Posted on Jan 13, 2016 in Theology blog | 0 comments


By Roland Wrinkle

“To such heights of evil are men driven by religion”  Lucretius (1st Cent BC)

Three months ago, fanatical, fundamentalist leaders of a Wahabist sect (an ultra-conservative branch of Islam; think Saudi Arabia) in Syria commanded and coordinated the murder of 128 innocent folks in Paris, claiming their actions to be “in the name of God.”  They perceived that the Quran dictated as much, based on the decadence found in the City of Lights.

Two months ago, a right-wing Christian terrorist walked into a Planned Parenthood office in Colorado Springs and murdered three more innocents, shouting “baby parts” and believing that Christ’s forgiveness, as found in the Gospels of the New Testament, would justify his actions.

Thirteen years ago, a Hindu fundamentalist group, the Bajrang Dal, murdered 97 Indian Muslims, following by five years its burning a Christian missionary alive, all in the name of Hindu nationalism.

More recently, Asia has experienced a horrible murder spree fanned by extremist Buddhist monks, who preach a dangerous form of religious chauvinism to their followers, contrary to the concepts of nonviolence and loving kindness propagated by Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, 2,500 years ago.

Four hundred years ago, John Calvin sanctioned the burning alive (with his books) of Michael Servetus, his fellow Protestant Reformer for heresy, i.e. he disagreed with Calvin on some points of biblical interpretation.

Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther responded to  his own question, “What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews” with this answer: “First, to set fire to their synagogues or schools … This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians …”

Two thousand years ago, the religious elite of Israel (charged in Genesis 12 to “be a blessing to all the nations”) murdered the “Author of Life”—its own promised Messiah and Savior, shouting that Jesus had blasphemed against the “name of God”, feeling compelled to do so by misreadings of their own (Old Testament) scriptures.

All murders.  All committed “in the name of God.”  All executed with pious certainty.  All based on holy texts.  “But what’s this got to do with me?  I haven’t killed anyone and have no intentions of doing so.”  Here’s what it’s got to do with me and you: Jesus refined and expanded the scope of the Ten Commandments. “‘You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’;… But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement….” (Matt 5:21).  “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer….” (1 John 3:15) The very first commandment was, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Ex. 20) But Jesus came along and said, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” (John 13:34); “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31); and “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father….” (Matt 5:44)

Most assuredly, Paul’s little buddy implored, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,…” (2 Tim. 3:16) But our disagreements over scripture all too often lead to hatred and walking away.  This is anti-biblical.  We cannot divide the body of Christ. Every letter in the New Testament contains at least one command to believers to live at peace with one another. We are repeatedly instructed to love one another (John 13:34; Romans 12:10), to live in peace and harmony with one another (Romans 15:5; Hebrews 12:14), to settle our differences among ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:11), to be patient, kind and tenderhearted toward one another (1 Corinthians 13:4), to consider others before ourselves (Philippians 2:3), to bear one another’s burdens (Ephesians 4:2), and to rejoice in the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6). Conflict is the antithesis of Christian behavior as outlined in Scripture.

It is right to be horrified at, and readily condemn, any killing “in the name of God.”  But we must also look inside ourselves. If God considers hating a form of murder, we must be careful how we handle disputes over our sacred texts. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn confessed: “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” If we are to truly “love our enemies,” this surely includes our attitudes towards those who differ with us over biblical doctrine. Solzhenitsyn was tortured by those who believed that he had blasphemed the Soviet credos.  Instead of concentrating on the murderers who imprisoned him, he turned his insight within himself.  Where and when do we hate?  Do we hate “in the name of God.”  Do we hate (murder) those with whom we disagree about Christian doctrine and what is and what is not sanctioned by scripture?  I’m no terrorist.  But I’m no fully-formed Christian either.  It’s such a struggle.

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