Anecdotal Evidence .

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Is Islamic terrorism Islamic?

For those of us better acquainted with Christianity than Islam, an easier way to address that question may be to ask another, similar question: Is Christian terrorism Christian?

Here, recall bombings of clinics that offer abortions, murders of physicians who perform abortions, threatening of women who seek abortion counseling, all done under an umbrella of Christian righteousness.

The question is, should we label these kinds of actions “Christian terrorism”? Are they Christian actions? I do not know any better way to answer that question than to ask Jesus himself how he feels about such actions.

I have a “red lettered” edition of the Gospels (a red lettered edition being one in which the reportedly spoken words of Jesus are printed in red). I looked there to find quotations in which Jesus calls upon his followers to perform acts of violence either generally or specifically (like bombings of clinics, killing of physicians, and threatening women in desperate situations). I am not a biblical scholar, and so perhaps I missed the most apt references; but I did find three that seem to me to be relevant:

(1) At Luke 9, the disciples ask Jesus if they should call down fire from heaven to burn to the ground a village that chose not to receive him. How did Jesus respond? He rebuked his disciples. I take that to be a rejection of violence. (Can you imagine being rebuked by Jesus? Ouch! I’ll bet they went all aquiver, insisting, “Teacher, it wasn’t our idea. The devil made us say it!”)

(2) At John 18, Peter draws his sword to defend Jesus, which surely seems a defensible action. But here again, Jesus rejects the violence. He instructs Peter, almost bluntly it seems to me, to put his sword away.

(3) At John 8, a woman “caught in adultery” is brought before him. Under the Law of Moses, we are told, she is subject to stoning. When asked about it, Jesus responds, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” Not an outright rejection of violence, to be sure, but certainly not an endorsement. (It almost sounds like sarcasm, but that may be a cross-cultural stumble on my part.) Anyway, apparently none of those present met his standard: “… they went away, one by one …”

From these incidents, it seems clear that Jesus does not call upon us to be violent, and neither does he authorize us to perform violence in his name. From that, I conclude he would not approve our labelling the bombing of clinics as “Christian terrorism” or our justifying such acts as done in his name.

Now, terrorists may call themselves “Christians” if they like, but that doesn’t make them — or their actions — Christian. Surely, to be a Christian, it is not enough just to say, “I am a Christian.” Here consider John 13:15, ”For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” I expect that before we dare publicly call ourselves Christian, or our actions Christian, we should be doing a lot of that. The expression “Walk this way” comes to mind.

Further, I expect the same is true of Islam: simply saying “I am a Muslim” does not make one — or one’s actions — Islamic. Thus, I conclude that “Islamic terrorism” is, like “Christian terrorism,” a misnomer, possibly even a rebukable misnomer. Such acts are simply what they appear to be: senseless violence performed by angry, violent people.