We’re happy to describe Middle Eastern terrorists as Muslim or Islamic. It’s hard to separate it, and if I were to try, I imagine most people wouldn’t understand what I’m talking about. This extends to the man who took over a storefront in Australia and eventually died when the police broke in: new reports consistently tag him as an “Islamist.” Yet almost every Muslim authority figure in the Middle East and around the world has said repeated such terrorists AREN’T Muslim and don’t follow Islam, in spite of the protestations of folks such as ISIS. One scholar went as far as to refute point by point every claim ISIS has made to religious legitimacy. The only word we hear is usually a call from someone in the US insisting Muslim authorities denounce ISIS, not knowing they have already done so repeatedly.
Do we take this extreme mindset to protect the superiority of Christianity? Do we do this in order to justify similar radical interpretations of Christianity legitimate, if nothing else that to guarantee our absolute freedom of interpretation of our faith? Do we do this to reject any attempt to be challenged in our faith, to have someone question seriously whether we believe what we profess?
Any religion that needs people to physically defend it is not a true religion. God cannot be that fragile and still be the supreme deity, and when people are willing to die for a faith, there is no reason to kill for it. Intellectual defense is similarly unnecessary: if ideas have to be defended by shutting down dialogue or refusing questions, then they can’t be true or even respectable.
The man in Australia had a documented history of mental illness. One could project this to say anyone who wishes to kill random strangers for whatever purpose is crazy, and anything justification they try to make is irrelevant. Blaming any religion for this kind of violence is unfair, since no true religion advocates or justifies it. Can we stop the drama? Can we stop the runaway story that would have us believe we are already involved in a world war over religion? It helps nothing to think this way, and only leads us to atrocities of our own in the name of personal security. If we don’t name our demons for who they truly are, then they are winning, and the terrorists are succeeding in distracting us from who we are.
We approach the season of Christmas, where we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace. Jesus doesn’t offer us a peace protected by barbed wire, heavy weapons, and forced silence. If we going to say we follow Jesus, we are truly people of peace, then we need to look at who we are and what we’re professing, lest others get as mistaken impression of what Christianity is about as we have of what Islam is about.