It is no news that people seem to becoming more polarised politically these days. But it is sad, unhelpful and unnecessary.
It is particularly sad when christians fall into this.
And it seems to be particularly common when discussing issues relating to terrorism and Islam. Like this last week …..
The mosque murders in New Zealand
We have all heard the terrible news of 50 people gunned down in two mosques in Christchurch. Everyone except a small bunch of internet extremists has condemned the attack of course, but responses after that have been interesting, but not always good, and sometimes a little ugly.
If you can’t say something nice ….. ?
Some people have chosen to attack those who have been sympathetic to those bereaved and suffering after this incident. NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Adern has been much praised and admired for her sensitive and human response which has helped unite the New Zealand people at a potentially divisive time. Unfortunately she has also been criticised for real or imagined faults, and her admirers have been criticised for putting her on a pedestal. But I can’t imagine anyone thinks she is perfect, they just admire her response, compared to some other less attractive responses (see below).
I can’t see how any christian should criticise someone for showing compassion and for weeping with those who weep.
Another response has been to point out that Islamic terrorism has killed many people around the world, and to argue that the media and the general public are biased in not reporting these atrocities, as if somehow previous attacks perpetrated by others should lessen our compassion for those affected this time.
Of course we are all aware of atrocities committed by terrorists in the name of Islam. They are condemned by most people just as the Christchurch attacks were. Perhaps they are under-reported, I don’t know, but they are certainly not unreported – you could argue that the best known terrorist attack ever was the Twin Towers in the US.
But before we christians (and others) in the west rush to point the finger, we need to remember a few historical facts.
- The second Gulf War, aka the invasion of Iraq, instigated by a coalition of western nations, killed several hundred thousand Iraqis (estimates vary widely).
- Since World War 2, US military forces have been involved in incursions and military operations in overseas countries at a rate of approximately one per year, and in 2013 alone were involved in covert operations in about two thirds of the countries in the world.
- Western powers have a sorry history of colonisation and repression of indigenous peoples and non-European countries, including a period when the Middle East was economically exploited by western nations, especially Britain and France (see links below).
The west has given Middle Eastern people reason to feel aggrieved.
Do we really want to compare?
While we should rightly condemn Islamic terror attacks, we western christians should equally condemn US, European and Australian interference in the Middle East and elsewhere that has certainly taken far more lives and occurred over a far longer period. Unfortunately, the sorry record of western nations isn’t always taught in schools or mentioned in the media.
Jesus said (Matthew 7:3): “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
Don’t let the sun go down on your anger
It is understandable, and reflects a sense of justice, when we feel anger at gross disregard for human life. But we christians need first to repent and acknowledge that western nations, often nominally christian, also have blood on our hands.
In such circumstances, anger needs to be reigned in.
As it really always ought to be.
Let us pray
Surely now is a time for all christians to pray – for God’s healing and comfort of those affected by these shootings and other terrorist attacks, for the social unity of New Zealand, for forgiveness for wrong and selfish attitudes in the past and present, especially by God’s people, and for our “enemies” (as Jesus commanded us to do), that they and us together might receive grace from God.
- British Colonialism, Middle East. Encyclopedia.com
- Impact of European Colonialism on the Modern Middle East. Study.com
- European Imperialism in the Middle East. University of Texas.
- Does religion cause terrorism? Is there a God website.
- Colonialism, war and selective memory on this blog.
I would not equate removing evil tyrants like Sadaam Hussein with terrorist actions against civilians.
The US is often in a situation where we are damned if we do nothing and damned if we do anything.
But I do agree that after a horrendous act like that is not the time to argue about these things.
Hi Joe, thanks for your comment.
“I would not equate removing evil tyrants like Sadaam Hussein with terrorist actions against civilians.”
It would be silly to pretend these are easy matters, and that we can find black and white solutions. But I think this is a very questionable statement. If we tried to define “tyrant”, you and I would probably come up with concepts like (1) killing, (2) persecution of minorities and (3) undemocratic.
I can think of examples in my own country of Australia, and I’m sure you can likewise for the US. From the outside I would point to:
(1) The removal of Saddam Hussein entailed the killing of hundreds of thousands of civilians in what is hard to distinguish from a “terrorist action”,, the US military has interfered (and killed people) in about half the countries of the world in the last century in what those countries may well feel are terrorist actions, and the US has the greatest number of gun deaths of its civilians in the developed world (killing).
(2) Blacks are still discriminated against in many aspects of US life (persecution of minorities).
(3) Even apparently democratic systems can be rorted by things like voter suppression, Russian interference, the control of the media by the rich, fake news, gerrymandering of boundaries, vote-rigging, etc (undemocratic).
“The US is often in a situation where we are damned if we do nothing and damned if we do anything.”
I think that is true, and sometimes unfair. But it would help if the US (and Australia) set out clear criteria about when they take action overseas, and then stuck to those criteria. But the choice of countries to interfere in seems to point to criteria like political expediency and access to oil and other economic benefits, not so much principle.
This isn’t meant to “bash” America (or Australia) but to reinforce the point of my post that it is easy to have double standards, and we christians should act in clearly principled and godly ways.