Asking the question, “How would Jesus deal with terrorism [or a terrorist]?” is asking the wrong question. Why? Because the question is a reactionary question, ignoring what caused the terrorism, or the terrorist, in the first place. I think the proper question is, or should be, “What does Jesus teach us about not causing the rise of terrorism in the first place?” The idea is, if we lived by the teachings of Christ to start with, terrorism would not be an issue.
So, what do I think causes a terrorist in the first place?
Bombing their family: I don’t understand how any person who follows the teachings of Christ would ever, for any reason, bomb entire villages, kill children, older people, or kill anyone, and justify it by saying “they might kill us.” Hearing Pastors, and yes there are many, who support such bombings is heart breaking. Could you imagine Jesus ever saying, “Well, in a war on terror, you need to kill those who might grow-up to be terrorists.” If you can, you’ve just defined the problem.
Many who justify these actions are quick to claim. “It says in the scripture. ‘An eye for an eye;’ we have the right to harm those who seek to harm us; we have the right to defend ourselves.” But what does Jesus say about that?
“Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously. [Matthew 5:38-42 MSG]
Bombing simply breeds the next generation of those seeking to harm us – and the cycle continues. Our goal should be to seek forgiveness for our actions, and not seek to harm others. [A short side note, the idea of defending ourselves breaks down when we kill children]
Marginalizing their voices: I’ve heard many Pastors, and others, say, “Muslims always lie” or “The Quran allows all Muslims to lie.” When I hear people say this, my mind always goes to the classical liar’s paradox; everything I say is a lie [Star Trek moment implied].Trying to wrestle with this binary assignment causes brain overload, so we don’t even try, we just accept the fact that Muslims lie; we ignore thinking through the logic. I tend to think the Muslims always lie myth is propaganda deliberately designed to marginalize the voices so we can justify actions against them; besides it assumes WE always tell the truth. Jesus never assumed people where liars. While he’d question people’s motives, or even their desire for power, he didn’t question their honesty surrounding their words, or actions. Why do we? When we assume that someone is lying, we marginalize their voice, we question their motives. This basic assumption is not a place to start a conversation.
Treating people as if they were not human: Discounting a person’s humanity because you don’t believe in their faith tradition is one of the most horrid things humanity could every believe. Jesus was out to revolutionize Judaism, to being about a new look, a new direction, a new understanding, a New Covenant. He sought to being about changes, bring about his New Covenant, yet, he never questioned the humanity of others. He never once dehumanized those who thought differently. The easiest way to justify violence, is to dehumanize others. We do this, and have done this, for many centuries.
I recently read an article, among many, [I will not give a link to this article, because the article is disgusting] where the author questioned the humanity of Muslims he wrote, “The real Muslims who follow Muhammad and believe in whatever he said are not humans.” This mindset, this philosophy, this [now] theology, spouted by many, simply adds to the tension that cause those who follow Islam to question our motives, our hearts, our desire for peace.
I have no desire to be political; my desire is to center on the teachings of Christ. In those teachings, we should never marginalize others, we should hear their voices, we should not seek to destroy them because they have a different faith, and we should never justify the killing of anyone based on fear. In Christ, we are called to love, to embrace, to lift-up, and to stand against the voices who strive to move away from those core teachings, and use fear as a way to manipulate voices.