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“In The Name Of God”: If You Preach Religious Peace And Tolerance, Then Practice Them

The narrative of Jesus’ birth in Luke’s Gospel has retained its power beyond the realm of believers because it renders one of the most peaceful moments in all of scripture: a gathering of angels and shepherds celebrating the “good news” and “great joy” of the birth of a baby “wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

Although my favorite Christmas song will always be “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” it is “Silent Night” that may be truest to the spirit of Luke’s account. There are no rumors of war, no clashing armies, only a bright and blessed calm.

This will not be the first or the last Christmas when the world mocks the day’s promise and when religion finds itself a source of violence, hatred and, among many not inclined toward either, a dangerous mutual incomprehension.

Killing in the name of God is not a new thing in history, and nothing does more to discredit faith. Believers regularly argue that religion is often invoked as a cover to justify violence carried out for reasons of politics, economics and power that have nothing to do with God. There is truth to this — and also to the idea that in the 20th century, secular forms of totalitarianism unleashed mass murder on an unprecedented scale.

Nonetheless, as Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi in Britain, argues in his remarkable book “Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence,” believers must face the painful facts.

“Too often in the history of religion,” Sacks writes, “people have killed in the name of the God of life, waged war in the name of the God of peace, hated in the name of the God of love and practiced cruelty in the name of the God of compassion.”

We are now focused on the thoroughly ungodly violence of the Islamic State, but Sacks is careful to document that wars of religion are not unique to Islam. He believes that to persuade religious people of the Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — arguments against religious violence must be rooted in theology, not in secular ideas alone. These have to do with the nature of God. “When religion turns men into murderers,” he insists, “God weeps.”

Sacks argues for a separation of religion from power because religion and politics “are inherently different activities.” This is tricky, since many of the genuinely ethical norms that religious people bring to public life are rooted in their faith. Nonetheless, he is surely right that religion “is at its best when it relies on the strength of argument and example. It is at its worst when it seeks to impose truth by force.”

And the strength of example must mean that those who preach religious peace and toleration should practice them. This is why the rank prejudice being shown against Muslims, usually for political reasons, is so destructive, as Cardinal Seán O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, argued in a powerful column this month in his diocesan newspaper.

“One of the most pernicious effects of terrorism is that it can instill prejudices and group hatred in people’s hearts and minds,” O’Malley wrote. “All of us are horrified by the evil perpetrated by radical terrorists, but we must not let their inhumanity rob us of our humanity.”

He also issued a warning that could usefully be repeated week after week during next year’s presidential campaign: “Fear can cause us to do terrible and stupid things.”

And there is an important lesson in the Christmas story that, God willing, will be heard from many pulpits. “As we mull over the debate about refugees, let us remember the doors that were closed in the face of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem,” O’Malley said. “We must ask our leaders to be vigilant and protect our citizens, but at the same time we cannot turn our back on so many innocent people who are hungry, homeless, and without a country.”

Muslims are constantly called upon to condemn violence. One who has done so consistently is Eboo Patel, an American whose argument in his book “Acts of Faith” parallels the lessons from Rabbi Sacks and Cardinal O’Malley.

“To see the other side, to defend another people, not despite your tradition but because of it, is the heart of pluralism,” Patel writes. “We have to save each other. It’s the only way to save ourselves.”

This idea is worthy of the good news in Luke where an angel tells us: “Do not be afraid.”

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, December 23, 2015

December 26, 2015 Posted by | Faith, God, Religion | , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

“Yes, There Are Christian Terrorists”: Putting Religious Violence In Context

“There are still nine Christians here. We will capture them. We will kill them. When we finish here, we will go to the next village and kill the Christians there, too.”

If an ISIS leader made a statement like this publicly, Fox News would probably cut into their programming to bring you a special report about the Muslims’ “religious war” against Christians. Mainstream media outlets would most likely cover it as well.

