Dear moderate, peace-loving Muslims,
I know every time there is a major Islamic-inspired terrorist incident you’re called on by angry radio hosts and newscasters to renounce all violence and condemn the perpetrators. And every time this happens your imams and muftis release such statements and appear before the cameras reading them to us.
But I’m not writing to demand a similar condemnation from you.
I already know you want to practice your religion in peace and leave me to practice mine as well.
I know you are as horrified by the recent acts of slaughter in England, Egypt and Indonesia as I am.
I know you want extremists to stop bringing dishonour upon Islam and attracting global revulsion toward your religion.
I know you wish it would all end.
But in case you think the whole world sees Islam as nothing but a hotbed of religious fanaticism and violence, I want you to know, that even though many of us won’t admit it, Christians have a very unhealthy relationship with violence too.
We have tried to rule the world with a Bible in one hand and a sword in the other. We’ve fallen to the seductive temptations of violence, authority and control many times. We are addicted to the myth of redemptive violence.
And I don’t have to go all the way back to the Crusades or the Inquisition to find examples. Just the last century alone is full of tragic illustrations of how we’ve tried to further our faith by violence and oppression, whether it be in Ireland, Bosnia, Waco, Oklahoma City, Manilla, or Johannesburg. And that doesn’t even include the hundreds of Christian priests and clergy around the world who have been found guilty of sexually and physically assaulting thousands of young people in their care.
Then, of course, there was our illegal invasion of Afghanistan and the war in Iraq (under false pretences about WMDs) resulting in the death of over one million people.
Dear moderate, peace-loving Muslims, there are Christians who know that violence achieves nothing. We speak from experience here. Although for a while it feels like strength. It feels good to lash out, to exact revenge, to think we’re defending the honour of our God. And it’s disturbingly tempting to believe that much can be achieved by marshalling military might to champion the cause of Christ. But in the long run all it did was compromise the vision of our faith and undermine our preaching about Jesus, the man of peace. In the end, our standing in the world and the integrity of our faith has been weakened, not enhanced, by our use of violence.
Believe me, even though your stance against Islamic violence often feels as hopeless as my stance against Christian violence, we can’t give up.
So the next time your leaders make public statements condemning these atrocities committed in the name of Islam, please know that some of us stand with you. Some of us share your revulsion and are ashamed of our fellow believers who have trampled on our God’s reputation by inciting or using violence to further our cause.
We know how hypocritical it must sound for those of us whose governments bombed and invaded your countries to insist that you condemn the violence of your extremists, men and women who don’t act in your name at all.
But condemn them we must. Together. As Christians and Muslims who have both renounced the way of violence and who want these evil acts of terror to stop. Now! And we know the best chance of that happening is for a movement of ordinary moderate, peace-loving people from your faith and mine to emerge to stand together and say to the extremists in each of our religions, NOT IN MY NAME.
10 thoughts on “An open letter to moderate, peace-loving Muslims”
Thank you Mike for writing what I have been thinking and praying about for some time. Christ’s cause is not by sword, but by love.
“We are addicted to the myth of redemptive violence.”
Speak for yourself Michael ! you have every right to do that of course.
But I think what you have said in that sentence is incredibly wrong and a contemptuous misrepresentation of so many in the church of Jesus.
I cant think of one Christian of those I know who is addicted to the myth of redemptive violence.
Then you must operate in a very small and godly circle of Christians, Angelo. Because I know a great many Christians who believe in the death penalty and who support widespread military strikes against Syria. I know Christians who prefer ‘an eye for an eye’ over ‘love your neighbor’. I know a great many Christians who believe violence can be used to bring a redemptive outcome to the world’s problems. For me to say the church has been addicted to the myth of redemptive violence is neither wrong nor contemptuous nor even original. A great many theologians such as Walter Wink and Stanley Hauerwas have written extensively on this matter. I’m tempted to suggest you should get out more, but I kinda envy you living in a christian community that doesn’t think violence will solve things.
The difference is that Jesus taught against an eye for an eye whilst Mohammed upheld it. People of any creed can do evil but the problem lies in the teaching of the leader. True follows of the teachings of Christ can’t justify violence from his teachings, true followers of Mohammed can…
Jesus taught against an eye for an eye …
Pew Research reports that 8% of U.S. Muslims believe suicide bombings are justified to further jihad. The numbers are higher in Europe and significantly higher in majority Muslim countries. I don’t hear anyone saying the majority of Muslims do not want peace. But, to compare the problem of radical Islam to instances of violence in the name of Christianity is simply a politically correct distortion of the facts.
Well said, thank you Mike
Mike, I think your letter extremely important.
I penned a rezponse focusing on what I think it points to in a larger theological environment focused in the mission of God with implications for our current situation. Somehow I lost the response. In my posting it.
I think your letter also reflects very important key praxis voncerns that reflect on the support Christians have given to military action of our nations during Christendom.
It also raises issues Greg Boyd and NT Wright are moving us toward to – at the very least – consider.
As I hear and see rhetoric coming from Christians in Australia, UK and USA I believe this topic of “redemptive violence” is an overarching theme that needs humble consideration.
Are you aware of Greg Boyd’s new two volume work?
Anyway I will respond tomorrow.
This is not a minor issue.
I wholeheartedly agree with what Mike says here. The hypocrisy of Christians reveals an awful lot about the validity of their faith. I am not condoning today’s state of affairs for one moment but it is incredibly naive to view things without looking at the historical context.
It’s not so easy in this day and age of media influence to keep perspective. In the West we live a fairly comfortable (in comparison with millions across the world) existence, in a bubble if you will. When this kingdom of comfort is threatened we are vulnerable and angry at such threats.
What happened in Manchester on Monday is horrendous and incredibly upsetting. We should not forget, however, that examples of this and worse happen every day in the Middle East and someone somewhere is going to look for somebody to blame. History paints a grim picture, as Mike has said, of atrocities in the name of faith perpetrated by supposed followers of the Cross.
There is no easy answer to any level of reconciliation. Voices in the Muslim community are starting to make their voices heard which is essential. More of the same please. In the meantime, let’s not forget about false wars over non-existent WMD’s and the expansion of the Christian empire in days gone by. This is all that huge swathes of people hear about and witness in these war torn countries.
Peace to you all…
Dearest brother. I see in you the grace of God, the love of Christ and the heart of a man than is not afraid to step out in public and extend his hand of friendship. You would have to know the flack you would cop, yet you spoke out of a humble and gentle heart. This old lady in Australia is cheering you on. Christ is The Prince of Peace and His Love is to be declared to the world. Bless, Noeline.