Who are the haters?
There has been a lot in the news about killings and Muslims lately, even more than usual. Here in North Carolina three young adult Muslims were savagely gunned down by a man who is a self-described “gun- toting atheist.” News reports show these young people as kind and caring. The police are looking into whether this is a hate crime or not. It does seem that killing three people in a “dispute over a parking spot” comes up a little short as a satisfactory reason to kill.
Over in Syria we’ve been hearing of the death of Kayla Mueller, who has been a captive of ISIS. Accounts of Mueller’s life show a young woman who seems to be almost preternaturally self-sacrificing. ISIS says that a Jordanian airstrike killed her but that pilot is no more to blame than the train engineer if he comes across a damsel in distress who Snidely Whiplash has tied to the railroad tracks.
In the first case I have to admit that I find it ironic that atheists in the blogosphere are quick to point out that the killer doesn’t represent the vast majority of atheism. Of course he doesn’t; not any more than nutjobs who call themselves Christian represent our faith – even if you like to portray them that way.
In the Mueller case everyone is roundly condemning ISIS and well they should. This group is horrifying evil. But it pains me to see so many Americans, particularly so many Christians, saying that Islam itself is the problem. Many evangelical leaders, Franklin Graham for instance, are very quick to say that Islam is fundamentally violent religion. As someone who has lived alongside Muslims overseas and had a few I call friends I just struggle with this.
Why do we say things like that? “Because the Quran teaches violence!” they say. Verses from the Quran are then trotted out to prove their point. Muslims make up way less than 1% of Americans. Almost nobody in the 99% of us has ever seen a Quran, let alone read one. Yet the land seems to be filled with scholars on the faith who are absolutely sure they are right; they have those verses after all.
Evangelicals, of all people, should never draw conclusions based on verses taken out of context. We are trained over and over not to do it in our Bible studies. But if you read the Bible the same way we “read” the Quran, by taking carefully selected verses to prove a point we already hold, we’d have a problem.
The genocide of those who don’t share our faith? Deuteronomy 3:3-7
Own slaves? Exodus 2:1-11
Sell your own daughter as a slave? Exodus 21:7
Your children talk back to you? Kill them. Leviticus 20:9
Someone sins with their eyes? Gouge them out. Matthew 18:9
The list could go on. Take verses out of context and you can prove anything you want from the Bible; just as you can from the Quran. Indeed, ISIS is doing the same thing to justify their barbarism. I don’t know about you but being “just like ISIS” in proof-texting my already-held views does not sound like a good idea to me.
President Obama set off a firestorm of outrage when he compared ISIS to medieval Christianity in barbarism. I wasn’t so pleased with it either. But the “that was then” defense doesn’t work. Christians are killing Muslims even today in the Central African Republic. But, we reply, they are not real Christians, our faith is not like that.
Exactly. Let’s condemn ISIS and all evil and refrain from cherry-picking religious texts to prove our own biases on other faiths.