around the Christian of the Hebrew nation. But when it’s prescribing, it’s prescribing something completely different than what we’ve come to think of as slavery. So we have to be very careful to make sure that what we see in the Bible is not a con is not condoning that action, even when Israelites do it, when a man rapes a woman, for example, and there seems to be these terrible consequences just because that man gets away with it, at least seemingly so for a while doesn’t mean that God approves of it. Even when the Bible describes the the the patriarchs or the kings of Israel, David and Solomon and others as having more than one wife. The Bible is not actually prescribing that it’s just describing what they did. And in every instance, it never goes well. So we have to be careful to make sure that what we’re seeing, are we seeing a prescription? In other words, a law that says you ought to act this way? Or are we simply looking at a description for the way things actually are, whether good or bad, and saying, which one is it because God cannot be blamed for describing the way people act evil, but he can We’ll be allotted for prescribing morality,


Mark Turman  25:02

which, you know, when you think about that just kind of fundamentally starts with the creation of the 10 commandments or the giving of the 10 commandments, this is the way it ought to be. These are the ideals by which people ought to live. Many other places we could point to that. But just to kind of sit a little bit more sense of perspective, this idea that so many in America, so many in the West are running away without really, perhaps evaluating their understanding in a healthy way, as I heard one, one comment or say, you know, it’s really easy to kind of tear down your beliefs, the building them, building them is where the real challenge is, as, as you talk about your own testimony, nine years of, of looking through this and saying, Okay, what is it going to mean to count the cost to embrace this? But yeah, you have, as you said, had the opportunity to be in a lot of different places in the world speaking in a lot of different places, college campuses, and that type of thing. Sometimes, you know, as Americans, we think that we really are the center of the universe. And there’s some very good reasons for that. It’s not, sir, it’s a good thing to be a patriot, it’s a good thing to be proud of who you are and where you’re from. That’s a good thing to a point. But can you talk a little bit to give us some perspective, that even though it, it is seemingly clear that many, many are abandoning Christianity and not only seeing it as irrelevant, but even oppressive and dangerous in our part of the world right now? That’s not really the case worldwide? Is it?


Abdu Murray  26:40

No, it’s not even close. In fact, I remember in one of the chapters, I actually asked the question, what does it mean to claim Christianity as a white man’s religion? And of course, every word in that question is really important. Is it merely white? It? Is it merely male? It’s for white people, it’s for males, but it’s not only for them. And so someone might say this is a white western imperialistic religion. Well, what you have right now, today, is a explosion of Christianity in the Global South, and in parts of the Middle East and Asia. Which means that the vast majority of Christians living today, committed Christians living today are neither white nor male. So it’s just simply demographically wrong to say it’s a white male religion. Now one might say, Yeah, but those poor folks have been have had this religion foisted upon them by colonialism. And by the missionaries who went in there and either tricked them or somehow oppressed them into saying, you have to be loyal to the King. And that’s why you have Christians in India because of because of England and all that. What’s interesting is that when you look at the facts, and I point them out in the book, when you look at the facts, what you see is that Christianity’s growth in non white countries in the Global South, whether it’s South America, Sub Saharan Africa, or elsewhere, or in the Middle East and in Asia, is actually happening, far greater, far greater rate in the post colonial period than in the colonial period. In other words, colonialism wasn’t nearly as successful in propagating the gospel as the preaching of the message and the helping and the offering of helps from with foreign aid, coupled with the gospel message has been. So it’s not demographically true right now that Christianity is a white religion. And in fact, it’s growing because of indigenous non white evangelism in those areas. So not only is it not true demographically, it’s not even true in terms of the motivation behind it. So I think that we should put this whole thing to bed because it just demographically untrue. And it’s in fact, never been true. Because, as I point out, and this should be painfully obvious, but for some reason isn’t. It isn’t that the Roman white western Roman imperialism influenced the Bible. And foisted this message on darker skinned people know, the Christian faith is born of an olive skinned people who were in the Middle East, and spread into North Africa first before before it went into Europe, and then into Europe and then into the East. And so it’s actually the opposite way. It isn’t the white Western imperialism that influenced Christianity, it was the opposite. It was the Christian message that influenced the Roman Empire for one example for the better, in fact, Tom Holland, who not that spider man but the actual historian, wrote, wrote a book called Dominion, where he set out to show that everything good in the West came from Rome. What he found was that Rome was an appalling place, and that anything good that came from Rome, had its roots in the Christian surge into Rome. And so all these ideas of equality and help for the end of gent and all these things are Christian rooted, not Roman rooted, they became Roman they because Rome converted essentially to Christianity. But it was these olive skinned people, these dark people who actually influenced the world for the good using the vehicle, the gospel, and God used the propagation of the Roman Empire tip to get that going as well. So I think it’s just categorically false factually false that it’s a white man’s religion,


