Thursday, October 28, 2010

In The Name of God

This CNN News cover photo from yesterday really hit me with this toxic paradox. I do read Arabic so the writing on the "ladies" bandannas blasted me.

The part that is visible is, literally, "No god but The GOD." I would have to assume that the writing continues on the other side their heads "And Mohammed is His Prophet."

The story is, this line of women "firing squad" is shooting to death two young girls in Somalia. The girls had been accused by the (men) leaders of "spying for the Somalian government." The group behind the execution is part Al Shabab, an militant Islamic army, which had taken most of the country and has the intention of setting up a strict Islamic state.

My old evangelical friends are often sending me photos like above with the intention of showing how evil Islam is and how loving Christianity is in contrast. That is not my point here at all. Right now, in this time period, I would agree that Islam has more violence on its fringes than Christianity. The only place I can think of where Christians are killing non-Christians in the name of God is in Nigeria (and maybe a few other sub-Saharan countries). However, this peaceful state has not been the norm throughout Christian history.

Just a generation ago (when my mother was a little girl living in the south) "church boys" were torturing and killing blacks, in the name of God. The first (and only) African-Americans to move to my mom's childhood community were a brother and sister who came there to try and grow a little food in the rocky, clay soil. Rumors quickly spread that they were involved in incest (only because they were black, and the good, Christian white people assumed that black people routinely did horrible things like that). The rumors grew and grew until a pickup truck loaded with red-neck church boys come to their cabin, beat up the man, dragged him out into his front yard. Staked down his arms and legs and then, used pointed sticks to gouge his eyes out. They did this with the blessing of the good-ole Southern Baptists community, as an act of God.

But then you go back a few generations and you run into a long line of atrocities in the name of Jesus. Under the banner of Jesus not only were people shot (most of this happened before guns) but people were stabbed to death, countless ones burned alive while tied to a pole (can you imagine the horror?). People, in the name of Jesus, were disemboweled, had molten lead poured down their throats (for saying something "against" the Church), had their eyes gouged out, hands cut off and the like.

But when I saw that photo yesterday, I felt like I was being teleported into the hearts of those young girls. What were they feeling?

I had always wondered what it was like for the French aristocrats (and eventually common people) to stand in line for the guillotine. Charles Dickens helped me to understand that through his Tale of Two Cities. So now I think I can feel what the girls must have felt.

I'm quite confident (based on what I know about human nature) that those two girls had done nothing wrong. They were simply scapegoats for a paranoid society. As they were bound and blindfolded, they must have been in a complete state of terror. They must have felt a complete sense of injustice. Then the bullets of "God's heroines'" guns tore the flesh from their beautiful little faces as they pierced their brains. How horrible! This is worst than any monster of Halloween's fantasies.

But what can we learn from this? This is the true, fallen nature of us who are called "man." We have this intense desire to be loved, to be "somebody," that will allow us to do such monstrous things to others, so that we can feel better about ourselves. We can believe that we did this for God . . . therefore our associates will know that we are truly "God's people." After all, we did act for Him . . . didn't we?

John 4:20 says;

If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.

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