Last Thursday I went to dinner with an acquaintence – a Palestinian Christian (talk about two words that just don’t seem to fit together!) – who described the historical aspects of the Palestinian conflict in great detail: Its beginnings as a sort of partitioned British experiment, the growth of fundamentalist Islam, its use as a pawn by neighboring Arab states, and the mess that it’s in today. It was a fascinating discussion.
One comment that stuck with me related the current Middle East Arab-Islamic fundamentalism to 15th century Christian fundamentalism. He felt that’s about where many radical Muslims are today, set in their absolute belief that Islam is the only true faith, that all others are demonic and must be eliminated. My dinner guest pointed out that neighbors who have been friends for years will attack each other if the local Imam decrees that they should because “It’s in the Koran”. His experience, and his reason for leaving the Middle East, was that no one could be trusted not to turn on you tomorrow.
It got me thinking about how many times I’ve heard some Christian fundamentalist say basically the same thing – “It’s in the Bible” – without regard to asking even the simplest of questions: Does that belief have any foundation in reality? Is it subject to interpretation? Is it supported by other theologians? Does it do more harm than good?
I am an advocate for those with strong faith who act genuinely on their beliefs, but acting in the name of God has also produced such recent heroes as James Kopp, David Koresh and even Ernest Ainsley, all of whom preyed (pun intended) in one way or another on the ignorant.
For far too many it is easier to muster acceptance of a charismatic charlatan than to put the effort into finding truth.