Mark Turman  30:24

and would hopefully cause us as Americans to stop and and ponder a little bit, you know, I can remember growing up in in my family’s home, and every Christmas, we came out with the manger scene, and we came out with very white skin blond headed Jesus that went in the cradle. Yeah, and could could not be more wrong in a historical fashion, right. And it just causes us to need to stop and think about where we fit into the story. And


Abdu Murray  30:55

we you know, one thing that you pointed out that I’m sorry to interrupt your work, but just a thought occurred to me. And I’m pretty sure I say it in the book. But it occurred to me is that one of the things that we have to check ourselves for in the West, is we have sort of this euro centrism this American centrism. Because it’s a tremendous influence. And we can’t gainsay that and it’s a good thing in lots of ways. But when we say Christianity is a white, Western imperialistic religion, and people are falling away from the faith, because they’re finally seeing it, if that’s happening here, and we’re saying that’s a global event, then we ought to check ourselves to think, hey, if we’re claiming that this religion isn’t ethnically diverse, maybe it’s because we’re so centered on us. And so the claim of sort of, I won’t say racism, but the claim of an ethnic fascination with Christianity is actually maybe on its critics, because its critics are obsessed with this idea that it’s a white man’s religion, when in fact, no one outside of white males in the West thinks that.


Mark Turman  32:03

Yeah, and something really great for us to get to thinking about us. I mean, just this past Sunday, sitting in church looking around going, this is a way white environment. And as a white male, American, I sometimes feel like that it feels at times, like the world, at least the world that I live in, is like all of our problems can be attributed to white American males is sometimes the way it feels like Do you Do you sense in this conversation, an opportunity that is hopeful that we can really start to redeem relationships among different groups among different ethnicities in the West, at at a level that we just haven’t been able to get to? Since? Let’s see, if we just start with the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Do you think there’s a fresh opportunity here, to get past the vitriol that sometimes in this conversation and get to something that really brings about healthier change and, and unity within the body of Christ that becomes a testimony to the world?