But that statement was indeed uttered in 2014. Except there was one simple word difference: “Christian” was replaced with “Muslim”. That is exactly what a Christian terrorist said about his militia’s plan to exterminate the remaining nine Muslims in a village in Central Africa Republic (CAR). But, of course, stuff like that doesn’t really make news here in our country.

Or did you hear about the Christian militant who publicly beheaded a Muslim man in the streets of the CAR capital last year?  That was actually covered by the US media—in a short Associated Press paragraph buried papers like the New York Times. Anyone doubt that if a Muslim terrorist beheaded a Christian man in the public square it would’ve made the US news?

Any cable news channels cover in depth the Christian marauders in CAR that are – as we speak – ethnically cleansing tens of thousands of the minority Muslim population there?  These Christian militants  “stage brutal attacks…wielding machetes” and have “burned and looted…houses and mosques.” True, this is part of a civil war, but these violent acts are still carried out by militants who publicly self identify as Christian fighters.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of Christians committing acts of terrorism.

But, of course, when President Obama dared to mention at the National Prayer Breakfast last week that we have seen acts of violence perpetrated by Christians, including during the Crusades, some on the right went on the warpath. Rush Limbaugh called Obama’s words an “insult” to Christianity.

And numerous Fox News anchors were outraged, most notably Eric Bolling, who claimed that the number of people killed in the name of Christianity was “zero.”

To be honest, I do agree with the rightwing pundits on one issue. I do wish Obama didn’t bring up the Crusades to point out the violence committed in the name of Christianity.  The last Crusade took place over 700  years ago.

The attacks by the Christian militants taking place in CAR is a far better example of how all faiths have people who wage violence in the name of it. Obama could have also noted the horrifically violent actions of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a pseudo-Christian cult whose announced goal is to impose the Ten Commandants as the law of Uganda. To that end, the LRA slaughtered thousands of men, women and children, raped women, and forced people into being sex slaves over a 25 year period starting in 1986.

Or Obama could have simply focused on the violence perpetrated by Christian terrorists in America.  For starters, since 1977 there have been ”8 murders, 17 attempted murders, 42 bombings, 181 arsons, and thousands of incidences of other criminal activities” targeting reproductive health care facilities here at home. With few exceptions, there were perpetrated by Christians who opposed abortion for religious reasons.

Lets not forget that Eric Rudolph, who was tied to the white supremacist “Christian Identity” movement, had bombed abortion clinics, a gay nightclub and the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, which killed two people and wounded 110.  Rudolph’s stated motivation was to stop abortion, claiming our government had “legalized, sanctioned and legitimized” abortion, and thus, “they forfeited their legitimacy and moral authority to govern.”

And there was also the 2009 execution of Dr. George Tiller, who became nationally known for performing late term abortions. His killer, Scott Roeder, was a born again Christian who claimed that he the killing “was justified to save the lives of unborn children.”

Look, I fully understand that some don’t want to believe people of their faith have commited atrocities. I’m Muslim —and I can assure you that when I hear about acts of violence carried out by any Muslim, I’m outraged. Still, I can’t deny that there are Muslims who commit terrorism.

However, with both ISIS and these Christian terrorists, I know that their actions are not based on the tenets of their respective faiths but on their own political agenda. And that is why I won’t call the Christian terrorists followers of “radical Christianity.” There is no such thing, just as there is no such thing as “radical Islam.” But there are radical and violent followers of both religions who commit acts in the name of their respective faith.

Clearly President Obama and I have no intention of demonizing Christians. We’re just trying to put religious violence in context. In fact, like Obama, my mother is a Christian and my father Muslim and I was raised to have great respect for both religions.

But we can’t deny reality. There are people who commit acts of terrorism in the name of every faith, whether it is Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism or Islam, even if its just terrorist adherents of the latter that gets all the media attention.

 

By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, February 15, 2015

February 16, 2015 Posted by | Christians, Muslims, Terrorists | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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