An Observation: Killing in the Name of Religious Beliefs
I was there for over a decade, living in New York City when 9/11 happened. To read about my experiences, check out Remembering 9/11. I knew that day would leave a mark in history that would change society into something unlike anything in my lifetime. I had no idea how right I was...
I grew up in the south. As a child, attended a Baptist church, educated at a liberal arts Methodist College and have liberal, unconventional, and inclusive views of most things ‘Christian.’ In fact, I usually say that I'm a disciple of Jesus Christ's teachings instead of calling myself a Christian.
My belief is, just like with most things in life, there are always going to be extremists or zealots of every hue, in everything, and every organization. Christianity and Islam are no different.
Since 9/11, I have heard plenty of excuses that appear to be abhorrent, prejudicial and unconstitutional to those whose religion is Islamic, especially and unfortunately from the Christian right community. I have witnessed people in grocery stores and airports being treated differently and with much disrespect because of how they looked and/or dressed, even if they were Sikhs (which are not Hindu or Muslim.) I have read news articles about people being treated disgustingly because, in one case, a woman wore a hijab (or Islamic traditional head covering) on a domestic flight.
In another case, a business man was harassed from the ticket counter to the airplane because his name was ‘Mohammed.’ He was kicked off the flight for questioning the behavior of the flight attendant, who decided to continually harass him over the flight's intercom, by saying his name over & over as well as his seat number. Indicating loudly to the whole airplane she would be ‘watching him’ during the flight. According to the airline, the ticket clerk and flight attendant felt threatened by ‘Mohammed,’ and when the incident was reported to the media, an airline rep said that the employees did nothing discriminatory.
Recently I saw a video of a woman preaching on the streets of New York City near ground zero. She was preaching loudly in front of a fire house, informing the pedestrians roaming by that she was a ‘firefighter for their souls.’ She was warning them of their impending deaths and following ‘eternity in the fiery lakes of hell.’ When she started spouting hatred toward Islam and saying they were also evil and ‘killing us,’ the fire house decided to quiet her down by blowing their horns and alarms to cover her hate speech. People on the street cheered and yelled to cover her hate-filled warnings.
I have noticed a palpable growing fear that has run amok based on several horrible acts of terrorism from Islamic extremists. I lived through the experience of 9/11. I also lived in Chattanooga TN when a young Islamic man killed 6 military personnel and injured two. Like everyone else, I watched the news about the shootings in Paris and the terrorist attack on Bastille Day in Nice, France, just to name a few incidents.
It isn’t that I don’t understand the fear. I do. But I don’t understand why we have such short-termed memories about world history, about religion and killing in the name of God. We act like this is all new.
Killing in the name of God isn’t anything new, nor is it owned solely in the pocket of those who are Muslim. Christians have been doing it for centuries and doing it just as well. I’ll name just a few: (1) Both European & American witch burnings during 1200 to 1800’s; (2) The Spanish Inquisition from 1478 to 1874; (3) The Crusades from 1096 to 1291; and my personal favorite that is often overlooked, the terrorism of the most ‘devout of Christians' from the 19th century to the present, (4) The KKK.
In each of these four cases, countless people, entire families, communities were tortured, maimed and killed not necessarily in a jihad (or ‘holy war’ with the exception of The Spanish Inquisition and The Crusades, they had ties to the church.) Dare we say that in just these four cases, millions over centuries, were killed in the name of God, persecuted by burning, lynching, drowning, beheading as so-called warnings for heretics and non-believers. In most cases, the Bible was used to prove the guilt and God was used to approve of those in power who did the killing because 'they' adamantly defend their society by ‘good Christians.’ Thus, these deaths were considered necessary.
Though the spirit of the KKK has lived throughout history—arriving and fed with mother’s milk in the establishment of the 13 colonies, through the conception of the United States and the writing of The Constitution, side by side with the Peculiar Institution of slavery, the Civil War, and then through the Jim Crow laws of the early to mid-20th century south—all of it was based on warped and poisoned Christian beliefs.