Abdu Murray  33:18

I do. I actually quite the optimist, you know, you have to diagnose what’s wrong before you can say what’s good and what’s right, and how to how to treat it. So oftentimes, the diagnosis can seem gloomy and pessimistic and cynical. But the reality is, I’m actually quite hopeful, in lots of ways and I think that as we have more and more honest conversations, where we want to hear someone out from the other side and say, you know, nothing the other side in terms of antagonism, but what their experience actually is and what they’ve lived through, and then say, okay, that may be the actions of people, but there are ideas and things that have changed the world in the past. If we can actually look back to the past and say, things were never more segregated and racist than in the antebellum south or in in in antebellum America, for example. I mean, it wasn’t like the South had the slave trade and everyone was absolutely 100% not racist in the north. That’s simply not true. But there was a huge surge, whether it was in England with the the Clapham sacked and the abolition movement by William Wilberforce, and those are the Clapham sacked, or it’s the abolitionist movers movement that happened in the United States. Those were the impetus for those was the Christian message. And if it happened before, why can’t that happen again, one of the challenges that we face now is the soapboxing. That’s so easy with social media, and our willingness to believe accusations as quickly as possible without saying, hey, wait a minute. Is that really the case? And so we as Christians have an opportunity to actually present a gospel that where we can actually explain not only an understanding of tough passages, but also show how, in the full context, this leads to a state of equality and fairness among all people look to a rich tradition of good Christian history, being honest about bad Christian history, about the ways in which the church has occasionally been complicit in in racism and other forms of oppression. But also recognizing it isn’t the only issue. That isn’t the only story. In fact, the majority of the story is not about that. It’s about liberation. It’s about equality. And these kinds of things, I’m actually quite hopeful. If we can start having real conversations, we need to hear from people, white folks, white males, we need to hear from white women, we need to hear from darker skin, males and darker skinned women and people across the spectrum. And see this beautiful mosaic God has painted with different colored stones, and different colored tiles, that preach the gospel message is globally available to us. Yet we’re fossil focus narrowly on something that we ought to like take a bigger picture of things. And if we do that, and I think we can, and I’m beginning to see this happen, Mark, I’m having conversations with folks, who were staunchly look, I’m an atheist, I was a Christian, I’m an atheist, as a young black male. And I give a story about one in the book. As a young black male, one of the reasons I left the Christian faith is because this is obviously the slavers religion. This is obviously a religion that is homogeneous, and is meant to be genocidal, and exterminate anybody outside of the pale of what the Bible considers to be approved people genetically. And then you meet them with the challenges and say, Hey, doesn’t really say that. What does it even mean to have a morality that’s not based on God? Let’s talk about that. It’s the hard work. It’s extremely hard work. But I’ll tell you, that kind of work. And I’ve had numerous conversations with folks have resulted in people either lessening their cynicism and their skepticism or coming to faith all together. So I am very optimistic about this. But we need more of us to be doing it and not necessarily shouting in our political issues. But speaking what does the Bible actually say this is the this is the way that cultures are not only uprooted, but rerouted and oriented towards goodness, beauty truth, and Micah six, eight, to walk humbly seek justice, love, mercy, and walk humbly with our God. If we do all three of those things, the Gospel commands us to do those things. And a true understanding of it can help us get there.


Mark Turman  37:33

So bring that down to street level for me, if you would about do you think that we will see our and maybe even are seeing in America real progress in terms of both our communities and our churches being more diversified? From the standpoint of both ethnic ethnicity? And let’s just maybe put in the context of gender leadership? Yeah. Do you see that actually becoming reality?


Abdu Murray  38:04

In some places? Yes. Is it? Is it widespread as I’d like it to be? No, but in some places, I think the answer is yes. I mean, you go to something. I speak at a lot of different churches. And it’s funny, the ethnic makeup sometimes can be like, you go into a traditionally black church, it’s almost entirely black folks. There’s a couple of white folks and a couple of Hispanics or whatever, who might be there. You go to a traditionally white church, and it’s largely still white. I mean, I think the statement that Sunday is the most segregated day of the week in America is probably still largely true. But is it changing? I think the answer is yes. And is it a slow change? I think the answer is also unfortunately, yes. But that change in and of itself is a big deal. I’ll give you an underground example of this. I was a part of the movement here in southeast lower Michigan, Chris Brooks was one of the spearheads of it actually, as an African American pastor with tremendous gifts and wonderful gifts of leadership as well. He and other pastors, I think there were 500 and something different denominations. across the southeast, lower Michigan had formed together for what’s called the each movement, everyone a chance to hear e a c h. They wanted to preach the Good News to good words and good deeds. And this was a cross that only denominations, but it was across the ethnic spectrum. We had Hispanic pastors and white pastors and black pastors and Arabs, and you name it, they were in it together. And black pastors were preaching at white churches and white pastors. Were going to white to black churches. And you had this wonderful sort of conglomeration of people. And the effects of that ministry, that happened years ago are still felt today, in Detroit, which is one of the most I mean, the eight mile border between Detroit and the suburbs is a real thing. It’s so much more permeable than it used to be. Is there still a lot of work to do? Absolutely. But I’m seeing this happen. And I’m seeing these wonderful relationships and these friendships, the number of of of black folks in my life, who are I have enriched my life so much because of that kind of concerted movement of the church to say we need our diversity. We need to reach each. We all need each other. Man, it’s pungent, and it’s powerful and it lasts. Is it as good as I’d like it to be? Well, no, I mean, it’ll never get there until Jesus comes back. But we have to keep working at it. And if we can do it here, in any level of success, we can do it anywhere.


