Christians Have Waged Their Own Holy Wars” was yet another annoying headline, this one in the Miami Herald. It seems that every time someone is beheaded, shot (by children, no less), or burned alive by ISIL, there is this inevitable handwringing over the violent history of —
Confused? So am I. Precisely what the Crusades or the Inquisition have to do with events in the Middle East is not clear. One suspects that attacking Christianity fits neatly into a domestic agenda. Yes, Christianity is not only Islam’s chief global rival, it is a barrier to the American Cultural Left’s social vision (think abortion and gay marriage). Whatever the motivation, this ignores a serious (and growing) foreign threat.
For their part, Christians, in spite of their supposedly violent natures, have accepted all of this rather passively. Indeed, to be a Christian apologist these days seems to involve a lot of apologizing for being a Christian at all. This alone should be sufficient evidence of Christianity’s peaceful nature. I mean, I don’t hear many Muslims apologizing for the Muslim invasion of Europe (which preceded the Crusades by almost 400 years), for the recent scandal of some 1,400 children systematically raped by Muslim men in Rotherham, England, or for the oppression of women and religious minorities in Islamic states.
Charlie Hebdo is illustrative of my point.
That the magazine lampooned Muhammad we all know. What is little known is that between 2005 and 2015, the magazine devoted 38 covers to obscene and offensive depictions of religion or religious figures. Of those, 21 were aimed at Christianity while only seven targeted Islam. Yet those seven covers netted two terrorist attacks and 16 people dead. Were Christians truly as violent as Muslims, there would have been no less than six Christian attacks on Charlie Hebdo.
There have been none.
There are many other examples of the very different responses Christians and Muslims have had to unflattering depictions of their religion: Martin Scorsese (director of “The Last Temptation of Christ“) is still alive while Theo Van Gogh (director of “Submission”) is dead, shot eight times in the street and a butcher knife left in his chest. Richard Dawkins has made a fortune attacking Christianity and lives handsomely in Oxford while Raif Badawi, the Saudi blogger who was publicly lashed 50 times for his criticisms of Islam, is in jail awaiting 950 more lashes. And Salman Rushdie lives under the perpetual threat of assassination while Rushdie’s friend and fellow writer Christopher Hitchens enjoyed celebrity status among the Christians he denigrated.
The point isn’t that most Muslims are terrorists or would-be terrorists; rather, the point is that many terrorists are Muslim. Some will object that a relatively small percentage of Muslims commit atrocities, but that is beside the point. There are relatively few Ultimate Fighters — but they have a lot of fans. Last week, BBC announced triumphantly the results of a new poll saying, “an overwhelming majority of British Muslims oppose the use of violence against people publishing images of the Prophet Muhammad.”
This sounded reassuring. Promising even. The results? Twenty-seven percent of British Muslims were “sympathetic” with the Charlie Hebdo shootings. That’s one in four? “Overwhelming” was the right word. Overwhelmingly alarming. Can you imagine a similar figure for evangelicals and abortion clinic bombings? Neither can I. As you can see, Muslim extremists have a substantial fan base.
At this moment I am in the small, quiet French town of Labastide-Rouairoux. Recently, the tranquility of this village was disturbed by the discovery that one of its sons, Quentin Le Brun, had joined ISIL. No less than 3,000 other Europeans have done likewise. “Jihadi John,” who was raised in London, is the most notorious of these. Now what, exactly, is the modern Christian equivalent of this phenomenon? The forty-something members of the Westboro “Baptist” Church?
Of course, there is no equivalent. The religions are not equivalent. Islam is a religion that is defined by law. Nowhere in the Quran does it call for Muslims to be at peace with non-Muslims. Christianity, by contrast, is a religion defined by grace. Its founder, Jesus Christ, modeled it and predicted that some would kill in the name of God. But he added: “They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.” (John 16:2-3)