Nick was posting about some comments made about Islam, and received some feedback that spoke of the “equal” violence found in the Judaism, Christianity and Islam. I’m afraid the comments were brief, and do not reflect a grasp of their core topic. Rather, they express a world-view common today, that all faiths essentially “teach the same thing” and just differ on the minor points. This is not true, and dangerous!
Actually, if you look at the result on its adherents in the earliest phases of each religion, and at the activities during their formation under core prophets/leaders, this argument about being “equally” violent will not hold.
You might say Moses led the birth of Israel as a chosen people, and thereby Judaism. He was a military commander, short and simple. And I’m not here going to question the legitimacy of that, when it is commanded by God as judgment on those who are deserving of said judgment. Let’s leave it at that, and not make any arguments about what this might imply for a “Christian” nation, if there is such an animal.
But Christianity is by it’s nature non-violent. Not a single Christian leader/prophet in the NT has endorsed war or Christians being involved in religious subjugation/purging. Jesus is very clear that we are to love our enemies and pray for their good.
Though Jesus does not condemn centurions for being involved in war, he also does not praise them for their violence. Rather, he praises their faith, their ability to follow commands. He tells them to act with justice. He deals with them not as an offensive people, but as a police force in a nation under subjugation. In such a context, he tells them to act justly, not to put an undue burden on people.
Jesus could have, following the expectations of the people, led a military coup. He did not, and that is indicative of the way he saw his purpose. It also was indicative of the nature his followers should possess. They were not to resist evil. Once again, he is talking to a people “in place” and under subjugation. He never suggests that his followers, nor the nation of Israel, should be an imperialistic, domineering religion or political system.
Islam on the other hand is at its core subjugative and judgmental. Its major prophet declared the righteousness and calling to war and exemplified it with a life of combat, destruction, and domination. History bears this out vividly, and any attempt to make the scriptures and Islam out to be peace-centered and non-violent is not being historically honest. Rather, it goes to show that Islam is inherently flawed. Its scripture does not match up with God’s nature, and therefore it comes to the wrong conclusions about how we should approach God and each other (enemies or friends).
Islam, as compared to Christianity, is inherently political. Its scriptures are clear that God is setting up a physical kingdom through the prophet and his followers. And that kingdom will be established by peace, if possible, but by war when domination is unacceptable. Cities are to be offered entry into the Islamic political system if they will give up their previous faith and submit. If not, complete and utter destruction/subjugation. This is supported by the historical evidence within the Prophet’s own life.
Christianity on the other hand is essentially apolitical. Its adherents are told to preach the gospel, progressing from local environs to foreign environs, and they are never told to establish a political system. They are to preach, show love and be the people God called them to be. They are not to “force” belief on people, as if that were even possible in any reality! Jesus’ teaching that many would not accept his teaching and would end up separated from him in eternity speaks to the fact that he was interested in eternity, not a temporal kingdom in which lip-service faith was paid to a politico-spiritual war-mongering kingdom.
Of course, the Crusades did happen. “Christian” nations did rise in the west. The Inquisition was a dark mark on the world. However, we must recognize that the adherents who practiced nation-building in this way hijacked a faith that did not propose such activities. They played on a lack of education in the masses and an outright superstition. We should soundly reject that our faith be defined by these. They are not a part of our Christian heritage, but rather our Western heritage, which is based on the crumbling political and social system that resulted from the slow demise of Rome. Christianity was, and continues to be, a relationship that promotes love and justice, not hate and religiously-motivated warfare.
By this, I do not mean to criticize every adherent to Islam as a blood-thirsty scoundrel, but I do wish to make it clear that based on the core tenets and early history of each faith, that a statement of “equally violent” is unfounded.
Now if only we would follow the core tenets of the faith we posit to have. Maybe then those who practice Islam would have “shock and awe” about the way our love makes us reach out to those near and far with compassion, makes us care for our world as stewards, and causes us to consider resolution, not domination, violence or grudging assent as the road to right relations.