Mark Turman  40:25

Right? You talk about being in your book about being an insider outsider. Yeah. And that kind of relates to this issue? What has it been like for you as a speaker, Pastor, preacher, writer, an Arab American, speaking into this issue? Are you you find yourself getting shot from both sides are getting applauded from both sides? A little bit of both? What’s it been like for you?


Abdu Murray  40:47

You know, it’s largely been acceptance, I think that my ethnic background, affords me a level of credibility. My religious, you know, I come from at the insider outsider idea is that, here I am, I’m a male talking about the Bible and gender in the midst of the me to movement, it’s like, well, you’re an outsider, you don’t know what it’s like to be female. Of course, I don’t. But I do come from like, Middle Easterners are not known for women’s rights, necessarily. We’re not known for that. Yet, I was also raised to respect my women elders. And so I came from this like, sort of schizophrenic view of like, well, women are my elders, and they should have authority. But my culture says that no, men are the authority over women strongly so and the religion I came from, has some issues with that as well. So I come from it and look at a fresh perspective from the, from the Gospels, and I see something different there. So that is different from my outsider perspective, and is like, Oh, my goodness, this is refreshing my mind, as a male. But then I also looked at from an ethnic minority, where I’ve had my share my unfortunate share of people calling me various racial epithets or ethnic epithets because of my background, or when I was a Muslim, whatever it was, so I know what it’s like to be a part of minority. So here I am talking now about this issue, seeing the freshness and the beauty of the gospel. And it’s interesting to me that what you have is people who are terribly afraid of woke ism, saying anything that sounds like you use the word diversity in a positive light, or these kinds of things. Well, that that’s woke, are you being woke? Are you are you becoming woke? Like what? Well read the book, I think you’ll find out that I’m not. But you also have people on the left who are saying, You’re not being, you know, sincere enough, and you’re not being woke enough. And so you do get clobbered a little bit on both sides of it. But I find I find that and, you know, Mark, this is, I think the case in the current climate, globally speaking, but especially in the West, Nuance is not rewarded, Nuance is punished. And it’s punished by both sides of the issue. But I think steady, obstinate, radical commitment to nuance and thoughtfulness will get fire from both sides. But I also think that’s exactly where you want to be. Because it’s not possible that everyone in a fallen world is 100%. Right? On their views, we have to come to the nuance do I think we agree with conservative critics of some of these things? I sure do. Do I agree with some of the issues from people on the on the left? On some issues? I listen, and sometimes I agree, does that mean that I’m left or I’m right? I’d like to think that we have to think more in terms of right and wrong, not right and left. And start thinking biblically about these things. So I do get hammered a little bit on both sides. But I gotta tell you, for the most part, this message has been received. Well, on all sides. I don’t always get agreement, but I do get engagement.


Mark Turman  43:47

Well, I hope you know, and I hope with work like what we’re doing today, the work that you’re doing, that we’re we’re helping people move past a soundbite construction of narratives. You talked about the you’ve talked about social media and technology, the ability to not only form but to quickly form various narratives and to have very little nuance in them. When I think many people are coming to this insight of knowing in their heart Look, these are complex issues. And they require deep thinking and they require a real wrestling with with ideas and with things that are both inside them and outside and beyond them. But let’s let’s talk a little bit more about how Jesus in the Bible really do. Really do emphasize the value of all people and that of course includes women. I heard a British theologian Rebecca McLaughlin, talk about how Jesus drew women into his ministry He discipled women, and then he deployed women. Talk about that from the perspective of your book, How did Jesus really elevate in the context of the culture in which he was living. How was he radical when it came to the two of to valuing women and upholding them in a way that had not been seen in a good while,


