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Monday, August 02, 2004

Battle: Islam - Opening Statements - Iron Blogger Republican

This just in from Webster’s Dictionary, circa 1913, under the word Fundamentalism:

"n. 1. A system of beliefs based on the interpretation of every
word in the Bible, both old and new testaments, as literal truth.

2. The beliefs or practices based on a rigid adherence to some
traditional doctrine; extreme conservatism; as, Moslem fundamentalism; the
political fundamentalism of the Christian right."

Fundamentalism, then, is by definition anti-modernist.

True religion itself, however, stands in stark contrast to the necessary freezing of ideology required to be a good fundamentalist. Religion has always been able to evolve, to change with the times to reflect the core messages as we enter brave new worlds.

Other side of the coin: fundamentalism requires strict interpretation of Scriptures and unchanging beliefs. In fact, Fundamentalists, again by definition, are trying to move BACK in time, to get to the original teachings of various faiths. Of course, here’s where the problem comes in: the people who originally started putting together ideas about God were savages.

Say you’re a Cro-Magnon. Lightning hits a tree outside your cave and, unable to understand complex weather systems yet (give yourself break – you just got the wheel thing down), you presume quite naturally that there are forces at work you can’t see. So you figure it out as best as you can and suddenly there’s a Zeus tossing around lightning bolts somewhere up there, probably on the top of that tall mountain you can’t see the peak of. You know, the one with all the loud thunderings?

Rudimentary faith forms in your sloping cranium. You puzzle and puzzle over the gods, doing your best to make sense of the savage world around you, pausing only to run from saber-toothed whatevers and wonk things with a club.

A hundred thousand years pass, and while your forehead isn’t quite as slopey, those ideas about faith are now firmly rooted.

Along comes Cro-Magnon number two and this guy thinks (if you can imagine the heresy) that the lightning is from the Great Blue Sneezing Whatzit, which releases its wrath whenever something tickles the hairs in its nose. What can you do about this religious controversy? Well, you ask, What Would Zeus Do (WWZD bracelets on sale as soon as cheap plastic is invented)? Look around - the world he created is savage and ruled by violence. So, quite logically and in religious fervor, you wonk the infidel with your club. Didn’t that feel good? Zeus be praised!

Next on the list: learn to write. Gotta get that Zeus story down on stone! Writing a thing down has a nasty habit of making it appear more permanent in the mind’s eye.

And THIS is the type of story that fundamentalists are trying to return to.

So let’s take a peek at some of those early religious texts, yes? I suspect my opponent will show off some of these gems as well, so I’ll be brief.

From the Quran, written in the neighborhood of 600 A.D.:

When the sacred months have passed away, THEN SLAY THE IDOLATERS WHEREVER YOU FIND THEM, AND TAKE THEM CAPTIVES AND BESIEGE THEM AND LIE IN WAIT FOR THEM IN EVERY AMBUSH, then if they repent and keep up prayer [become believers] and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them (9:5)

FIGHT THOSE WHO DO NOT BELIEVE IN ALLAH, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Messenger have prohibited, NOR FOLLOW THE RELIGION OF TRUTH, OUT OF THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN GIVEN THE BOOK [Christians and Jews], until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and THEY ARE IN A STATE OF SUBJECTION. (9:29)

(and my personal favorite:)

"An infidel spy came to the Prophet while he was on a journey. The spy sat with
the companions of the Prophet and started talking and then went away. The
Prophet said (to his companions), 'Chase and kill him.' So, I killed him."

Sounds bad! Let’s compare and contrast with some good old peaceful Bible, shall we?

The Christian God would never support rape or plunder, right?

Lo, a day shall come for the Lord when the spoils shall be divided in your
midst. And I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem for battle: the
city shall be taken, houses plundered, women ravished; half of the city shall go
into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be removed from the city.
(Zechariah 14:1-2 NAB)

Oops. How about genocide?

While there, the Israelite army had killed nearly every male in Edom. Joab
and the army had stayed there for six months, killing them. (1 Kings
11:15-16 NLT)

Yikes! I think that’s enough for now. There’s a clever bit about being stoned to death if you sleep in the bed at night (yes, the Hebrew here means just sleep) with a woman who is menstruating, and another heartwarming Psalm where David asks God to smash the heads of his enemy’s baby children against the wall, but you get the point.

Tough scriptures to swallow, indeed! Using these Holy Scriptures, we can conclude that both Islam and Christianity are religions of terror, right?

Of course not. Islam and Christianity have kept their peaceful cores intact to this day, and have long since grown beyond the rudimentary interpretations of the world around them that suggest club-wonking is a justifiable religious tool.

This becomes an important issue because the cowardly fundamentalists who attack, be it with planes on 9/11 or with words of condemnation, couch their insanity with religious identifications. If we care to take the time, it becomes fairly easy to see through these masks. Harun Yahya puts this deceit in these terms (from the introduction to his book Islam Denounces Terrorism):

Sadly, the fact that the perpetrators of various terrorist acts carry Christian, Muslim or Jewish identities cause some people to put forward claims which do not concur with divine religions. The truth is that even if terrorists have Muslim identities, the terror they perpetrate cannot be labeled "Islamic terror," just as it could not be called "Jewish terror" if the perpetrators were Jews or "Christian terror" if they were Christians. That is because, as will be examined in the following pages, murdering innocent people in the name of a divine religion is unacceptable. No one who is religious and fears God would do such a thing.

