American Christians are justifiably appalled at the behavior of Islamic terrorists who kill indiscriminately in the name of Allah and then attempt to justify those actions by referring to select portions of their sacred text, the Koran. Few Americans are interested in what the Koran may say in support of terrorism because instilling terror in the name of God is too obviously wrong. It offends our human sensibilities and sense of justice as nothing else likely could. What these Islamic terrorists apparently perceive as a sign of religious dedication and duty, we, in turn, see as a monstrous abomination, running counter to all that is right and good.
This reaction to religiously inspired murder and mayhem is perfectly natural; one could expect nothing less. People under attack by religious zealots never enjoy it, regardless of the motivation driving these religious enthusiasts.
Buried within our national experience since 9/11 is a powerful lesson for those of us who embrace a religious heritage stemming from Christ and His teachings. Too often in the past, we in Christendom have condoned and practiced mean-spirited behaviors relative to others and then attempted sanctimoniously to justify those actions by quoting our sacred text. Having the shoe on the other foot should draw our collective attention to the self righteousness inherent in trying to justify the reprehensible by citing scripture. When the resultant behavior is horrific and directed at us, we see no need to accept the notion that the sacred text allows or demands such behavior, so it follows that our own sacred text cannot justify mean-spirited behaviors either.
By extension then, the teachings of our scriptures cannot be the excuse for doctrines that promote attitudes and actions that belittle and marginalize large portions of the human race. Upon reflection, we can see that any religious creed that prescribes who God’s favorites are and who are not, be it Islam or Christianity, can only yield an intolerant and self promoting spirit in its adherents. In that respect Orthodox Christianity and the brand of Islam that fosters these terrorists are kindred theologies. Too much that passes for indisputable doctrine in our Christian churches is reflected back at us when we encounter the Islamist extremist. They feel about us like we feel about them; the only difference is the manner in which the mean-spiritedness inherent in a doctrine of exclusion manifests itself. Exclusion and exclusiveness have never been nor will they ever be the formula for peace, love, and unity among mankind. What we hate about them ought to be what we hate about ourselves.