Abdu Murray  45:11

when you look at the contrast with the way some of the rabbis that leading rabbis at a time, it’s spoken about women, and I point this out in the book, when you look at some of the ways some of the leading guys have talked and said, like things like, it would be better to bury the law on the ground than to teach it to a woman or it is more dangerous to walk in front of a hungry lion than it is to walk behind a woman. And women have no gifts intellectually, except with in the kitchen or with the spindle, you know, these are the kinds of things that they were hearing. And so you not only look at the words Jesus used, but you look at some of the specifics here. I mean, think about the way Jesus was almost scandalous, not in a provocateur kind of a way just for providing provocation, but in a way to wake people up with women. For example, in Luke chapter 15, Jesus uses a woman in the parable, as a woman who has 10 silver coins, and if she loses one, she goes to find them, a woman in that, in that parable is a proxy for God in that parable, that’s not the kind of thing that they would have done back in those days. Then you look at the Samaritan woman, and what happens in John chapter four, and she becomes the first cross cultural missionary of the Gospel, the Commission’s a woman to do that. And he gives her her identity, you know, she had been denigrated not only because of her ethnic, sort of half breed issues, but then all this moral stuff that was heaped upon her, whether she did it to herself, or others had done it to her. And she sees this man who dignifies her so much that she doesn’t care about the village that ostracizes her anymore in terms of their keeping her out, she wants that village to be reached for the gospel, and he lets her do it. She’s the first very successful cross cultural missionary. And then if I could share just one quick story, when you look at the Mary and Martha parable, I’m sorry, not a parable, the story, the account of Mary and Martha, you know, Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, they, they’re friends of Jesus, and they’re going to have Jesus in the boys over for dinner. And like good Middle Eastern women. They want to have a lot of hospitality and prepare the place and all that stuff. And, you know, Martha is the busybody she’s the one who, you know, always gets the work done, she doesn’t really leave anything undone. And Mary’s a little more lacks in terms of her commitments, and that kind of thing likes to talk more than she likes to work and all that. And so what you have in this culture is a culture that’s so used to women being put in their place. There are places in the kitchen that even Martha thinks that’s the rightful place for a woman. And yet, Mary sits at Jesus’s feet. And she’s learning she’s doing something that women were not allowed to do. She was getting an education, it was an honor to sit at a Rabbi’s feet. And so Martha says, Jesus, don’t you care that Mary has left me to do all the work, tell her to come and help me. You’ll notice the first thing is, Martha didn’t say Jesus, would you help me because it never would have occurred to her to have Jesus helping the kitchen. But she says, Tell me tell Mary to come help me. And Jesus says something remarkable, he says, Martha, Martha, you wherever many things, but only one thing is needful. Mary has chosen free Well, she has the right to choose an education, and it will not be taken from her. In other words, not even you another woman can take this from her. I’m, I’m done with the day when women did not get education, I’m through with it. And this is the inauguration of that. And then, of course, women were the first eyewitnesses to the central miracle of the Christian faith. In that day, women were not considered credible witnesses at all. And yet, they are the first witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus from the empty tomb. If you were making up that story, if you were faking it, you wouldn’t make the women be the first witnesses. You’d make it be John, James, Peter, Bartholomew, Nathaniel, anybody, except for the women. And yet it’s the women. Why? Because that’s the way it actually happened. They weren’t trying to build a credible story they were just telling you like it was. Jesus mentally vouchsafed the credibility of the resurrection by saying that people you wouldn’t expect would be the first witnesses. But he dignifies women who are with him from cradle to cross, and says, because you were so faithful, I’m gonna reward you with being the first witnesses of the best news anybody could ever get. What could be more dignifying to women? That’s why Michael Kruger pointed out that the pagan Romans in this in the religious elite are making fun of the Christian faith as the religion of women and children, because women were flocking to the Christian faith because they had never seen someone. They had never heard a message. That’s so dignified them. Their paganism hadn’t done it. Their religiosity hadn’t done it. It was this man from Nazareth, who had dignified them like no one else had.


