by Aaron Gaglia
Yesterday, Brian Mclaren posted a link to an article entitled “Jesus Loves His Enemies…and Then Kills Them All” written by Aaron Miller. This article is in a series that seeks to combat Islamophobia by showing the hypocrisy of Christians and Jewish people who decry the violence of the Qur’an. Miller seeks to show that the Bible has “far more violent” content then what is contained in the Qur’an. Miller states in a disclaimer to this series that he wants people to see that one religion is not more violent than another religion but that there are both “peaceful and violent interpretations of religion.” In order to make this point, he spends this article showing how Jesus—the epitome of Christian peace and non-violence—will actually be very violent in his second coming.
He argues that just as critics invalidate the peaceful saying of Muhammad by his subsequent violent sayings, one can as easily invalidate the sayings of Jesus. He points to the Jewish conception of Messiah as the one who would defeat Israel’s enemies and restore Israel as a nation. He then shows how this militaristic understanding of the Messiah is consistent with the Christian understanding of the Second Coming of Christ. He quotes extensively from Revelation showing that Jesus will not “love his enemies” in his second coming but will “destroy them.”
A main point he is making throughout the article is how unfair it is that many people compare the most peaceful verses of the Bible with the most violent verses of the Qur’an when both contain peaceful and violent verses. He ends the article by stating how Muslims should respond to Christians who exalt Jesus above Muhammad because he loved his enemies: “Jesus loved them so much that he kills them.”
Though this article is polemical, it raises points that all Christians need to grapple with. We need to avoid caricatures of Islam based on certain texts outside of their theological and historical context. We do not want people to accuse us of condoning the stoning of adulterers or waging war in the name of God based on a bad reading of Scripture. Similarly, we need to be careful not to do similar things to Muslims. As Christians we need to make sure that we understand what the Quran says and how Muslims interpret it to make sure we do not inaccurately characterize Muslims.
Yet the presence of these “violent” verses in our Scriptures does not mean we should ignore the atrocities being committed in the name of Allah in our present day and age. Terrorist organizations such as the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah (translated Party of God) all claim to be Islamic organizations. In addition, arguably the greatest threat to international security, the Islamic Republic of Iran, is as its name states, an Islamic nation. Although we cannot dismiss the violent passages in the Bible, we can honestly say that in our present day and age much more terrorism and oppression is being done in the name of Islam than in the name of Christianity. This does not mean that Islam inevitably leads to violence, but merely that certain organizations and people within them are using Islam currently in the name of violence and terrorism.
Islamophobia is a phenomenon that we cannot overlook. There are many who wrongly characterize Muslims as innately violent people. As Christians, and people of integrity, we must reject all errant characterizations of and prejudices against Muslims. We must be characterized by loving and seeking to understand them. Yet at the same time, loving Muslims does not mean that we deny or downplay the great atrocities being committed in the name of Islam. We must continue to oppose Islamist groups while seeking to understand the full continuum of Islam and not just an extremist pocket of it.
Yet in addition to raising questions about Islamophobia, this article is also a call for Christians to deepen their understanding of the passages in Scripture describing violence and judgment. Brian Mclaren deals with Jesus’ second coming by advocating “alternate understandings” of eschatology. Yet must we subscribe to such a reading of eschatology? Is the idea of Jesus punishing his enemies something we need to shy away from? Does this show an inconsistency in Jesus’ character or make him unloving? I would love to hear your thoughts and I will write my thoughts in the near future.
For your reading pleasure, below are links to the articles I mentioned:
Disclaimer toThe Understanding Jihad Series: Is Islam More Likely Than Other Religions to Encourage Violence?(Above post is a part of this series)
Aaron Gaglia is an intern and writer for the Washington D.C.-based Institute on Religion and Democracy