The British Daily Mail today featured an entire page of photos from around the Muslim world documenting the Shia holy day of Ashura. Devotees self-flagellate with whips, chains, and knives, seeking to cover themselves in their own blood, an act called tatbir. This year’s observance has been greatly increased in fervor by the “Muhammad Cartoon” farce (note that there are now utterly fake cartoons circulating, and very, very few of those protesting have actually seen the original cartoons in their own context). Here we see 1) a baby crying after its father has sliced its scalp to cause blood to flow in the Lebanese town of Nabatiyeh; 2) a father slicing his son’s head with a knife in Karbala, Iraq; 3) Shiites marching with blood soaked knives and swords after gashing themselves.
Flagellation is a part of all the world’s religions. It appeared in the Middle Ages in Roman Catholicism as flagellants went about in various cities during the Black Plague whipping themselves in hopes of averting the wrath of God. Christianity has no place for such behavior for a simple reason: our blood cannot bring about the forgiveness of sins, since we ourselves are sinners! Only the sinless Son of God could give Himself, which He did, voluntarily, once. A sound doctrine of the atonement precludes any and all such concepts, as does a sound doctrine of grace. See, theology matters. Did not Paul likewise say, long ago,

Col. 2:20-23: If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all [refer] [to] things destined to perish with use)– in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, [but are] of no value against fleshly indulgence. (NASB)

May God be pleased to make His gospel to run freely and powerfully amongst the Muslim people, freeing them from such tyranny and falsehood!

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