RELIGION, TERRORISM AND CHRISTIANITY
Terrorism is never aimed at the targets of the attacks. When there are terrorist attacks anywhere in the world, the death of the victims isn’t the aim of the terrorist. That is rather a massacre. Terrorism is aimed at the living, the real victims are the ones to whom the attack wasn’t directed at. That is why it is called terrorism. It is meant to fill the living with terror. And I must say, we have had a fair share of terrorism in Africa quite recently. Notable among the many attacks is the Kenya Westagate Mall siege and more recently the abduction of over 200 girls at Chibok, northern Nigeria by Boko Haram.
We see most of these (if not all) terrorist groups claiming they do what they do in the name of Allah and hence follow the precepts of the Qur’an. We have seen some Muslim scholars come out to debunk these assertions and claim that according to the Holy book, violence should be the last resort. Whatever the case may be, that isn’t my focus today. I would like to focus on the relationship between religion and terrorism. It is very easy for Christians to go about pointing judgmental fingers at Muslims because of some of these events. Sometimes this is done in total ignorance of the fact that Christianity also has had quite a bloody history. This blog post will dwell largely on this issue: the Christian Crusades. I will urge Christians to be mindful of the fact we have had a bloody past, therefore the conversations we have with Muslims on Terrorism should go deeper than merely painting their religion red. We should do more to talk about the evidences in both Holy books that either support or prohibit terrorism.
The crusades are defined as ‘expeditions to deliver the holy places from the control of Muslims’. There came a time when Jerusalem and other places regarded sacred by Christians were invaded and controlled by Muslims. Christians saw these places as sacred because of their historic value so far as Christianity is concerned. Some of Christianity’s most-revered monuments are there, hence Christians from the West went on pilgrimages there once in a while (as is the practice in other religions too, especially Islam). Due to the fact that Jerusalem and other places had come under the control of Muslims, they began preventing Christians from coming there on pilgrimages. The Holy Sepulcher is said to have been transformed into a mosque. This really angered Christians in the West. Incited by Pope Urban, an army of soldiers embarked on what is known as the first Crusade. The emblem of the Crusaders was a red cross, which was boldly printed on the garment they wore over their armor. The crusades were bloody. A lot of people were killed. Similar to what we see today done by the various terrorist groups. Nevertheless, they didn’t record success every time they went on these crusades. They were sometimes defeated. But this didn’t deter them in anyway, for to them they were fighting in the Lord’s army (Like terrorist believe today). The Crusades were politically motivated. The series of attacks on the holy land was a way through which kings in the West and even Church leaders in Europe, gained power by conquering all the places they did.
When it comes to Christianity and practices within the Church, Jesus Christ is that stamp of approval. He is the center of our faith, hence if there is anything we do today that doesn’t conform to the new life He introduced to us while on earth, then it is totally unacceptable. So to be sure whether or not the Crusades (terrorist activities) are acceptable in the sight of God, we need to look at what Christ thought about ‘Violence in the name of God’. And since He never changes but remains the same eternally, then it means those are His very sentiments even today.
The Crusades can simply be referred to as, violence in the name of the Lord. Fighting in the Lord’s army to capture the holy city thereby preserving the Holy city of Jerusalem and some Sacred Monuments. In the bible we see Jesus address the issue of ‘violence in the name of the Lord’ twice. The first of which took place in the garden of Gethsemane. Where before he was arrested, Peter, in a fit of anger, cut off the ears of one of the soldiers. Peter acted as an extremist here. His violent expression of love for the Savior is an example of religious extremism. Nevertheless, Jesus didn’t approve of it. Jesus’ reaction to this event tells a lot about his attitude towards so called ‘violence in the name of the Lord’. The bible says he picked up the ear and stuck it back to the head of the soldier. These were his exact words to Peter afterwards, ‘Put your sword back into its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword’. Then He goes on to say that, if He needed protection, He would pray to his father to send down 12 legions of angels. By the way, 1 legion = 3000 – 6000 (Roman soldiers), so calculate the number of angels at Jesus’ beck and call. If he needed people to fight for him he would rather call down angels. So I believe Jesus’ message to the crusaders is no different from that which he shared with Peter – ‘PUT YOUR SWORD BACK INTO ITS PLACE!!..’
Secondly, we see Christ express his attitude towards so called ‘violence in His name’ on the road to Damascus. Saul was one of the Pharisees, busily persecuting Christians and overseeing their killing. To him, this was service to God. But Jesus appeared to him and said, ‘I am Jesus, who you persecute’. Amazing! Saul wasn’t as shocked by the appearance of the Lord to Him as he was about what Jesus had to tell him. To Saul, he was serving the Lord by persecuting Christians, but it turned out that the very person he thought he was serving was the one he was persecuting. Jesus doesn’t in anyway approve of killing human beings in His name.
The command was, ‘Go ye into the world and preach the gospel’. This is what we are supposed to do as Christians. And not to force Christ down people’s throats through violence. Religion places more premium on religious monuments and Holy places than on the human soul. That is why you will find most of those involved in violence in the name of the Lord, very prepared to die for the preservation of sacred places. Religion values traditions, laws, paraphernalia, Holy lands, Sacred Monuments etc. Christianity values the human life and the destination of the soul. Jesus once said that, the temple with all its majesty and splendor would be brought down and reduced to nothing – not even one stone would remain on the other. This would have offended the Pharisees if they had heard it. Simply because they were religious people who were always known to hold dear these monumental representations of their faith and not their God or human life.
Christianity isn’t a religion. Christianity is an imitation of a lifestyle. It is being Christ wherever you are. It is a faith, it is a walk, it is a lifestyle. It is an adoption into the family of the God called LOVE. Hence, if you truly are his own, you will walk in LOVE. Love is spreading the gospel and not killing for it.