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Reader comment on item: Q&A: Remaking a Religion
in response to reader comment: COMPARING ISLAM TO CHRISTIANITY

Submitted by Erich W (United States), Jan 2, 2011 at 00:56

I was touring the Museum of Mosaics in Antioch, Turkey, with an elderly Christian orthodox man who was our host at the time. There are other displays there...not just mosaics. One was a set of old guns. Our host said, "That is the gun we used to shoot the Jew." I did not understand, so he explained how after Easter Mass, an effigy of a Jew would be strung up in the church court yard, and the Christian men would take turns shooting it. Perhaps this was better than attacking the Jewish neighborhood, but it is an awful thing to consider that such customs were practiced in the living memory of one elderly gentleman from Antioch. I had another friend who became a Syriani Orthodox Christian priest. He was American. What jolted him was that in one of the liturgical prayers the Jews were cursed. These things have been part of the real life of Christianity.

I fear that some of the Islamic doctrines, practices and attitudes that are so wrong, might be in part an imitation of Seventh century Byzantine Christian laws and actions toward Jews and Pagans. Having said all that, it is plain that a straight reading of the New Testament immediately shows that these practices and attitudes are anti-Christian in fact. Hatred, cursing and violent aggression is human, but it is not Christian. Even though these sins have often been institutionalized into Christian experience, confronting them through pointing to authentic, written, apostolic Christian teaching has often been done. Reformation in the direction of more genuine and consistent love is a consistent theme of the history of Christianity. The role of institutional violence in Islam is more challenging, because a straightforward reading of the Quran gives the inescapable impression that making war on the Unbelievers, and dominating them, is an inescapable religious duty. The process of reformation in the direction of neighborly love toward Unbelievers, in Islam, is therefore a completely different process. Christian violence cannot be sanctified by Christian Scripture, but is consistently condemned by it. Islamic violence is sanctified and commanded by a simple reading of Islamic Scripture.

Correcting that to a more humane attitude will require profoundly new approaches to their own scripture and past. As for birth rates and long range trends, I think we should expect many surprises, and stay optimistic and firm. Europe has had its revivals of faith and resolution. Let us pray that they will not have a revival of hate and extermination.

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