On Islam, Christianity, and Violence

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It appears that Steve Bannon believes Islamic values are antithetical to almost everything that’s American and even that Islam today is essentially violent. At the same time, college students in my Introduction to Religion are certainly aware of the slogan that “Islam is peace.” Therefore it cannot be associated with disagreement and certainly not violence in any way. (One might just as easily quip that Christianity centers on “Jesus, the Prince of Peace,” and with that, we can be done with the history of violence in the name of Christ.)

To my mind, worst of all is the idea that “my religion” isn’t violent—and when it is, it’s not my religion. (And conversely, “your religion” is always violent.) Even the great Christian thinker Blaise Pascal realized that this is a phony rejoinder (the “No a True Scotsman” defense) and commented scathingly,

“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” Pascal

(If this topic doesn’t seem important question, can I remind you that this week Trump signed a revised travel ban, targeting Muslim-majority nations?)

Actually, none of these actually describes us what Muslims and Christians are doing today, or have done throughout the years. At the center of this controversy over religious violence lurks the human tendency toward oversimplifications, especially what is one of the most difficult realities to figure out: human nature… especially when fueled by religious devotion.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST 

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Is There a Christian Double Standard on Religious Violence?

double-standardShortly after September 11, 2001, then President George W. Bush spoke directly to Muslims. “We respect your faith,” he said, calling it “good and peaceful.” Terrorists, he added, “are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself.”

Recently, TODAY’s Matt Lauer reminded Bush of his words. “I understood right off the bat, Matt, that this was an ideological conflict—that people who murder the innocent are not religious people,” Bush explained.

Those words epitomize an important, but controversial question: is someone who acts violently in the name of a faith truly a member of that faith? According to recently highlighted data from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI)—which focuses primarily on Christian responses to that yes/no question—potential answers may result in a “double standard.” Christians are more likely to say that other Christians acting violently are not true Christians, while failing to provide the same latitude for Muslims.

But how closely does this represent the reality? When I asked Christian theologians the why behind that simple survey, the answers were—perhaps surprisingly—more complicated and diverse.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE DAILY BEAST 

If Islam Is a Religion of Violence, So Is Christianity

Angel with a gun

Angel with a gun

Speaking after “appreciating the congrats” on the Orlando shootings, Donald Trump again insisted that what mowed people down at Pulse was not an assault rifle but radical Islam, because in Trump Tower, it cannot be both. Trump’s world is binary. It is zero-sum: Either guns kill people or radical Islam kills people. In that world, only one religion can be bad, and so Christianity is good and Islam is bad. Christianity is peaceful and Islam violent. Christianity is tolerant and Islam intolerant. Both are inherently one thing or the other, immutable blueprints etched in stone for the behavior of their respective adherents.

This is a worldview that is shared by people who are Trump supporters and not Trump supporters. In the secular vernacular, we might call this view “Manichean,” that is, a binary between light and darkness, good and evil.

But it’s worth noting that “Manichean” was originally used to describe a religion that spread from Persia to the eastern and northern African parts of the Roman Empire in the third century, one that influenced many early Christians. If the word “Manichean” has negative connotations today, it might be because it was deemed a heresy by the early Catholic Church, one that needed to be ruthlessly rooted out of the Christian universe. And I mean ruthlessly: Adherents of a Manichean-tinged Christianity had their goods confiscated and were put to death, even if they converted to proper Christianity but still kept in touch with their Manichean contacts. Even St. Augustine called for their energetic persecution.

FULL ARTICLE FROM FOREIGN AFFAIRS 

Donald Trump and the Rise of Anti-Muslim Violence

Trump arrives aboard his plane for a campaign rally in Fort Myers, Florida, U.S.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump arrives aboard his plane for a campaign rally in Fort Myers, Florida, U.S. September 19, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst – RTSOHKM

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton tell very different stories about who belongs in America and who doesn’t. Trump describes a country under siege from refugees and immigrants, Mexicans, and Muslims. Clinton talks about a nation made stronger by diversity. The narrative each campaign creates matters. It may even influence the way Americans treat their fellow citizens.

“There’s very compelling evidence that political rhetoric may well play a role in directing behavior in the aftermath of a terrorist attack,” Brian Levin, the author of the report said in an interview. “I don’t think we can dismiss contentions that rhetoric is one of the significant variables that can contribute to hate crimes.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY 

If Islam Is a Religion of Violence, So Is Christianity

julia_ioffeby Julia Ioffe

The world’s oldest religions all have troubling histories of bloodshed. Singling out Islam is just Trump’s latest, hateful hypocrisy.

Angel with a gun

Angel with a gun

 

Speaking after “appreciating the congrats” on the Orlando shootings, Donald Trump again insisted that what mowed people down at Pulse was not an assault rifle but radical Islam, because in Trump Tower, it cannot be both. Trump’s world is binary. It is zero-sum: Either guns kill people or radical Islam kills people. In that world, only one religion can be bad, and so Christianity is good and Islam is bad. Christianity is peaceful and Islam violent. Christianity is tolerant and Islam intolerant. Both are inherently one thing or the other, immutable blueprints etched in stone for the behavior of their respective adherents.

This is a worldview that is shared by people who are Trump supporters and not Trump supporters. In the secular vernacular, we might call this view “Manichean,” that is, a binary between light and darkness, good and evil.

But it’s worth noting that “Manichean” was originally used to describe a religion that spread from Persia to the eastern and northern African parts of the Roman Empire in the third century, one that influenced many early Christians. If the word “Manichean” has negative connotations today, it might be because it was deemed a heresy by the early Catholic Church, one that needed to be ruthlessly rooted out of the Christian universe. And I mean ruthlessly: Adherents of a Manichean-tinged Christianity had their goods confiscated and were put to death, even if they converted to proper Christianity but still kept in touch with their Manichean contacts. Even St. Augustine called for their energetic persecution.

An ‘Unholy War’ against Muslims?

The Anglican communion has produced a number of thoughtful reflections on Christian-Muslim relations  a through their UK- based “Christian-Muslim Forum.”   This is one of the pieces the forum produced reflecting on religiously-motivated violence.

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One of the terrible features of our world is how globalisation can bring the worst of international conflict to our doorsteps. Lee Rigby, a British soldier wearing a ‘Help for Heroes’ shirt, was murdered by a man who claimed to be acting in retaliation for attacks on women and children  in ‘Muslim countries’ (though people have religion, not countries).

An innocent man died in a peaceful part of London. A religion – which explicitly tells its followers not to start wars or attack the innocent – was wrongly implicated in this attack. This connection between religion and murder was comprehensively condemned by numerous Muslim organisations, some of them represented in Woolwich a week later. It took very little time for these organisations to respond, mourn for the victim, show solidarity with his family and the local community, call for peace and show us what Islam should really look like.

Nevertheless, almost immediately there was a backlash against British Muslims and mosques around the country. We know that the Woolwich attackers had not come from the local mosques – they were not welcome there. The Muslim community and the mosques were not connected with the murder of Lee Rigby. Yet individuals and extreme Right organisations began to target Muslims, mirroring the inhumane actions of those who have hijacked Islam for violent purposes: violence against women, hate-filled messages, fire bombing places of worship and burning down an Islamic centre in Muswell Hill, north London. We have seen similar attacks against Christians in Nigeria and Egypt. We reiterate that violent attacks are neither Christian nor Muslim.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHRISTIAN-MUSLIM FORUM BLOGSITE