We look with bafflement at the belligerencies in the Middle East, at Sunni and Shia Muslims beating bloodily on one another. We shake our heads and wonder why they don’t get it, that the human conscience is essentially free, unbent even under the threat of death, and surprisingly immune to coercion. Truly, it saddens me when people of faith go to war for their beliefs. They have made of their theology an idol, have worshipped the creature rather than the Creator, and worse, the creature is a work of their own hands.
But let us not forget three things: First, these are not self-evident truths that are glaringly obvious to anyone with a brain in their heads. They are lessons it took the Christian world 100 years to learn in some of the bloodiest battles Europe has ever known. We suffered divisions that have not been healed and self-induced trauma that haunts us to this day. Let us look on our fellow human beings locked in these struggles with understanding.
Second, we aren’t done beating on one another in the name of Christ. Our culture and our laws do not permit the warfare we see elsewhere, but they do not inhibit what I have called our Christian Al-Qaeda, who browbeat, belittle, and berate those who do not agree with us, to the extent of death threats, economic isolation, and hazing (yes, these things happen in our “Christian” society as well). Let us look on our fellow human beings with humility.
Finally, the U. S. military is involved in air strikes against an Islamic group. We may not frame the conflict in religious terms, but they do. Through their eyes we are the agents of Shaitan, the Evil One, embodied in western culture, who fight to the death with the Righteous Few. Whether we like it or not, we are embroiled in a religious war. We are complicit. Let us look on our fellow human beings with compassion.