There is so much controversy these days over whether or not we should accept Muslims as our friends and fellow citizens or see them as latent terrorists and dangerous enemies. It’s just not just a question in our country, but throughout parts of Europe where in some places today, hysterical levels been reached. Thus as we approach Saturday, September 11th, another anniversary of the destruction of the Twin Towers and others sites by violent, angry, terrorists who expected paradise for their deeds, many Muslims feel fear and danger to themselves. What do I think?
I believe people who profess Islam as their faith structure hold no edge over Christianity when it comes to people within who inflict violence and terror. Christianity can hold its own with any group, religious or not, when it comes to a history of violent actions, be it genocide, persecution, or senseless wars. To condemn all Muslims as violent terrorists is but a projection in part of our own history. Do we forget our long Christian history of Jewish hatred, blaming them for the death of the only Son of God? Do we forget the plight of Jewish folks, terrified of leaders who persecuted and killed millions of them, supported by large groups of Christians? Do we forget our Christian country’s genocide of Native Americans and the enslavement of African Americans as subhuman? Do we forget the hundreds of years of cruel “crusades” to rescue the “holy land” from Muslim infidels, crusades which drove many mid-east Christians to join the Islam faith?
Yes, the record of Christianity is filled with pogroms, massacres and genocide. As the late Fr. Anthony De Mello once said, “St. Xavier would be considered a major terrorist by today’s standards!” I remember visiting a large cathedral in the Czech Republic a few years ago. It was part of a king’s summer castle. The cathedral was basically just for the king, his family and friends. Beneath the cathedral chapel were the remains of a “torture machine.” People considered heretics, socially unfit, and uncooperative, were placed into this machine and each day, large metal rods were screwed deeper into the small compartment, until after days and weeks, the miscreant was squeezed and bled to death. I wondered if the screams often might have been heard while people were praying above! Sort of “friendly warnings,” perhaps.
To dishonor Muslims and their gathering spaces because of events of 9/11 would be to dishonor all Christians and churches because of the terrorism of a Christian named Timothy McVeigh on April 19, 1995, in Oklahoma City. Or to disown all Christianity by the words and actions of Bible waving/hymn singing members of the KKK who hung hundreds of black citizens as a way to “cleanse of our country.”
If I understand any of the essence of the message of Jesus, it was to love our enemies, to forgive them who cry for our deaths and nail us to crosses! It is to honor the lowest, most forgotten person in society, beaten up along the road and being passed by religious leaders, commending foreign women for their great faith, and forgiving even a thief and robber while dying along with his persecutors. I have Muslim friends who often visited our congregation while I served as pastor. They are brilliant contributors to our area and society. Do they have issues to be resolved? Are they perfect in love and forgiveness? If any of us were, I don’t believe we would even be here; we would be angels in eternity!
If the world and our country are to save itself from an infernal of Armageddon, it will need to have people who are willing to notice the sins in their own eyes before casting stones at others. It will need forgiveness of ourselves for sins as we forgive those who we see as sinning against us. It will need leaders who respond to senseless violent acts against us with calmness and efforts to rebuild the bridges of broken communication with patience, not with hatred, bombs and wars which kill multitudes more than the original provocations.
This Saturday, let us remember the events of 9/11 occurring nine years ago. Let us remember them with humility, with forgiveness, with remembrance that this is a violent and ephemeral world. Let us remember we are but passersby in a world of opposites, seeking to remember our Oneness with the Creator, who created us Spirits of love, peace, and indestructible essence. Let us remember we are One with all creation; with men, women, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindu, believers, unbelievers, everyone.
May God’s peace be to all, forgiving ourselves for our sins and faults that we may stop projecting them onto others.