Coming out as a Christian to your Muslim Family, Part 2 of 2
This is Part 2 of 2. If you missed part 1, click here.
I am an Anglican priest in Madrid, Spain. I often observe this practice of letting the practices of our tiny Protestant community be determined to a great extent by not doing what the Roman Catholics do. I understand the historical and contextual reasons for this practice. But in the long run it is not a recipe for fruitfulness. In the same way, the winsomeness of the Christian faith should be allowed to stand on its own. If the superior ethic and beauty of the Christian way calls into doubt certain facets of Islam, so be it, but sometimes one makes the point more vividly by letting the observer connect the dots in her own mind.
Again, the very possibility that a person would understand Islam and, after being a Muslim for many years, then judge it to be deficient and identify some other faith as superior—that is not even a possibility that has entered into the mind of most Muslims. It’s like telling a young secular American that diversity is not always good—they’ve just never even considered the possibility.
It is therefore a good idea, when possible, to follow the practice of Esther and Mordecai. Esther’s ethnic-religious identity was not known to her powerful husband. At a point of disaster it was necessary for her to intervene and save her people. But she makes sure to ingratiate herself with her husband before she reveals her identity. In the same way, the convert would do well to demonstrate a changed life to his family. This dynamic is similar to the one I mentioned above in relation to baptism: we’re looking for a changed life, a new way of interacting with people that flows from following the way of Jesus. One of the recommendations I present (and will discuss in future article) is to have the new believer memorize and understand the Ten Commandments.
While every person’s context will be unique, the application here is to regularly review how the inquirer or convert is interacting with his close family members and friends. Discuss each family member and pray for them. Any time you meet pray for wisdom for your believer, that she will know when and how to share her new identity with her family. This sense of anticipation can turn a source of anxiety (what if they find out?) to a source of excitement and hope (I wonder when God will have me do this?).
As always, there may be security concerns. If there are it is good for the reveal to take place in a public or semi-public space, as the presence of other people will make violence less likely. It is wise to have a backup plan if the news is not received well, and this especially true if the convert is a young woman living with her family. Assume she’ll need a room to stay in for a few weeks and make sure you have transportation ready. In brief, work with the assumption that your convert will now be homeless.
I don’t have any recommendation for specific words or the content of what the reveal might look like beyond what has been outlined above. Hopefully the family will have observed a change in behavior and already be wondering how this was brought about. Hopefully through your prayers God’s Spirit will have been preparing the hearts of those present for this news. In a stressful and contentious time like this it is helpful for your convert to have the creeds memorized. Imagine: people are upset or confounded, someone has stomped out of the room, someone is crying, and the convert is demanded to explain what exactly she has in her mind anyway. Most people in such circumstances would have a hard time formulating a careful and clear answer. Most people, though, could clearly recite a brief, memorized formula like the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed.
In sum, avoid confrontation, consider a public or semi-public area, be praying about it regularly, allow the family to see how the convert’s behavior and speech have changed, and make sure to have a back-up plan in case the convert needs a place to stay for a few days or even weeks. Your role is to stand with and by the convert as they live out this great step in their maturation as a disciple of Christ.
 For more on using Esther as a template, I highly recommend Jeff Nelson, “Going Public with Faith in a Muslim Context: Lessons from Esther” in International Journal of Frontier Missions 28 (2012), pp 191–4.
Rev. Dr. Duane Alexander Miller lives in Madrid with Sharon and their three children where they teach and minister at the Anglican Cathedral of the Redeemer. He is associate faculty at the Protestant Faculty of Theology at Madrid (UEBE). You can contact Duane here