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.