Mark Turman  49:50

Such a great word. Such a great word. You had a part of your ministry season when you were attached to the work of Ravi Zacharias. Yes, yes. So we, we have to contend and you do a beautiful job of speaking to this in your book about just the reality of being associated with somebody who had an enormous platform and and was eventually discovered to have been living a double life, especially as it relates to women. How has that affected your ability to speak to this issue and to talk to people about the value of women when, when you were connected to this ministry? How was how tell people how that’s been working out for you?


Abdu Murray  50:37

Yeah. And it’s so strange mark, you know that Ravi was employing women as in pilots apologists, when pretty much no one did it. And the world sorely needed it. And a woman was the leader of the ministry was the president of the was sorry, the CEO of the ministry, by the time Robbie had passed. And so a lot of women apologists were speaking the truth powerfully around the world, due to his his desire to make sure women had a voice. So you had this paradox, you know, where you see this person who was so valuing the voice of women, yet had treated some as commodities and the duplicity there is just tough to deal with. I here’s what I would say in terms of how this has helped me. I can’t speak to those who might receive the message a certain way I can’t, I wouldn’t dare to, to to proclaim what they should or should not feel in response to what I can tell you and have to take it at face value, I suppose, is as I wrote and written in the preface of the book, I’m a blemished person writing for blemished people. And my experience has shown me just how blemished I am, and just how blemished all of us can be but how unblemished Jesus actually is. He never used his power to overcome the vulnerable, rather, he became vulnerable to redeem the powerful, and the vulnerable. And so I think there’s a credibility, having learned what I’ve learned. Through that experience, I’ve seen Jesus to be who he truly actually is, and the comparison of who he is compared to all of us. And I think also that we have to abandon this idea. You know, we think we say things like the best of men are at best, just men, and Jesus is perfect. And my pastor, my favorite preacher, I know he’s just a guy. But what we really mean is, my pastor Jesus is perfect. And my pastor is just a shade below him, or my favorite teacher, just he’s not, we’re infinitely less all of us are. And so we have to all of us, watch our hearts and watch ourselves. Even when we’re doing good. We have to constantly aware that there is this nature that tries to claws back. And there’s an enemy that seeks to devour us. And it is this constant focus on Jesus, and who he is that can give us this credibility. So I can say that I have viewed Jesus in the splendor of who he is firsthand, and by comparison, have seen how all of us fail. Some of us colossally So, and terribly, so to the point where it hurts people. Which makes the message all the more urgent, and makes it all the more urgent, does it hurt the credibility of the gospel? Unfortunately, I think that there is we have a lot of work to do, I have a lot of work to do. But that makes this message all the more urgent. And so I’m more passionate about preaching this message than I’ve ever been. And I was passionate about it before, but now I’m even more passionate.


Mark Turman  53:32

Well, it’s such a good testimony to share. And, you know, all of us need to learn that we have to differentiate between the message and the messenger, right? And it we all longed to have, I think, inspiring heroes that we can see and no, we all long for that. But that’s where we sometimes find ourselves set up for disappointment is that we put too much stock in the messenger and don’t pay them primary attention to the message. And that’s something we have to be clear about Abdu thank you for taking time to talk with us today. Tell us real quickly where can people find out more about you and your ministry? If they want to follow you read more of your work? Listen to your podcast, where can we find you?


Abdu Murray  54:19

Absolutely. Thanks so much Mark. Appreciate it. So go to embrace the truth dot o RG that’s our website you’ll find links to our social media and videos from our YouTube page. We do various podcasts ourselves, as well as the YouTube shows. So embrace the truth that oh RG I’m Abdu Murray on social media except for Instagram. I’m Abdu Murray, one two, if you go to Abby Barry you’ll find somebody else. Abdu Murray one two, that’s me, actually. So but British roots.org as the primary way you can find out more about us.


Mark Turman  54:50

All right, and the book we’ve been talking about is abuse work more than a white man’s religion, a great, great resource on the topic that we’ve been discussing, hopefully You’ll pick that up as well. I’ll do look forward to future conversations and and thank you again for being a part of this opportunity. Want to thank our audience as well. If this was helpful to you, please like and review us on your podcast platform, share it with others, so that they can be a part of the conversation as well. And we look forward to seeing you again on the Denison Forum Podcast. God bless you


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