Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Are “Fundamentalists” all the same?

My Response to a Progressive Christian who opposes criticism of Islam:

Thanks again for your willingness to cross the isle to engage in substantive dialogue. You wrote:

  •  “What you're writing is that reading the Quran literally always leads to the sort of extremism that is causing so much harm.”

Just about always! However, as you correctly point out, there are also peaceable verses in the Koran. However, the imams – the teachers – correctly understand that these were the earlier verses given before Muhammad had an army, and these have been replaced by the jihadic verses. Therefore, all of the Western commentators that I know of observe that as Muslims get deeper into their holy writings, they become more radicalized.

  •  “Reading the Bible literally, fundamentalist Christians have pushed for the teaching of the Creation story in science classes instead of evolution, justified the prejudice and discrimination of gays and lesbians…”

I certainly grant you some of this, but I don’t see how you can compare legitimate political democratic persuasion to Islamic rape, kidnapping and genocide!

As I tried to argue before, perhaps without sufficient clarity, we are all fundamentalistic about certain things. You are fundamentalistic against extremism and violence, as you should be. I would also assume that the principles of justice and love are also fundamental non-negotiables for you.

Admittedly, we derive our values from the Bible. However, is the source for your values any more trustworthy than ours? And what if the Bible is actually God’s Word, as many of us believe? Shouldn’t we devote ourselves to it?

You will probably point out that the Muslims also believe that their own holy writings are God’s Words. Of course, this is a critical issue. Has God spoken to humanity, and are there ways to know this? I think that there are many ways – both subjection and objective (miracles, fulfilled prophecy, changed lives/societies, internal and external consistency…).

  •  “A literal interpretation of any holy book … naturally leads to an extremism that you find in fundamentalist Islam and in fundamentalist Christianity.”

“Literal” is not an accurate word. Instead, we try to interpret the Bible as it was intended to be understood. Some of it is highly figurative and some isn’t. More importantly, it depends on what one is fundamentalistic about. As a Christian, I follow the New Testament, which teaches me to put the needs of the other before my own. Although I fail badly at this – and this continues to humble me – I trust that the Lord forgives me and is delighted when I get off my butt and reassert myself to love others.

Love also demands that I cry out about the victimization of the innocent. In our world, the vast majority of these are Christians, as the jacket of “The Global War on Christians” by CNN writer John L. Allen Jr. states:

  • From Iraq and Egypt to Sudan and Nigeria, from Indonesia to the Indian subcontinent, Christians in the early twenty-first century are the world’s most persecuted religious group. According to the secular International Society for Human Rights, 80 percent of violations of religious freedom in the world today are directed against Christians.

Allen writes:

  •  “The Open Doors” estimate, based on decades of tracking the realities of persecution in some of the darkest corners of the earth, is that roughly one hundred million Christians today suffer interrogation, arrest, and even death for their faith, with the bulk located in Asia and the Middle East. The overall total makes Christians the most at-risk group for violations of religious freedom. (37)

I would love to turn my back on these painful realities, but I cannot. I also fail to understand how others who call themselves “Christian” can be so dismissive of these realities.

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