by Elisabeth Wilder – Horizon Columnist
Like many people, I consider my faith to be something deeply embedded into my identity. It’s how I understand the world around me, it serves as a compass and map when I am confused, it gives me peace when I am weary, and it helps create purpose and meaning in my life. As for myself and for many others, faith and religion are values essential to my being.
On that note, while I am proud to be a Christian and a woman of faith, there are a lot of things that supposed “Christians” do that I’m not proud of. I’m not proud of the Westboro Baptist Church, a hate group that pickets military funerals and preaches messages like “God hates fags.” Nor am I proud that the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist group, believes they are supporting Christian values. It is also horrifying that the Army of God, a group that targets and exterminates abortion doctors and clinics commits their heinous acts of terrorism under the name of God.
Thankfully, most people don’t associate Christianity with the KKK, the Westboro Baptist Church, the Army of God, or any other group that is supposedly led and supported by Christians, but why do we associate groups like al- Qaeda, the Taliban, and ISIS with Islam? If we referred to the Army of God, the Westboro Baptist Church, or the KKK as “Christian extremist groups” the same way that we refer to al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and ISIS as Islamist extremist groups there would be outrage, and rightly so.
How would you like it if your faith was constantly put in the same league with some of the worst events and groups known to humanity? For my fellow Christians, what if we adamantly described the crusades, slavery, or the mass genocide of Indians as acts committed by “extremist Christians” or “Christian terrorists.” It’s offensive, and it doesn’t do justice to the principles and philosophies that Christianity stands for.
That being said, it is just as wrong for us to describe acts of terrorism and violence committed by a small sect of people as “Islamists terrorists” In no way does the beheading of television reporters or the hijacking of planes reflect the messages taught in the Koran or the Five Pillars of Islam. Muslim leaders worldwide have loudly and persistently condemned ISIS for what they are doing. Acts of extreme horror and mutiny are in no way apart of any religion.
The people who wore the nametag but not the ideologies shouldn’t define Christianity, Islam, or any religion for that matter, nor should the people who use religion as a tool to justify their actions define it. When judging and critiquing spirituality it is important to remember that even the most pious and religious person is imperfect, the greatest church, mosque, temple, or synagogue is still flawed, and the best faith denominations are still are weak in certain areas.
No one group, organization, or person should ever be what defines a religion, for better or for worse. Christians, Muslims, Mormons, Buddhists, Hindus, Atheists, all people alike have both the potential to do good or to do evil with what they believe depending on whether or not they understand the true ideologies their faith teaches. As a Christian, without understanding the context of the Old Testament I could be misled that Christianity was about war, stoning people for various sins, and not eating shellfish and miss out on the true messages of grace, love, and mercy.
That being said, the most beneficial thing we can do to understand other religions or denominations is to be in conversation with people who believe differently than we do and to take the time to learn what their religion is really about. The responsibility also falls on us to learn as much about our own religion as possible so that we can understand the messages and commandments correctly. In reality, we are all wrong or don’t fully understand the true ideals our religion teaches, some of us more so than other.
So unless we want to start referring to the KKK or the Westboro Baptist Church as Christian extremist groups, we need to stop referring to al-Qaeda and ISIS as Islamist terrorist group. It is not the people who define a religion, but religion or a lack of that often defines us. Ultimately, we must pursue ways that promote the good for all people and let whatever deity we do or don’t believe worry about the rest.