Same goes for the domestic terrorism of the KKK itself, formed after slavery –which was steadfastly defended by our Founding Fathers and ‘good Christians’ everywhere for over 300 years—the KKK has been clearly branded in their night time secret meetings, in the costumed night raid rides in ghost hoods and burning crosses. The ‘Strange Fruit’ that hung from many trees throughout the turn of the century —the men, women, and children that were lynched--- the homes, churches, businesses and schools that were burned to the ground, were defended by the idea of ‘keeping order.' According to these Believers, such violence is necessary and in some case "righteous," what many interpret, even today, as ‘God’s natural law’ for society.
This infamous terrorist organization and delusional belief that Caucasians are superior to all others in the human race is tied directly to the same Bible verses that brought Africans to America, via the Middle Passage, as slaves; breeding people like animals to make more slaves, keeping the Peculiar Institution alive and well until the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Constitutional Amendment of 1865. This distorted belief still influences the Christian right communities up through today. Though now, the KKK is in direct competition with other terrorist organizations such as the neo-Nazi Skin Heads and general white supremacists.
If you want to know more about ‘good Christian folk’ who have bombed, burned and killed, try googling Black Wall Street of June 1, 1921, Tulsa Race Riots of 1921, Rosewood Massacre of 1923, Birmingham Church Bombing of 1963, or more recently, Mother Emmanuel Church Shootings of 2015.
If you're not familiar with these examples, I'm not surprised, most are barely taught in history books. All of these examples are racially motivated attacks on African Americans, destroying entire communities. Most of these massacres were influenced and conducted by the KKK and its spiritual equivalents.
I haven’t touched on the historical and present-day treatment of Native Americans, Jews, Hispanics, Asians, and any others, including immigrants, who either migrate or already live in this country and want what we all want: the Constitutional 'freedoms to worship and pursue life in happiness.'
The whole reason I wrote this article was because I was curious as to who history said had killed more, Christians or Muslims. Google.com indicated that Christianity and Islam were ‘neck and neck in killing, but this was not counting one of the bloodiest unheard of wars. The three French Wars of Religion from 1562 to 1598, where French Protestants and Catholics spent 36 years massacring each other.’ I haven’t even delved into the Protestant, Catholic wars throughout the world that still rage on.
What disturbs me the most about this current anxiety over Islam or any other religious group that is not ‘Christian’ is how easily we allow our fears to conveniently circumvent what we claim to believe and have much claimed faith in; the hypocrisy is extremely apparent. We DO NOT WANT to ‘love one another.’
When you look at the human races’ history up through present day, we act like bratty, scared children, occasionally and somewhat clumsily getting it right, but mostly arguing and yelling “MINE!”, while grabbing resources (land, people, gas, oil, water, etc.) and killing each other, blaming the Creator or whatever's handy for our destructive temper tantrums. If one objectively looked in general at our historical behavior as if it was an individual, the human race is insane ---deeply in need of much self-restraint, psychological counseling and loads of discipline. When will the human race mature enough to realize that this is really not a competition? We are in this thing called LIFE together, on this little blue, green ball called EARTH, all trying to get our needs and wants met before we all inevitably die.
Religion, faith, spirituality ---these are not things we should use to condone abhorrent and violent behavior to our fellow human beings. In order to live productively and in harmony in this world, we need to respect and HONOR each other’s beliefs, respect the differences of our cultures while we believe what we want to believe without starting wars, killing communities in the name of what we claim is a Loving God.
I thought that was what the United State's Constitution indicated but, how quickly we resort to inappropriate, rude and dangerous behavior.
Our Faith is supposed to be our anchor for both good and bad times. Either the Judeo-Christian belief of love, honor and connection to a loving heavenly Father (Son and Holy Spirit) is real, or it is an ambivalent façade of faith that flakes off way too easily to weather the windy storms of atrocities such as 9/11. Regardless of your religious beliefs or lack thereof, don’t you think it is time that we stopped blaming God for our need to kill/hurt one another? It is time to do the very hard thing: take the time to work toward our general mutual interests and set an example for generations to come.