The problem is not religion or extremism — it’s hate

As more details came out, it became clear that the anti-Mohammad video that sparked the protests is not new, and the creator of the film probably is neither American nor Israeli but a native Middle Eastern Christian. But the action that ignited the flame of unrest is squarely on our doorstep. It is the the decision of the vile American fundamentalist Koran-burning hate-monger Reverend Terry Jones to have a showing of the film on 9/11. When news of this planned showing spread through the media, thanks to supporters of his and reached the Middle East, that was the spark. Is a spark responsible for the fact that there is oil laying on the ground? No. But is it the cause of the fire? Yes. An angry mob is not a rational entity. But Terry Jones is, at least in a sense. His action was premeditated. He wants us to be at war with Islam. Terry Jones’ actions resulted in American deaths, sure as he yelled fire in a crowded theater.

Mitt Romney, who said at his convention he wished Obama’s economic plan had succeeded because he wants America to succeed (not that anyone believed that whopper), has now proven he’d rather Obama fail than America succeed. And this time it’s about lives, not dollars. When Romney grabbed partial and ultimately incorrect information from the internet and used it to denounce our commander-in-chief and State Department during an unfolding foreign crisis involving dead American officials, it was not a “mistake”; it was proof that either he is clearly someone without the inner compass to be commander-in-chief, or maybe that he knew it was wrong but is just really feeling desperate to win, which is perhaps worse.

Did Terry Jones or the documentary maker commit a crime? No. They exercised free speech. Our constitution defends the right of people to be offensive idiots. But as David Henson said, our belief in free speech does not mean we should be morally relativistic about it. Are Jones and the doc maker hateful destructive forces in the world? Yes. Should their actions be condemned? Of course.

But please be careful folks. Religion is not the problem here. Both religions involved, at their cores, teach love and unity. Extremism is not the problem. Extremists for love, extremists for fairness, extremists against prejudice, are fine. The problem is hate and division. Both Jones and some Islamic militants believe it’s us vs. them; they see their opponents are evil and less than human. That is the issue, and it can happen with or without religion. Responding with more hate gets us nowhere. The only long-term answer, and the teaching of Christianity, is to disarm people with love. Love them until they believe you. It’s a harder path, but it is the only way to break the cycle. Throughout the millennia, people have called this approach naïve, but I’m sticking with it.

About Phil Fox Rose

Phil Fox Rose is a writer, editor and content lead based in New York. He is coordinator of Contemplative Outreach of New York, helping promote centering prayer, which has been his contemplative practice for nearly 20 years. Raised atheist by ex-Mormons, Phil has journeyed through Quakerism, deep ecology, Buddhism and Catholicism. Now he's a congregant, worship leader, cook and chair of the leadership team at St. Lydia's, an awesome dinner church in Brooklyn, NY, and spends as much time in nature as possible. Phil has been a political party leader, videographer, tech journalist, punk roadie, software designer, sheepherder, stockbroker and downtempo radio DJ. A common thread is the process of learning about stuff, figuring it out and then sharing that understanding with others. Follow Phil by RSS feed, email, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

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  • Peter

    “But the action that ignited the flame of unrest is squarely on our doorstep.” WRONG WRONG WRONG wrong on so many levels Why are you falling for the lie that is being promoted in the media to protect this administration??? “Both Jones and some Islamic militants believe it’s us vs. them; they see their opponents are evil and less than human.” SOME Islamic militants?? Are you kidding me? Have you ever seen the handy work of these sub-human animals? They have embraced an ideology of PURE evil. WHY are you making excuses for them? This movie has NOTHING to do with these attacks. You criticize candidate Romney. Where has the COMMANDER IN CHIEF BEEN? He should be LEADING and standing up for this country after our sovereign land was/is being attacked. Instead he has been campaigning! Wake up Phil.

    • Phil Fox Rose

      Peter, I will not respond to the highly partisan parts of your comment, nor your condescending “wake up Phil” lines. It is true that more information has come out since I wrote this post that makes it clear the fatal attack (as opposed to some of the protests) was a coordinated assault, possibly using the protests as cover, or possibly unrelated. Such is the problem with writing something in realtime in a blog rather than the slower process of column writing. None of my broader points need correction, however. I will address myself to one part of what you said: calling the militants “sub-human animals” and their ideology “PURE evil” is profoundly un-Christian and closes off any chance of moving past these problems. It is exactly that kind of view I was referring to as the flip-side of the same coin as the militants, which Terry Jones represents. If you think of these people as animals then, a) you will feel no need to try to understand what motivates them to do what they do, and b) you can avoid even feeling challenged by let along adopting the principle of loving your enemy.