I have linked to a sad but hopefully thought provoking story about the current travails of Christianity, which is facing possible extinction in the Middle East. My concern is not so much the faith itself as with the people adhering to this faith. Christians are apparently at genuine risk of disappearing from the Middle East. The usual reason given is “radical Islam.”
I will be the last person to say anything nice about radical Islam, the Muslim world’s equivalent to Christian dominionists, without the cultural and political factors we have to hold them in check.
That said, Christians have lived in the Middle East as long as there have been Christians. And for over 1000 years Islam has been the dominant faith there. Mohammed commanded tolerance for them as “people of the book.”
Now they are on the defensive, tolerance disappearing or absent.
What changed? Ask Ann Coulter who, when cheerleading for war, urged us to invade these countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity. Ask the ‘Christian’ right who leaps for joy when we attack in the Middle East because they think that will bring God’s judgment about more quickly. Ask President Bush who used the language of the Crusades when implementing war. Ask General Jerry Boykin who, while wearing the uniform of our country, tried to make a military action a religious one and continues to preach the need for religious war. Ask the Evangelicals deliberately infiltrating our military with their attempts to make it an instrument for their deity.
Christianity grew to world domination by attacking other religions through the armies its adherents controlled: usually brutally, sometimes extraordinarily so. Many Christians eschew that past and sincerely hope for a better record in the future, but others continue to push this bloody tradition whenever they get the chance. In the process, they set their fellow members of the faith in other countries up for being framed as internal enemies, traitors, and agents of the American government. They set up their fellow Christians, men and women who are likely more genuinely Christian than they are, for destruction.
Similar charges made by these same militant Christians against American Muslims (and with similar falsehoods). But when religion marries the sword, or the drone, truth is one of the first casualties.
The more so-called Christians urge our government to be Christian and impose Christianity on others at home and abroad, the easier it is for dictators and theocrats of other religions to demonize their homegrown Christian communities. And whereas at one time the Christian West’s military advantage was so great that a relative few Brits, Americans, French, or others could subjugate large numbers of other people, this is not true any more. Contemporary Christian wishful thinking about the bad old days, combined with the brutalities of modern politics, increases the danger to Christians in countries that have not adopted the standards of religious toleration that these same Christians despise at home.
The bomb at Nagasaki wiped out almost all that survived of Japanese Christianity. Now further military action by the US may well wipe out (or nearly so) the longest-standing Christian communities on earth.
With Christians like the ‘Christian’ right, the church needs no enemies; they grow them themselves.
So long as adherents of one religion believe they are so intrinsically superior to other paths that they have a responsibility to correct others’ ‘errors’ and ‘wickedness,’ there will never be religious peace. Here in the United States, right-wing Christians seek to oppress other faiths. In the Middle East, radical Islamists seek to do the same. Both share a fatal error. In these groups’ cramped and disrespectful conception of deity, their deity is too weak to do Its dirty work on Its own; instead, Its followers puff themselves up with pride at dirtying their hands in Its name.