I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that there was a mixed response to my article yesterday about Muslim fundamentalist terrorism. Many people have already made their minds up about that issue, and don’t wish to reconsider their position. Others waver, wanting to think the best of people, but afraid that the all-too-many examples of Muslim fundamentalism are sufficient to warrant a stronger response irrespective of other considerations.
I’d like to make just one observation. My response to any issue in the world is, first and foremost, rooted in and grounded on my Christian faith. If you aren’t Christian, fair enough – you’ll approach the issue from a different moral perspective, so I suggest you skip the rest of this article.
I take the Golden Rule as a command endorsed by Christ, not something optional or conditional (as in, “Sure, I’ll do unto you as I want you to do unto me – but you’ve got to do it first!”). Jesus attached no conditions. He told us to do it. End of story. Remember the famous prayer of St. Ignatius, sometimes ascribed instead to St. Francis Xavier?
Teach us, good Lord,
to serve you as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for any reward,
save that of knowing that we do your will.
That’s the Golden Rule in action, right there.
That reality means that any suggestion of eradicating Islam, or nuking Muslim states, or waging ‘total war’ against that religion, is simply off the table. Can you really see Jesus, who once said “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven”, approving of even the thought of wiping out an entire nation – including its children – because of the faith of their parents, which they can’t even understand at their young age? He gave us the answer to our problem in the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations“. That does not include nuclear weapons as an aid to evangelization.
There are those who claim that Islam is very well suited to manipulation by the Devil. I can see why they would say that. It’s been distorted very often over the centuries to justify this group destroying that group, or whatever. Unfortunately, precisely the same accusation can be leveled against Christianity! It, too, has been used to justify murder, mayhem, massacre and all sorts of crimes that must make Jesus wonder whether it was all worthwhile. (To cite just one well-known example, “Kill them all – God will know his own!” Want another one? How about the sack of Constantinople? No, not the one when the Muslims conquered it in 1453 – the [equally savage] one perpetrated by Christians in 1204.) As soon as we start saying that this religion, or that religion, is somehow less ‘Godly’ or ‘moral’ or ‘legitimate’ than ours, we put our feet on the slippery slope to perdition. There’s no other way to put it.
Our job as Christians is to live up to the example of Christ and observe the way of life he taught us, both by example and with his words. That doesn’t prevent us defending ourselves if and when attacked; but it does mean that we aren’t allowed to flout Christ’s law in our response to threats. If we do that, we no longer have the right to call ourselves Christian. That may not be a very comfortable thought, but it’s reality – and Christ didn’t come to make us comfortable, but to challenge us.
The majority of Americans profess to be Christian in one form or another. I wonder how many of them have thought through the implications of their faith for their attitudes towards Islam and Muslims?
EDITED TO ADD: A couple of readers have commented that Christianity’s ‘dark moments’ occurred centuries ago, whereas Islamic savagery occurs to this day. This is partially correct (although there are areas of the world where Christians can be as savage – see Rwanda in 1994, or the situation in Nigeria at present). Nevertheless, an important factor to bear in mind is that Western civilization went through the Renaissance and Reformation (including the great wars of religion), followed by a few centuries of development, before it could reach that stage. Islam has not yet experienced such influences.
What’s more, a large part of the blame for that can be placed (IMHO) on the colonial powers who occupied Muslim countries for decades, even centuries, but made little or no effort to educate the locals and precipitate a Muslim Renaissance or Reformation when they had the chance. That neglect is now coming back to bite all of us.
Just a few additional thoughts.