Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Jihad of Jesus, by Dave Andrews: a Book Review

I must admit, when I first saw this title it seemed to me a contradiction in terms.  Then with my next thought, I wondered how many of my fellow Christians had judged this book by its cover, denounced it, and ran screaming from their computers as if their spiritual lives depended on it.   So.. I knew I had to read it.

But, before I get into my review, I want to share a little bit about the author. Dave Andrews lives in Brisbane, Australia with his wife Ange, children, grandchildren, and others in a large combined house in the inner city of Brisbane.   If I were to imagine a happy, hippie, Santa Claus, he would look like Dave.

He and Ange have spent over forty years living in intentional Christian communities and working with people marginalized by societies in India, Nepal, Pakistan, Australian, and Afghanistan.  So after reading Dave’s bio I already liked the guy and was ready to dig in to what could be a very interesting yet controversial read.

Like many mis uninformed westerners, the only thing I knew about the word and the idea of jihad was that it was something akin to a  holy war waged against moderate Muslims, any non-Muslims, Europeans, and especially Americans.  What I learned though was that in Islam jihad is understood as a religious duty and in Arabic, it means “struggle”.

The two accepted definitions are an inner spiritual struggle and an outer physical struggle.

The inner struggle called the “greater jihad” is non-violent and refers to a believer simply fulfilling their religious duties.  The “lesser jihad” is the physical struggle against enemies of Islam and any oppressors. It can take the form of violence or non-violence.  Those who support the violent form have interpreted it to mean “holy war”.

But, what Dave points out and documents extensively, is that the Christian church has had its own history of “lesser jihad” that spans centuries.  During the colonization of the Americas and much of the southern hemisphere, if agents of the Church could not convince the “heathens” to accept the message of Christ willingly, they were forced to convert. And it wasn't pretty.  Often many were simply massacred for their failure to cooperate.  

Fellow Christians were not safe either as thousands (maybe millions) were condemned as heretics and brutally murdered for espousing beliefs that conflicted with the doctrines of whatever church body (Protestant or Roman Catholic) happened to be in power at the time.

But the author doesn’t just give us all the embarrassingly gory details of the Church’s history of atrocities.  He shares Islam’s as well.
He talks about how Muhammad was a prophet and mystic.  But he was also a military innovator, and used his command of the armed forces to reach his goals.
Dave states that Islam may have begun as an attempt at reconciliation of tribes in Medina, and laying a foundation to work towards peace with the People of the Book, both Christians and Jews.    But after a while, it wasn’t long before there were campaigns of slaughter and enslavement of these groups, including Jewish tribes.

These historical events are laid out from as early as 100 A.D. through to the 21st century for the Church and 620 A.D. through the 21st century for Islam.

But what does this have to do with Jesus and jihad?   Both Islam and Christianity look favorably on the person of Jesus. Muslims don’t see Him as a deity, though Jesus (Isa to them) is honored as a great prophet. But for Christians, He is accepted as equally God and human.
What David is making the case for is that Jesus lived in the realm of jihad (nonviolent struggle) by way of love and justice.

Here, from page 129 is a list of five phases as he saw them unfolding:

     1. The first phase of his nonviolent jihad for love and justice Jesus followed on from John the Baptist in denouncing the exploitation of the poor by the rich.

     2.   In the second phase off His nonviolent jihad for love and justice Jesus denounced the oppression of the powerless by the powerful and actively advanced liberation of disempowered groups of people through the power of the Spirit.

     3.   In the third phase of his nonviolent jihad for love and justice Jesus advocated communities with leadership that would serve rather than oppress people.

     4.  In the fourth phase of his nonviolent jihad for love and justice Jesus created communities committed to doing justice to the marginalized & disadvantaged.

     5. In the fifth phase of his nonviolent jihad for love and justice Jesus demonstrated active, radical, sacrificial nonviolence to free people from the cycles of violence.

I really enjoyed this book, especially the historical references. I only shared a small sample here, but I appreciate how the author presented what I think is a balanced view of people’s actions in both faiths, the heavenly as well as the horrific.
I no longer have a one sided, negative view of jihad. I know now that the concept is much more nuanced and layered than I was lead to believe.

Check out the Jihad of Jesus site here

Dave Andrews' site

*I received a complementary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review..


  1. Sounds really interesting - I may check it out! I found you by searching "Vegan Christians" - glad to find your blog!

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  3. Hello Alyssa! Nice to meet you. Welcome to my blog. You can follow me on my Facebook page as well. I tend to post there more often. :)