Monday, August 1, 2011

The Christian Blind Spot: Terrorism

The best way to cleanse oneself of the ills done in the name of one’s religion is to deny that those doing the “ills” are – in fact – part of one’s tradition and belief system.  Here recently, when you hear the word “terrorist,” immediately your mind starts to think about that brown-skinned man wearing the turban you saw walking through the airport the other day; here in America, we’re okay with that stereotype. 

In America, Islam has become synonymous with terrorism.  Like most stereotypes, it is partly true; there is a small section of Muslims – we’ve identified them as extremists – who do “terrorize” parts of the world.  The problem is that (i) this is ONLY reserved for Muslims, and (ii) that the act of these few now represents the entire religion.  Christians are quick to lump every evil done by a person or group into the Muslim faith indiscriminately; this has been clearly illustrated by the faux “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy, the Qur’an burnings by Christian Snake Oil Salesmen issue, and even the campaign rhetoric of presidential hopefuls.  Even after the overwhelming majority within the Muslim faith from around the world condemn extremism and terrorist activities, we (Christians) find it near impossible to not blame the entire Islamic faith.  However, when the tables are turned and the perpetrator is a self-identified Christian, those within his same faith are quick to separate and resolve that he is not Christian. 

I guess Christians have the power to absolve any wrongdoing in the name of Christianity by simply saying “they weren’t Christians.”  I’ve actually heard folks say that Christians CAN’T be terrorists.  “No one believing in Jesus commits mass murder.”  Really?  I could’ve sworn I heard similar comments coming from the Muslim community in response to 9/11 and other atrocities.

We know Christian extremism exist.  Hell, Christian extremists have terrorized African Americans for decades in the form of the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Nation, both of whom were formed from the Church of Jesus Christ –Christian; there’s also Matt Hale and his “World Church of the Creator” who tried to kill a federal judge.  They claim Christianity as much as any other Christian.  If Christianity is based on an individual’s relationship with God, who are we to say who is or isn’t a Christian simply because we don’t like that person’s actions – as heinous as some are.  I'm sure most of you have heard the old Negro Spiritual “Everybody Talkin’ ‘bout Heaven ain’t Goin’ There”  so it shouldn’t come as a shock to know that there are Christians who are not living in a Christ-like manner.  The point is, 100 individuals can read the same scriptures and interpret it 100 different ways.  If interpreted one way, we’d call them Catholics; if interpreted another way, we’d call them Protestant.  The same can be said for ANY religion.  That’s exactly why there is a difference between Shia and Sunni Muslims.  The same interpretation works for those who view their religious charge in a more extremist light.  We can’t act as though evil people don’t do things in the name of Christianity, and we certainly can’t say that people use the Bible as a source of justification.   This is not reserved just for the Qur’an and Islam; if anything, it has been mastered over time by Christians and adopted by Muslims.  Sometimes Christians do bad things, and simply saying “they aren’t Christian” doesn’t make it go away.  If we can separate the actions of a few misguided individuals who “distort” Christianity from Christianity and say that they are not acting in Christ’s name, then why is it impossible for us to do the same for those who bombed the World Trade Center (WTC)?  It wasn’t Islam that bombed the WTC, it was a misguided handful that acted out like Anders Behring Breivik did in Oslo; or Eric Rudolph bombing abortion clinics.  Could you imagine if some decided to protest the buildings of Churches in Oslo near where the bombings occurred, “The Church” would be up in arms and talking about the assault on Christianity. 

Bottom-line, the best way to solve a problem is not to ignore it, but face it head on.  The most effective force against Religious extremism is Religion itself.  Instead of denying the existence of Christian extremism, we should work on our ministering to make sure God’s will be done.   If our response is to act as if it doesn’t exist, and that only Muslims can commit terrorist acts, then the battle is already lost. 

Can a Christian be a terrorist?
Why do Christians have a hard time accepting the fact that there are Christian extremists?
Is "man's" interpretation of religion the cause of violent extreme acts?  
Would the world be a safer place without religion?

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