If the terrorists were vegetarian, would we be looking for the root (pardon the pun) causes of the vegan terror attacks on 9/11?

[IMPORTANT NOTE: As your pastor, I suggest you do not click the link marked crazies in the following paragraph. It links to the Army of God website, a fundamentalist Christian (and terrorist!) organization based in the United States. If you must look, I suggest you scroll immediately downward to the "heroic tribute" to Paul Hill, who shot an abortionist. The top of the page contains bloody, horrible pictures of babies they claim were aborted. The bottom of the page lists Bible verses that justify and encourage what Paul Hill and others have done in the name of religion.]

I can’t help but note that when Christians launch terrorist attacks on American soil, we correctly identify them as fundamentalists and crazies, but we never get around to labeling Christianity a "religion of terror," despite the fact that the murderers justify their acts with Bible Scripture in the same way the 9/11 murderers used the Quran.

Why would we be so forgiving toward Christianity and yet immediately want to label Islam as a whole a "religion of terror"? Probably because Islam is a religion that is "over there" in our minds. Muslims don’t look like us, for the most part. They have different ways. So the labels come from fear, rather than real, diligent research into who these people are.

There is always something to fear, it seems, when you approach strangers with doubt instead of love: it used to be the Russians, remember? As Sting would say if he wrote his classic song today, "I hope the Muslims love their children, too."

Of course the practitioners of Islam love their children. Of course they prefer peace to war. This is because they are what we call "humans."

We just happened to get our first real exposure to anyone claiming to be Muslim on 9/11. Thank God that we don’t judge all the Christians in our country by the acts of those fundamentalist few.

I can put this in even easier terms: religion moves on. Christians no longer kill folks for working on the Sabbath, and Islam doesn’t promote flying planes into buildings. The religions have moved on.

Fundamentalists, by definition, do not move on. They practice religions that NO LONGER EXIST. The Israelite wars, the Crusades, the wars led by Muhammed - these are the wars of religions since passed... except in the minds of fundamentalists.

Maybe Paul Hill called himself a Christian. He was not. Maybe Mohammed Atta called himself a follower of Islam. He was not.

The true practitioners of Islam were helping us find the terrorists after 9/11, as a matter of fact.

Of course, this isn’t Battle: Christianity. Because of our familiarity with Christianity in this country, we can see firsthand that it’s not a religion of terror. How can we do the same with Islam? Why, we can ask its leadership.

Truth be told, while it’s easy to pull out bits of the Quran that support our desire for revenge, it’s also easy to pull out just as many bits that support peace, which is the main idea running through Islam.

However, the mainstream is often made up of folks who talk the talk but quietly walk an entirely different walk. Take me, for instance.

I am the pastor of a mainstream Baptist church. I preach peace, but I have violent urges when someone cuts me off in traffic. I preach self-control, but I remain 15 - 20 pounds overweight. I preach dedication to one's spouse, but if Kirsten Dunst wanted to fool around, I wouldn’t even remember, um, what's-her-name.

I'm just a guy like anyone else… I don't make the front page.

We see the fundamentalists, though, more clearly than we see Joe Christian. It's the Southern Baptist fundamentalists who grab the headlines.

In the same way, you hear about the Islamic fundamentalists who smash planes into buildings, but never hear about the mainstream Muslims who work in this country to improve education, perform acts of charity as a pillar of their faith, and perform other good deeds.

The five pillars of Islam are faith in God, prayer, charity, fasting and pilgrimage. Notice that none of those pillars were murder, suicide, beheading, Jihad or hijacking.

My contention is that those terrorists who claim to be Christian or Muslim or whatever justify themselves not at all. Any religious folks who support terror have left the faith and taken on another faith of their own invention.

A terrorist can no more make himself a holy, justified Muslim by shouting "Allah is the greatest" while flying a planeload of passengers to their deaths than I can make myself into a rabbit made of Velveeta by shouting "I’m better than cheddar."

When we were attacked on 9/11, we had a lot of these questions about Islam. Here's what the 9/11 Commission has to say concerning Osama Bin Laden's faith:

Seizing on symbols of Islam's past greatness, he promises to restore pride to
people who consider themselves the victims of successive foreign masters. He
uses cultural and religious allusions to the holy Quran and some of its
interpreters. He appeals to people disoriented by cyclonic change as they
confront modernity and globalization. His rhetoric selectively draws from
multiple sources - Islam, history, and the region's political and economic

Islam is not the enemy. It is not synonymous with terror.
Nor does Islam teach terror. America and its friends oppose a perversion of
Islam, not the great world faith itself. Lives guided by religious faith,
including literal beliefs in holy scriptures, are common to every religion, and
represent no threat to us.

Grace and Peace,

Dan Champion, Iron Blogger Republican

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