Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Religious extremism

One part of the movie, United 93, that stood out was the extraordinary dedication to Allah on the part of the terrorists who hijacked the plane. At several points in the movie--even as they are driving the plane into the ground--they are seen praying prayers of dedication and commitment to Allah. It would be easy to come away from the movie thinking that the root problem in our world is religious extremism. Indeed, this is exactly what many people believe. This view is remarkably shallow.

There is nothing necessarily wrong with extreme dedication—it all depends on the object of your dedication. For example, there were those who, in their extreme dedication to Adolf Hitler, imprisoned, tortured and slaughtered millions of Jews! On the other hand, there were Americans who, in there extreme dedication to others, were willing to die by the thousands to oppose Nazi slavery.

The terrorists on United 93—and millions of other extremists who operate under the banner of Islam—are dedicated to a view of god as one who seeks either to subjugate or to destroy the “infidels.” These extremists bomb, kidnap, rape, torture, murder and sometimes even behead innocent people.

By contrast—and contrary to popular opinion—Christian extremists are NOT the tiny percentage of idiots who have bombed abortion clinics—that is certainly an extreme response, but it is not a “Christian” response. True Christian “extremists” are those who have devoted their lives to serve others out of their extreme dedication to a God who came to seek and save the lost.

These Christian “extremists” have often given up virtually everything, risking their lives to start and run clinics, orphanages, homeless shelters and schools all over the world. They’ve rescued people from sexual slavery, forced prostitution, and domestic abuse. They’ve provided food, shelter, comfort, education and assistance, not just to Christians, but to people from nearly every tribe, race, nationality, and religion on the face of the earth. In fact, they have often been murdered by the very groups of people they came to serve.

But still they continue to go, while other Christian extremists stay behind collectively giving millions to support these efforts and to work tirelessly in their communities through church and para-church ministries as well as community charities. This is the true face of Christian extremism. Extreme dedication is not necessarily bad--it all depends on to whom or to what cause one is dedicated.