Yesterday Brian McLaren, an emergent Christian thinker I deeply respect, published an essay on CNN.com calling out Islamophobic evangelicals. I posted it on my Facebook page and, as if he was trying to prove McLaren’s point, an evangelical friend of mine insinuated that Muslims are unique in reacting violently to provocations like the anti-Islam video behind much of the violent protests currently raging in the Middle East.
In the ensuing back and forth (still going on as I write this post), I suggested that my friend might like to talk with colleagues of mine in Northern Ireland about Catholics and Protestants beating or killing each other over seemingly trivial matters like wearing a certain soccer jersey in the wrong part of town. I suggested that over two thousand years of history, violent Christians have probably amassed a higher body count than violent Muslims. After all, the 6 millions Jews killed in the Holocaust died at the hands of Germans who readily mixed Christianity with National Socialism. Today, Christian militia groups pose just as much a threat as Muslim extremists. And I believe that the radical Americans (Christian or not) who intentionally provoke radical Muslims are just as guilty for the violence that results.
None of these examples represent what I consider the core teachings of Christianity. They all come from an idolatrous and evil syncretism of Christianity and complex social and political struggles. The same is true for radical Islam and the violent protests happening in the Middle East today.
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all rooted in inherently violent religious traditions. The contemporary challenge for all three faiths is to transcend the violence encoded in our religious and cultural DNA and seek peace and coexistence. The greatest threat to the world continues to be the possibility of ignorance and prejudice among extremists of these three religions erupting into a catastrophic global war.
I haven’t even bothered to watch the anti-Islam video that has incited the riots and murders in the Middle East. I know that it is full of ridiculous and dangerous lies. I know that moderate Muslims around the world are decrying the violent reactions to this video, even as they find it deeply offensive. I find it offensive too. But even more, I find Christian Islamophobia profoundly offensive to my understanding of Christian faith.
What we are seeing unfold right now is the result of radical Americans (Christian or not) inciting radical Muslims to violence, which only reinforces the misleading and oversimplified stereotypes that fuel anti-Islamic sentiment in the United States.
Don’t let the radicals win.