Dozens of Christian churches, from Park Hill Congregational in Denver to Hillview United Methodist in Boise, Idaho, and First United Lutheran in San Francisco to St. Elizabeth's Episcopal Church in Honolulu, are planning to send "a message both here at home and to the Arab and Muslim world about our respect for Islam" with a time to read the Quran during worship this Sunday.
It's not just wrong, but dangerous, according to Christian trends analysts.
The aim of the program, which is promoted by social activists behind the Faith Shared website, is to counter the message from Islamic activists who say opposition to their religion is the product of what they call a cottage industry of hate.
So the Interfaith Alliance and Human Rights First is calling on Christian clergy to read portions of the Quran during their services Sunday.
The readings, supporters say, will "counter the anti-Muslim bigotry and negative stereotypes that have erupted throughout the country in the past year and led to misconceptions, distrust and in some cases, violence."
Not so fast, says apprising.org religious trends analyst Ken Silva.
"I would think they need to have their spiritual heads examined. It's foolish to think that we're going to read something that originates with demons and read that in a Christian church," Silva said.
The action amounts to "spiritual treason," he asserted.
Pastors of participating churches declined to discuss their programs with WND.
But Silva said, "Second Corinthians 6:14-18 (the verse warning against partnering light with darkness) says we're forbidden to do that kind of thing. It's one thing to be friendly with someone in Islam, but it's a whole other thing in a Christian community to be reading something that is antithetical to Christianity and is hostile to Jesus Christ himself."
Silva isn't the only analyst who has objections to the program. Worldview Weekend President Brannon Howse said he's not surprised with the development.
"I expect that of the mainline churches. Many of them have denied the essential Christian doctrines," Howse said. "They have denied the exclusivity of Jesus Christ. They have denied the inerrancy of Scripture; they've denied the inspiration of Scripture. So I'm not shocked that pagans would united with pagans."
His critique of what he sees as the failure of the mainline churches grew more severe.
"I'm not shocked that apostates would unite with apostates. I'm not shocked that people who practice the occult of Christian yoga or practice the occultism of contemplative prayer, which is another name for Transcendental Meditation," Howse said.
Howse said he believes Islam is also rooted in the occult.
"I am not shocked that an occultic religion of mainline liberal Christianity would lock arms with the occult of Islam. They're both steeped in the occult and paganism. So I'm not shocked by that at all," Howse said.
Howse also has a word of caution for evangelical Christians.
"If you're an evangelical, you better defend the exclusivity of Jesus Christ and the deity of Jesus Christ, the inspiration of Scripture and the inerrancy of Scripture. If you're not willing to defend that, then you really shouldn't be calling yourself a Christian," Howse said.
Neither the Interfaith Alliance nor Human Rights First responded to WND's repeated requests for interviews.
The Faith Shared website paints a different picture of the objectives. The site says that tensions between Islam and Christianity have grown in the past year.
"Tensions around Islam in America have erupted throughout the country in the past year, leading to misconceptions, distrust and in some cases violence. News stories on the rising tide of anti-Muslim bigotry and violence abound, with graphic and often searing images of the antagonists, the protagonists and the battlegrounds where they meet," the site said.
"All too often, media coverage simplistically pits Muslims against would-be Quran burners, neglecting any substantive representation of where the majority of Americans actually stand: a shared commitment to tolerance and freedom," the site read.
"We are committed to ensuring that the storyline changes dramatically in 2011 by helping to create an environment of mutual understanding and respect for each other’s faith traditions," the site said.
The Human Rights First site said the group simply wants to fight what members believe is rampant anti-Islamic prejudice.
"Faith Shared seeks to counter the anti-Muslim bigotry and negative stereotypes that have erupted throughout the country in the past year and led to misconceptions, distrust and in some cases, violence," the statement said.
"This countrywide, day-long event will engage faith leaders on the national and community levels in a conversation with their houses of worship, highlighting respect among people of different faiths," the site said.
The sites make those claims despite reports that the actual number of anti-Muslim incidents has gone down in the United States in the past 10 years.
Culture and Media Institute analyst Alana Goodman reports that anti-Muslim actions as a percentage of all anti-religious acts never went above 13 percent of the total number of anti-religious hate crimes.
"Since 2001, hate crimes against Muslims have decreased significantly, according to FBI statistics. After 2002, hate crimes against Muslims have not risen above 13 percent of all anti-religious crimes, and the most recent data from 2008 calculates them at 7.8 percent," Goodman's report stated.
Silva believes the real reason for the Shared Faith event is spiritual emptiness in the country.
