Christianity and Islam: What American Christians need to know about Muslims
There was not a lot of fanfare, but a few weeks ago the House of Representatives voted down a bill written by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Arizona) which would have directed the Pentagon to identify Muslim leaders who teach “extremist” versions of Islam.
This is the sort of thing I would have hoped that Republicans would oppose. Conservatives like to protest government overreach, and point out problems with all sorts of government studies (do any conservatives buy what the Pentagon has to say about global warming?)
Even worse, trying to decide between “good” and “bad” Islamic teaching sounds an awful lot like the regulation of religion. Doesn’t this violate the First Amendment?
Yet Republicans overwhelmingly voted for this measure. The bill was defeated only because 20 Republicans joined the Democrats in voting “no.” Rep. Franks is not giving up, however, promising to revise the bill in order to get the necessary votes.
I hope that we can persuade Rep. Franks to move on to something else. But if he persists, then Congress should at least take on the religion which, by the numbers, has been even more dangerous (in terms of things like innocent people killed and injured, and property destroyed) to the United States in the 21st century. The name of this religion? Christianity.
Let’s consider at Islam first. According to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (“START”), from 9/11/ 2001 through December 31, 2014, 3,066 Americans were killed in terrorist attacks, including 2,902 killed on 9/11. For the sake of argument, let’s connect all 3,066 Americans killed in 21st century terrorist attacks to “bad” Muslim teaching in the United States.
Now let’s look at modern American Christianity. One of the key events of our century was “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” our 2003 invasion of Iraq. Today most Americans say that this was a tragic mistake. The best estimates of the death toll are more than 500,000 (!) Iraqis, mostly civilians. This is on top of the nearly 4,500 American soldiers killed and 32,000 injured in action.
And even in 2001-2003 we did not have good evidence that military action was called for. Yes about 800,000 Iraqis were killed by Saddam Hussein during his 24-year dictatorship. This is a huge number, but keep in mind that more than 600,000 of those were killed during the Iraq-Iran war of 1981-1988 and the Kuwait war of 1990. Saddam was evil, but by 2002 the danger to Iraqis, the Middle East, and the United States was nowhere near the costs of war with Iraq.
Where was the church when this was being debated? While some Christians opposed the war, many strongly pushed it – particularly evangelicals.
Is it unreasonable to expect that Christians might have had the foresight to oppose the war? Here’s an important fact about Saddam Hussein which you may not be aware. By the late 1990’s Saddam was writing romance novels – and this fact was published in the New York Times in 2001!
I remember reading about Zabibah and the King that year, then wondering why no one talked about Saddam’s new favorite pastime. That was because instead of focusing and analyzing facts (Saddam the novelist), we concentrated on speculation (Saddam’s getting weapons of mass destruction!) If we had talked more about Saddam’s writing projects, then the idea of him plotting massive conquests would have seemed less believable. The Bush administration of course wanted to go to war, and so did not discuss facts that would have reduced American support.
Christians, however, are called to oppose war, giving support only as a last resort. I suppose that Americans in general are free to trust or distrust government as we like, but when governments propose action which will result in massive killing and destruction, Christians must press government to prove that this is necessary. Yet many Christian leaders urged Americans to support the war.
We of course do not like to think that Christianity had a role in the decision to invade Iraq. But just as Muslims cannot escape the fact a few people use Islam to justify terrorism, we must recognize that some Americans have used and continue to use Christianity to promote evil today.
The good news is that both Muslim and Christian leaders are working hard to “reform” things. Muslims actively teach that Islam does not permit terrorist acts, while Christian educators (like me) are working hard to tell Christians that God wants us to oppose government violence unless the reasons are very good.
Even so, do some people in the United States teach “bad” Islam? Yes, there are a few.
Are there Christian leaders who teach “bad Christianity?” I can name several.
Do I want Congress and/or the Pentagon to tell me who is “good” and who is “bad”?
Um… maybe instead Congress could get the Pentagon to come up with a solution to health care? Just a thought…