By Daniel Downs
In the previous post, Raymond Ibrahim revealed the extent of persecutions of Christians for the month of January throughout the Muslim Middle East. Syrian Christians are concerned about similar persecution, if not genocide, if Al-Assad falls to Islamic fundamentalists, according to a recent article published in The New American.
They are concerned for good reason: homes, businesses, churches, and many persons have been attacked and destroyed by angry Muslims in Iraq and Egypt.
Why are Muslim persecuting Christians? For the same reasons Americans attacked American Arabs and those who liked Arabs, their homes and business after 9-11. (see UMC’s article Post 9/11 Hate Crimes)
Persecution of Jews also has a long history. Jews have been impoverished, abused, and killed by Arabs, Europeans, and even Americans. Hitler may killed more Jews in a shorter period of time than other Europeans but the German Nazis were not the only Europeans to do so. When the Christian church ruled the empire, Jews and rebellious Christians were killed as well.
Regarding anti-anti-Semitism, Americans also have been guilty of persecuting the Jews. I remember stories about Americans harassing Jews while sleeping in their home in the middle of the night. That was during the 1960s fascists and communist movements in Europe and America. More recently, a rabbi was attacked and beaten while traveling near his synagogue in New Jersey, the homes of several others rabbis were fire bombed, and anti-Semitic graffiti was painted on several local synagogues.
While Americans persecute Jews, Muslims and others, Israeli orthodox Jews are persecuting Messianic Jews. According to the Caspari Media Review, local residents in Arad Israel report Orthodox Jews (haeridi) harassing Messianic neighbors and disturbing the peace in their local neighborhood.
Why? For the same reason others of various ideologies and religions persecuted them.
A complex linkage of perceived differences contribute a sense of enmity towards those previously mentioned. Among those factors are contradictory religious or secular beliefs, the legitimation of those beliefs by the state, and current and historical events all of which culminate into a perception that persons of the “other” group are somehow a dire threat or complicit in an evil act. For example, all Arabs are regarded as evil as those involved in the 9-11 terrorism. All Christians deserve punishment because one or a few blasphemed Mohammed or Allah. All Jews are evil because of some injustice perpetrated by some other Jews.
The underlying problem is the propensity of people to violate the laws of God; that is what sin and evil is. It is the opinion of this blogger that America’s founding generation advanced the solution to this problem. They believed that a universal law–the law of God–was already evident in human nature and society, and it was at least possible for human to identify what those laws are. However, the human problem colors and corrupts that human ability, which is why revealed law was deemed necessary. Because all human beings have violated God’s laws, human reason alone cannot be trusted. Moreover, it was understood that most major religions and the societies influenced and shaped by them possessed at least some part of the revealed laws of God. Like the Hebrew prophets and Mohammed as well, the founders of all major religions experienced the moral reforming presence of God. It was in that experience that the laws of God were perceived and the need for their people to conform to the right way of living realized.
The issue is not that all religions are equal or irrelevant as many secularists believe. As a Christian, this blogger believes God’s holiness requires the fulfillment of absolute justice. The just dessert for sin is death. However, the perpetual love of His holiness toward people created in His own likeness drove God to remedy human sin. That remedy is the death of the sinless for all other sinners. Only one man was sinless–Jesus of Nazareth. God offered His only sinless son for all of humanity. Those who reject God’s provision cannot be forgiven for their sin. Even though humanity consistently lives according to the laws of God, past sin or one present sin render him or her worthy of sin’s just dessert. Just as human justice merely forgives a murder who one act was followed with exemplary good citizenship, so too a sinner cannot be merely forgiven for good behavior. Of course, I could be wrong, but those who have experienced life-after-death suggest otherwise.
Another reason for doctrinal differences of various religions is the institutionalization of their original experiences of God and their interpretations and applications of them.
Still another reason for doctrinal differences is simply survival. Both Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others developed different doctrines as a result of challenges and threats posed by problems within their own societies including problems of moral decline and threats of other religious and secular authorities. Thus, the distinctive doctrinal beliefs have been means to protect the religious institution and the followers from external threats. This does not mean all doctrines are either mere human concoctions nor all are divine revelations. It means the real problem is not merely religious dogma but rather keeping God law and applying its principles to social relationships in a mutually beneficial environment of His redemptive love and grace.
If all religious people took God up on his challenge to come and reason with Him about these matters (Isaiah 1:11-20; 55:1-11), could there still exist enduring conflict and injustice? Would the differences matter as much as living in accordance with God’s actual law? The result would be a greater measure of peace than now exists, would it not?