"So many Christians talk to each other and they read other Christians rather than read the Scriptures themselves. There's a real move inside our country right now for an ecumenism and a syncretism trying to bring everyone together and it's rooted in contemplative spirituality," Silva observed.
"There's a deception that comes. They're under the impression that God is trying to bring all people together, and bring in God's dream for the world to make the world a better place," Silva continued.
"The Gospel has been changed from repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus' name to God wants to make the world a better place, get involved with where He's working and bring about His dream," Silva added.
"It's what Walter Martin would say spiritually obtuse Christians are easy marks for the more militant of the Muslims who are presenting this as some big Islamophobia," Silva said.
"We are not hateful to Muslims, but we are hostile to Islam because it enslaves people. We want people to be free," Silva said.
Howse says his warning to Bible-believing Christians is simple.
"Be aware of these people who have crept in secretly, unnoticed, with destructive heresies. I want to warn the church to be a 'Watchman on the Wall' for the 'Religious Trojan Horse' who is trying to draw people away from the faith," Howse said.
"Some of this deception is going to be so deceitful, so camouflaged, that we're going to be shocked at the Christian leaders who will follow it," Howse said.
WND reported only days earlier on a clash over Islam in Christian ministries.
It happened when Jack Van Impe Ministries launched a campaign to expose what it views as false teachings in Christianity and named several major ministry leaders. Trinity Broadcasting Network halted broadcast of a Van Impe program over it, and Van Impe decided to take his broadcasting elsewhere.
"I Will Not Be Silenced! I will not allow anyone to tell me what I can and cannot preach," Van Impe said in a statement when TBN would not allow his program to air.
"When I see heretical teaching leading to apostasy, I will speak out," he said. "The Bible says 'All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:' (II Timothy 3:16). The Apostle Paul also gives instructions in Titus 1:9-11, 13 'Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers … Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake…Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.'"
Van Impe said he immediately called his media agents and told them, "I no longer wanted to air my program on Trinity Broadcasting Network; we will take the tremendous amount of money that we were spending there to obtain new stations that will allow us to continue to reach every square mile of America with the truths of the Bible without this network."
The dispute arose over the issue of advocating for "Chrislam" and other efforts that are designed to find "common ground" between Christians and Muslims. TBN declined to air one of Van Impe's programs that contained sharp criticisms of leaders such as Rick Warren of "The Purpose Driven Life" fame and Robert Schuller.
In a statement from Van Impe Ministries, Executive Director Ken Vancil said his organization rejected an effort by TBN to reinstate the programming and would work to develop alternative broadcast outlets where they were needed.
"We would not be able to minister effectively if we had to look over our shoulder wondering if a program was going to be censored because of mentioning a name," Vancil said. "While there is hurt over this incident, we hold no animosity towards TBN. Dr. Van Impe has often expressed his appreciation to Paul and Jan (Crouch, of TBN) and all that they have accomplished."
But he confirmed that Paul Crouch Sr. continued to "caution" him "regarding Dr. Van Impe's naming of names and publicly rebuking ministers and their teachings."
Other ministries have voiced criticism similar to Van Impe's.
Joe Schimmel, senior pastor of Blessed Hope Chapel in Southern California and chief of the Good Fight Ministries, openly has questioned whether church leaders are affirming Allah.
Schimmel, who is best known for "They Sold Their Souls for Rock n Roll," which exposes satanic influences behind much of yesterday and today's popular music and how it negatively influences youth, suggested in a WND column, "Could it be that we are witnessing the formation of the prophesied one-world religion under the Antichrist? (Revelation 13:1-18) "
He cited Brian McLaren of the emerging church movement, who planned for an Islamic Ramadan celebration. And he mentioned Warren's agreement to address the Islamic Society of North America, which "the Department of Justice categorized two years ago as a co-conspirator in financing a foreign terrorist group!"
Another church leader, Tony Campolo, "a proponent of the so-called 'evangelical left' claimed that 'even if' Muslims 'don't convert, they are God's people,'" Schimmel wrote.
"Even more chilling is the fact that over 300 prominent Christian leaders signed a letter issued by the Yale Center for Faith and Culture claiming that world peace is dependent on Muslims and Christians recognizing 'Allah' and 'Yahweh' as the same God. This letter, titled 'Loving God and Neighbor Together,' was written in response to a signed document by 138 Muslim leaders titled 'A Common Word Between Us and You.' McLaren, Warren, Robert Schuller and Bill Hybels were just several of the signatories to this outright betrayal of Christ!" he said.
TBN previously had a conflict over its intolerance for criticism of Islam. It was in 2006 when Hal Lindsey, WND columnist and one of the world's most popular non-fiction authors, clashed with the network because TBN wanted him to soften his views on Muslims. Lindsey refused.