Violence is Universal, But . . .

17 Nov

With the events in Paris last weekend the inevitable debates have emerged over what to do about ISIS and the threat of global terrorism. While some are ready to close our borders and paint all of Islam as the problem, others say terrorism is not a matter unique to Islam and that throughout history Christians and other religious groups have acted violently against others. While I think our next steps must be thoughtful and not reactionary, I also think this second group is way off the mark and may be doing more harm than good with their assertions of equivalency between the actions of ISIS and Christianity’s past.

It is true, of course, that Christians in the past, along with other groups like Hindus and Buddhists, have persecuted others of different faith or no faith. People have been tortured and killed in the name of religion for millennia. We do ourselves no favors by denying this. But we also do ourselves no favors by misusing this fact as either a shield against facing the reality of what is going on in the world today or as a sword to wield against all religious expression.

The fact that Christians persecuted others in the past does not change the fact that the enemy the world is facing in 2015 is radicalized Islam. It is Islamic terrorism that is at the heart of much of the unrest in the world today. Why deny this in some attempt at faux tolerance? It only obscures reality and keeps us from taking constructive steps to address the real problems facing our world. Radicalized Islam has a real beef with the rest of the world and it is not afraid to take out civilians in an all out effort to gain power and fight what it perceives as the decadence of the world. Along with this seems to be a desire to control the Middle East and to remove western power from this region. I do not believe it is an either/or but a both/and. Radicalized Islam wants a cultural war because that is the means of gaining more recruits. At the same time, a war simply for ideological purity is not worth the massive resources being poured into the terrorists efforts. Land, money, people, these are the spoils of war. Therefore ISIS wants to make progress in the land war to solidify its power for years to come.

How can governments fight effectively unless we identify the enemy? Therefore we need to stop shielding radicalized Islam from the critique and opposition it richly deserves.

At the same time we need to stop using the actions of radicalized Islam as a sword against all religion. I freely acknowledge that people throughout history have often acted in horrific ways in the name of religion. But how short do our attention spans have to be to forget that the greatest persecutions of human history have all been spawned by people who held an atheistic worldview? The twentieth century, with its Nazism and Communism, claimed far more lives than ISIS and the Crusades combined. It is true that Hitler and Stalin had religious backgrounds (and Hitler used religious language as a political tool) but it is clear to fair-minded readers that the ideological roots of Hitler, Stalin, Mao were atheistic, Nietzschean, Marxist roots. This is not my way of saying, “Therefore, death to atheists!” or “See what atheism leads to?” It is my way of saying that in a broken world of broken people, any and every ideology or religion can be taken up to oppress and persecute and grab power. No area on earth is innocent of this kind of brutality.

So let’s name radicalized Islam as the problem and get to work on finding solutions to deal with them. And at the same time let’s not throw all Muslims or all religion under the bus in an attempt to rid the world of something that brings meaning and hope to so many just because it is misused by some.





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