Radical Christian Terrorism is NOT Christian At All

In the 1967 “Batman” movie Commissioner Gordon, the Dynamic Duo and Chief O’Hara are beginning to figure out that the world’s 4 top super-criminals are getting together to destroy something that will turn out to be the UN Security Council. As the pieces come together in their mind, the Commissioner says, “it would be something so terrible, I dare not give it utterance”. So it is as the pieces come together in my head about *my* faith. Actually, it’s not my faith. It’s like my faith in Bizarro world, or my faith in a really bad “fun house” mirror. And it is “something so terrible that I dare not give it utterance”. Remember “Radical Islamic Terrorism” and how it was used to scapegoat people who were neither radical nor terrorists, (and, amazingly not always Islamic either)? That is what I don’t want to name, and that is why.

I am reading the book, “See No Stranger” by Valerie Kaur, a Sikh woman whose family and friends were beaten or killed in America, after 9/11 by people who thought they were a) Muslims because they wore turbans; and b) all Muslims were terrorists. Some were beaten. Some were killed. Many (70% of Sikhs!) were terrorized by hate crimes because American “Christians” (always said loudly, apropos of nothing in a conversation) thought Turbans = Muslim= Terrorist Threat/Target for Murder — instinctively.

Ten minutes after 9/11, while building pieces were still falling Kaur’s uncle saved someone in his taxi and was threatened by people who “knew” that he was a terrorist. She says that this is before pictures of Osama Bin Ladin had even been published! That kind of thing can only be understood as instinct or deep, fearful brainwashing. What it can not be is Christian.

If it were, Jesus’ story of the “Good Samaritan” would have had another chapter where the Samaritan, after saving the man’s life and paying for his lodging and medical care, gets beaten to death. It doesn’t, because that’s not the world Jesus envisioned— ever. Furthermore, the founder of our faith would never have said “Love your enemies” (He did) and would have been quite happy when one of his disciples cut off an enemies ear on the night of his betrayal. (He wasn’t).

So, let’s get right to it: The words “Christian” (follower of Jesus) and terrorist should never be used in the same sentence. Jesus wasn’t a terrorist. People who follow him shouldn’t be. People of his faith might have called him a terrorist after he used a whip in the Temple, but even that wouldn’t have been true. It would have been propaganda spoken by others about him. So it is with faithful people who are misunderstood and stretch the boundaries of their faith. They don’t speak for themselves, but are spoken about disparagingly.

I will tell you upfront that I know almost nothing about Islam, so I don’t believe I can say anything about it. About Christianity, however, I know a lot. There is a spectrum of Christian beliefs, from “non-denominational” and “Bible believing” Christians to more-denominational, less built on the Bible, more intellectual and reasonable, Christians. The first group are more grounded in the “Jesus died for your sins, you need to be saved” worldview and the second group are more grounded in the “Jesus taught us how to live”, “social justice” model, also known as “the social gospel”. Both of those may see the other as “radical” in a bad way, and themselves as “radical” in a good way. Both understandings are part of the faith. I suspect that this is like “Sunni” Muslims vs. “Shiite” Muslims, but I don’t know. Neither of the two types of Christian believe the “if you’re not a Christian, I get to kill you” model, though sadly the church and military conquerors have used in the past. The conquering of the Incas, the destruction of Native American civilizations, and so much more tragedy is under the misguided (evil) belief of “be Christian or die”.

Where that happened, I can tell you that not only isn’t it Christian or Jesus-like, it’s anti-the teachings of Christ, and the early church. Jesus told parables about wheat and weeds that grew up together until the planter (God) decides to decide. Jesus said things like, “judge not, lest you be judged”. Jesus also tells rigid thinking people in his faith that they will ultimately go to hell for thinking they are saved, and not acting like it. In the Old Testament, the Bible says, “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord”. It doesn’t say “Vengeance is yours. Go get it.”

The fear that “Muslims are going to impose Sharia law“ would be like the fear that Christians were going to force Old Testament-type law down others’ throats. What I want people to know is that I suspect Sharia Law is no more Islam than the Old Testament law is Christian. It’s simply rigid thought, with rigid categories of “the way things ought to be” that make some people more important than others. It’s hierarchical, “do what I say, because I said it!” Culture. Since Jesus says we are “not to lord our authority over others”, the whole “do what I say!” thing isn’t Jesus’ plan. It’s human’s plan. That’s a problem. Imposing “not-Jesus’-plan” on others simply can’t be Christian by definition.

So, to sum it all up, there are lots of people who claim to be Christians. There are also plenty of people who actually are Christians. There are radical Christians, of one sort or another. Even Radical Christians can’t claim terrorism as a model.

There can only be radical terrorists. The minute they become terrorists and killing others because they are different is the minute they stop being Christians. Again, I suspect it is the same in other religions. I know it is true in mine.

Resisting in Peace,

John

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