Monday, October 29, 2012

A Bomb For Jesus

For about 200 years, between 1069 and 1279, The Christian Church conducted violent, brutal and destructive campaigns across continental Europe and into the Middle East. These war-like events were intended to bring people into the faith and annihilate the unbelievers—mostly Muslims. As these campaigns progressed they became less about religion and more about gathering wealth and power. Nonetheless, it is a dark shadow on the face of Christianity, no doubt. 
On the other hand, Christians have also been persecuted, beginning on the Day of Pentecost and continuing through this very moment. Stephen, Peter and Paul are not the only purveyors of the faith that met a cruel demise. Millions of Jesus believers have died because of their convictions and this is not likely to change. 
But let’s examine this very moment. How often throughout the course of a typical week do we encounter reports of Christians strapping concealed bombs to their bodies, boarding a bus, walking into a crowded movie theater or strolling into a shopping mall? How many Christians learn how to fly large passenger jets for the sole purpose of crashing them into heavily populated skyscrapers? How many Christians storm foreign embassies and murder government employees from other countries? How many truly Christian regimes (if any exist) slaughter their citizens with the singular goal of absolute and unquestioned power? 
One may question the horrifying acts of Timothy McVeigh, Eric Rudolph, Anders Breivik and the Ku Klux Klan—all of which claimed some variety of Christian motivation. Branding these individuals and this organization as examples of Christian terrorism would be justified but for the simple fact that most believers thoroughly reject the twisted interpretation of faith that caused them to act in such brutal ways. 
It is also logical and legitimate to question the moral rights of nations to engage in conflicts and all-out war against those deemed dangerous to global security. Focusing only on recent decades one could ask what justified the US (and its allies) to send troops into Iraq, bombs into Libya, drones into Afghanistan and warships into the waters of the Middle East. Many also challenge those that choose to express utter support for The State of Israel. I can understand this challenge intellectually but I surely cannot defend it when most of Israel’s neighbors have vowed to wipe her off the map. Which leads me to ask: what is the essence of that which we are fighting against? Is it a form of government with which we heartily disagree? Is it the collective brutality of a dictatorship? Is it a small faction of citizens we are trying to protect? Or, I ask boldly, is it a religion antithetical to Christian beliefs and values? 
Perhaps my thesis on this subject is sophomoric. To put it plainly, how many committed Christians with whom you may worship from week-to-week are likely to strap on a bomb and cause human havoc in the cause and name of Jesus? I would answer this question like this: none. The cause and the name of Jesus are about salvation, forgiveness, redemption, love and peace. The true gospel gives life and life more abundantly. The human havoc caused by an encounter with The Truth does not result in bloody destruction; it results in the beautiful transformation of a human soul.


Blogger Ken Van Durand said...


November 24, 2012 at 1:34 PM  
Blogger Phineas said...

Dear Thom--good to have you back blogging. It's been far too long for such a good writer to be absent.

It's curious that you chose now("...this very moment.") to bring up the question of religious ethics. The timing seems a little too convenient, since the answer to your various queries of "How many..." vis-a-vis Christians is...none.

But isn't posing those vast queries just a sly way of suggesting that some followers of Islam, at least in modern times, answer those questions in the affirmative? The answer is yes, to be sure. But is that really the right question?

Like you, I have heard people suggest that Timothy McVeigh, et al should be called Christian terrorists. Not to my way of thinking. His base reason for his action was anti-government, not pro-Christian. And wasn't Breivik also looking to "get back at" his government"?

You've indicated that whatever their motives, McVeigh and the others can't really be called Christian terrorists because the vast population of self-described Christians would never support such activity. Doesn't that apply to Muslims also? I have never met a Muslim domestically (I'm a US citizen), nor in my travels to the Middle East or the Arabic areas of North Africa who was a proponent of suicide bombings and other acts of terror. No doubt they exist. But of the world's 1.6 billion Muslims, how many have committed such acts in the past 20 or 30 years? And how many Muslims supported such acts? Certainly those numbers--especially in the case of the penultimate question--must be very small. And proportionately, they have to be exceedingly so.

Your views certainly aren't sophomoric. And your questions are good. Especially this one: "What is the essence of that which we are fighting against?" It certainly can't simply be Islam, else we'd have to have more fronts than all the wars in history have known. It's got to be something akin to terrorist networks. Not even Islamist terror networks, as it wouldn't really matter what adjective precedes "terror."

I'm damned close to being a pacifist, so I've not been a supporter of the US invasions of Iraq or Afghanistan or the "no-fly zone" in Libya more recently (my personal favorite). But I do acknowledge that a threat exists. I think it's way overblown and find the notion of a "war on terror" to be little more than rally-'round-the-flag hyperbole. It's more sophisticated than that.

As a person who's studied a few of the world's major religions, I can tell you that Islam is not antithetical to Christianity. Christ aside (there's no escaping that difference--to Muslims he's a prophet, to you he's salvation), but rather a good case can be made that it's more similar than not: same God, overlapping historic figures, similar messages, etc.

I can give you countless personal experiences which shine a favorable light on Muslims. Just as I can with Christians. And proportionately, more unfavorable experiences with Christians that Muslims. That may or may not surprise you. But I think it has to do with the fact that you often mention the "...least of these...," something I can't say of most Christians I've met.

There are more differences in the cultures of Muslims and Christians than there are in their respective religions. And yet, that hardly gets any mention. Perhaps it should.

Thanks again for a wonderful post.

November 26, 2012 at 3:23 PM  

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