There’s an interesting discussion on Sterling’s list about similar acts of violence in the Bible and the Koran. This issue has come to the surface somewhat since Pope Benedict made his famous quote of a 14th-century Persian scholar who said Muhammad commanded that faith be spread by the sword.
In the Old Testament days God commanded the Israelites on a number of occasions to slay men, women and children as did Mohammed in apparently obeying the voice of his God, Allah.
So does this mean that Christianity is as violent as Islam? How do the two scriptures measure up?
It is true that by the standards of civilized people of today the Jews of the Old Testament and the Islamic people under Mohammed and later leaders were somewhat disgustingly violent and ruthless in conquest.
There are similarities, but there are also differences.
In addition to the violence, the major similarity was that they were both tribal people who were surrounded by ruthless enemies. It was difficult to fight wars and survive in those days and be mister nice guy.
But there are differences. Here are a few:
The violence by the Jews occurred a couple thousand years before Mohammed. During Mohammed’s time period most of the civilized world had evolved socially and many nations were more humane in their conquests. There are numerous exceptions of course.
Even though the ancient Israelites and the Islamic people were both commanded at times to conquer, subdue and even destroy their enemies there is a very major, oft overlooked, difference.
The ancient Jews were commanded to go to war with specific tribes such as the Hittites, Canaanites, Philistines, etc. These tribes now no longer exist so any command by God for war with them is meaningless today.
It is different with the Koran. Those who are unbelievers or reject Mohammed or the Islamic teachings or rule are to be punished and subdued. Islamic fundamentalists believe this applies to most of the civilized world today. Death is seen as too good for the inhabitants of the United States and Israel especially.
The problem then with Islam is their command to destroy and subdue is still in effect for all non-Muslims unto the end of time and we are part of their target. The modern Christian and Jew, on the other hand, do not feel obligated to go on the offense to destroy because their violent commands concerned people who no longer exist.
The main book of the Christians is the New Testament and their leader Jesus taught them to “turn the other cheek. He discouraged war by saying “he who kills with the sword shall be killed by the sword.” In addition, most Christians feel the teachings of the New Testament supersede the Old.
Mohammed believed in crushing his enemies and did not normally turn the other cheek.
Even though Christians and Jews have had their atrocities and have certainly not followed the example of a loving Messiah they have evolved in the present to the point where most just want to live and let live.
Many fundamentalist Muslims, on the other hand, feel duty bound, because of commands in their scriptures, to take the war to the enemy. There are many Muslims who do not support this idea, but there are enough that do to make this a dangerous world for those who do not believe. Until this issue is resolved we live in the danger of other 911s, or worse – even possible nuclear disasters.
Is there a solution to this danger? Some think all we have to do is be nice to the fundamentalist Muslims and they will be nice back. Unfortunately, that will not work. No matter how nice we are many will still feel they have a mission to destroy us because it is God’s will.
The only real solution is this. The public opinion of the masses must be influenced. When the time comes that the fanatics lose influence over the masses then they will lose their power.
This can only be done by bypassing the leaders and going directly to the people with the media and helping hands to help common people get ahead in the world.
Just as Christians and Jews no longer seek to put gays and witches to death, even though the command is still in the Old Testament, even so will Muslims eventually see the violent commands of their scriptures are out of date. This realization could come in a generation or two if the world can hold things together in one piece until the time arrives.
I touched on why Christianity as a whole has been able to distance itself from the violent commands that Islam is still troubled by.
There is one more major reason that wasn’t covered which is all important.
Christians broke free from their black and white adherence to negative commands because the movement toward democracy began and fomented in Christian nations while the Islamic nations barely budged from the idea of being ruled by a supreme authority – and generally a religious authority at that.
The movement toward greater freedom in Christianity began some time before the founding of America and had its seeds in the teachings of Christ. Jesus spoke the famous words “the truth shall make you free.” He also said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” In addition, he showed a great disdain for worldly totalitarian authorities and set the example by being a gentile leader who sought to save his enemies rather than destroy them.
These and other seeds led to the sprouting of the desire for freedom in the human heart until the freedom lovers finally broke off from Europe to move to a land where there was greater freedom to be had.
Even after arriving in America there were atrocities committed by Christians. The three major ones were slavery, mistreatment of American Indians and the burning of witches.
The question that brings enlightenment is this? Why were these three errors corrected in America whereas there has been little movement with a similar correction in Islam?
The answer is that an atmosphere of freedom brings self-correction. Without freedom a corrective measure can be decreed, but then that correction will often bring more oppression (or as much) as the original problem.
It is a sad fact that many people cannot see this and have little faith in the goodness that will materialize through the freedom of the human spirit.
Why do they not see this?
The answer is simple. When a problem develops in an atmosphere of freedom the problem usually grows worse for a period of time before the correction comes. Many short-sighted people see the worsening of the problem and blame it on too much freedom. Then, if they get their way, a restriction of freedom comes along with more problems and atrocities.
The prohibition is a good example of which most will agree. To counter the problems associated with alcohol do-gooders passed an amendment that made alcoholic beverages illegal across the board.
Did new problems come? Indeed, we saw the rise of mob power and the likes of Al Capone become more powerful than most political leaders.
”I agree with this principle,” says one until we throw something at him with which he disagrees – like the freedom to keep and bear arms. “That’s different,” he says. “The world would be safer if we took away the freedom to own firearms.”
Such a person does not really believe in the principle of freedom. He only believes in freedom as it applies to his own little belief system. He does not believe in holistic freedom. The holistic person will accept the freedom of others to do that which may disgust him personally.
The only freedom that needs to be restricted is the freedom to take away another person’s freedom. The example I give again and again is that the burglar must not have the freedom to break into your house and diminish your own freedom to possess goods and be secure. The common laws usually deal with securing these types of freedoms.
If the seeds of freedom can be planted in the midst of the Islamic countries, then over a period of 50-100 years a complete revolution can occur. The conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have the potential to plant the seeds of freedom that can cause this revolution to occur. All the resistance to making this happen comes not by accident as many are influenced by the Dark Brotherhood to withdraw our forces before the seeds have been able to properly sprout.
There is much more at stake in the current conflict than even the most ardent supporters realize.
A positive result is far from a sure thing for the forces to prevent the seeds of freedom being planted in Iraq are horrendous but success must come or the appearance and work of Christ cannot come off as hoped. The Christ must have the freedom to teach the Islamic people in freedom as well as the other religions.
It is when power is wedded to chronic fear that it becomes formidable. Eric Hoffer (1902 – 1983)
Oct 3, 2006
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