THE RANTING RIGHT AND RELIGIONS OF PEACE

Another email rant came my way. Its theme: “I’m tired.” It offered a litany of conservative complaints. Many possess a kernel of truth. That’s what enables the far right to sound believable. But the complaints were basically black and white, no grays.

One really got my attention: “I’m tired of Muslims saying Islam is a religion of peace.” Well, I’m tired of rants like that.

Disclaimer: After 9/11, I immediately grew tired of those saying no Muslim could have planned or implemented that terrible violence because Islam is a religion of peace. It calls to mind the old cop-out, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Jews can be violent. Christians can, too. Why not Muslims? To quote a darling of the right, “You betcha!” Present deeds count more than past words no matter how venerated. Still, I the majority of the world’s Muslims seek to live peacefully. I refuse to tar them all with the same brush.

Now let me ask: Would the email ranter claim that Christianity is a religion of peace? Even Jesus gets a little testy. He overturns the tables of the moneychangers (Matthew 21:12), although travelers to Jerusalem had to purchase animals and birds for offerings at the Temple. More to the point, Christians have slaughtered and enslaved millions in the name of God. Random example: The Thirty Years War (1618-48) in the German states pitted Protestants against Catholics. It may have taken upwards of six million lives. (For citations of deaths in wars, including religious wars, over the last two millennia, go to http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstat0.htm – European. The Holocaust speaks for itself.) But the Christians I know would never raise their hands against others.

Closer to home, warfare and destruction abound in the Hebrew Bible. Yet few peoples have been more peaceable than Jews over the last 1,850 years. (Or been more adept at war for the last 60-plus.) As minorities often persecuted in the Christian and Muslim worlds, Jews lacked the power to harm others. Which leads me to conclude that power, not scriptural heritage, ultimately determines whether religious and political groups prefer peace or war at any given time.

Deuteronomy 20:17-18 offers a fascinating example of defining good and bad by actions rather than words. God instructs the Israelites to destroy the peoples of Canaan “lest they lead you into doing all the abhorrent things that they have done for their gods and you stand guilty before the Lord your God.” It’s not what these peoples believe that condemns them—polytheists though they may be—but what they do. Behavior trumps creed.

We’re better off foregoing cherry picking scriptural verses dating back fourteen to over twenty-five centuries when making claims about others’ intentions. Textual and historic perspective must be added. Interpretation of scripture and the actions that result define the true determinant of peaceful intent.

I suggest we follow my favorite new 11th Commandment (of which there are many, including “Never buy retail”): You shall cut each other some slack.

One Comment


  1. Ron Laupheimer
    Oct 27, 2010

    David–

    You points about Christian and Jewish law are valid, but I do not feel you fully appreciate what is really going on throughout the world. We expect (or perhaps hope) other peoples, including the Muslims, to deal with us openly and fairly, just as we try to treat others. I do not feel that is near reality, especially in regards to a large segment of the Muslim world.

    Your blog is so timely. We just viewed last night a VERY disturbing 72 minute film called “The Third Jihad” (made by an American Muslim doctor) that graphically showed, using the radical Muslims’ OWN WORDS and WRITINGS, how a good % of Muslims (perhaps 10%, which means 120 million people!) are TOTALLY dedicated to one goal–destroying all Western countries by establishing the Muslim religion and all of its alleged precepts, including strict adherence to Sharia law as they interpret it, as the one and only religion and law throughout the ENTIRE world. These radical Muslims have mostly intimidated the rest of the Muslim world into silence and are trying to (and I would say are somewhat successful to date) to take over countries using Western speech and action freedom laws and a large birthrate to their distinct advantage.

    Yes, that is a pessimistic view of things, but I believe it is reality. If we in the United States and the rest of the world do not wake up right away, stop our denial of this inevitable result and take strong action, the Muslim zealots will triumph in the not-too-distant future. The threat is real! We in the United States and elsewhere (particularly Europe at this time) are just ignoring or denying it.

    I do not have a solution to this threat, but I know it is real and out there. This is a topic that needs to be fully and repeatedly aired in the media (which has ignored it so far) so this issue becomes known and actions proposed to deal with this very significant problem.

    Ron: You are certainly correct that that an Islamist movement seeks to destabilize the West. First and foremost, it is engaged in a struggle for control of the Muslim world. The threat is significant. And Muslims need to speak out against Islamism—as distinct from Islam. Many have, but the media doesn’t make much of it. It’s not newsworthy. My point—not all Muslims want to take the world back to the seventh century any more than all European Christians supported Nazism. Or all Jews express distaste for non-Jews, in Israel or elsewhere. Which is the point of my next post. — David

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