Texas evangelical Bob Roberts, Jr., believes Christians should distance themselves from anti-Sharia legislation because such bills send the message that evangelicals are scared and would rather drive Muslims into isolation than trust God to protect them.
Roberts urges Christians supporting anti-Sharia laws to put their faith in God rather than in legislation. Fear, he said, is the driving force behind state Sharia (Islamic law) bans.
"When we fear to that degree, then we start pushing laws because somebody else's beliefs make us nervous," said the Texas pastor.
Several states, including those in the "Bible Belt," are considering Sharia bans. Lawmakers in South Carolina, Wyoming, Texas and Georgia have introduced anti-Sharia bills in their state legislatures.
In Tennessee, House lawmakers gave their preliminary approval to a Sharia ban during a Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday.
Called the Material Support Act, the proposed bill gives the state's governor the power to label certain groups as a "domestic terrorist entity."
It also stipulates that Sharia – "the Path" in Arabic – law be recognized as "a political doctrine" that "support[s] the replacement of America's constitutional republic ... with a political system based upon Sharia."
Anyone knowingly adhering to Sharia is then "in support of the overthrow of the United States government and the government of this state,” the bill states.
State Rep. Rick Womick (R-Rockvale), a supporter of the Tennessee legislation, testified that the bill was not about religion, but warned of the ominous impact the Islamic code could have on basic American freedoms.
"With Islam," he stated, "there is no freedom of religion allowed within or outside of Islam. There is no freedom of speech or thought, no freedom of artistic expression, no freedom of the press, no equality of peoples, because non-Muslims are never equal to Muslims."
Roberts rebuffed rationales for anti-Sharia laws, asserting that America's existing laws and Constitution already provides enough regulation on how American Muslims practice Sharia.
However, the bill’s sponsor, Tennessee House Speaker Pro Tempore Judd Matheny (R-Tullahoma) told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that the bill is vital "to protect Tennesseans, to empower local law enforcement, to preempt terrorist attacks so we don't have to pick up body parts after an event."
While Roberts also expressed concern about honor killings, mutilation and other abuses imposed in some Middle Eastern countries to enforce strict adherence to Sharia, he asserted that these behaviors are already illegal under U.S. law.
"We're just banning what's illegal," he said.
State lawmakers passed the bill by a 12-8 vote after references to Sharia and Muslims were removed.
Dr. Bill Wagner, author of How Islam Plans to Change the World, told CP last year that he believes that Sharia bans like the one passed in Oklahoma last year are premature. However, he warned that the Islamic code viewed by Muslims as the key to a utopian life will become a problem as the American Muslim population continues to grow.
"I feel that once the Muslims get a majority in some areas it will become a major issue," said Wagner. When that occurs, Christians must be prepared to take a stand.
Roberts, a traveled church planter, has a different view. He believes that Christians must trust God's ability to change things and convict minds through His spirit. Roberts also encourages Christians to follow Jesus' Great Commission to go into all the world and to all peoples.
As pastor of NorthWood Church in Keller, Texas, Roberts said he has invited Muslims to his church to witness how they fellowship. He also has held question and answer sessions with Muslims who are curious about Christianity.
Some Muslims change their minds about Christianity and some don't, he noted. Roberts said he extended these invitations not to convert Muslims, but to create relationships. These relationships are vital, he stressed, to spreading the Gospel near and far.
"With what's going on in the Middle East [and] realizing there's 1.3 billion Muslims in the world, this is the time that we need to engage them because they're not going away and we aren't either," he said.