July 26, 2007

Opposing Religious Extremism: More Religion Not Answer

Most American Christians are brought up believing that religious extremism is a serious problem in the Middle East. They define religious extremism almost exclusively in terms of that associated with Islam. They are correct about the dangerous of Islamic extremism, but they tend to overlook the Christian extremism right here in America. Religious extremism is a global problem which knows no boundaries and which has vast implications for shaping the future of our world.

Writing for Spencer Speaks, former Denver Post columnist and feature writer for The Chicago Tribute Jim Spencer has crafted an interesting article on this important subject. Starting with the recent act of Christian terrorism at the University of Colorado and the protest in the U.S. Senate by Christian extremists, Spencer asks whether it is time for us to examine religious extremism right here in America.
When the crazies think God is on their side, they know few limits.
And while Spencer is quick to point out that American extremists are more likely to pound pulpits than use explosives, he notes that there are ample cases of crazed Christians turning violent. Case in point, Spencer shares some of a message received by CU biology professor Michael Grant:
Every true Christian should be ready and willing to take up arms to kill the enemies of Christian society.
Spencer recognizes the similarity between this message and the calls to jihad in the Muslim world. Perhaps it is time for us to stop pointing the finger at the Islamic world without at least recognizing that we have our own home-grown nutjobs.

While I agree with much of Spencer's article, I do have to take issue with his suggestion that we encourage the question of what Jesus would do as a way to combat Christian extremism.
I’m pretty sure he would not drown out the incantations of another faith by shouting.

I’m pretty sure he would not menace university faculty for teaching science. I’m pretty sure Jesus would try to explain a peace that passes understanding.
Maybe, but this simply is not the Jesus worshiped by Christian extremists and many Christian fundamentalists who some might hesitate to call "extremists." Their Jesus isn't about peace, forgiveness, and tolerance.
Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 10:34-39 NASB)
What Spencer does not seem to realize is that this is the Jesus of fundamentalists and extremists. Their actions are quite consistent with this Jesus. Spencer is correct that we must oppose religious extremism wherever we find it; he is incorrect that more religion will help.

H/T to The Panda's Thumb

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