If “Avenging the prophet” is what the terrorist in Paris set out to do today, they should know that they failed in their quest with their callous disregard for human life. Like the crusades which wrecked havoc in another era, misguided faith does not draw people in, grow respect for its founder or create a space to hear its values and beliefs. Faith is not defended by force of arms, but by a life lived in kindness and compassion.
Today it is easy to judge Islamic extremism, but as Christians we have our own examples of evil from the Ku Klux Clan members who killed civil rights workers in the name of Jesus, to Northern Ireland’s history of religious violence. White supremacist Wade Michael Page’s massacre at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in 2012 was grown in Christian extremism. Meanwhile there are other Christian groups who foster hate today.
People who know and love God, have a desire to love all of God’s children. A living faith is one where we encounter God’s presence. We seek to live out a call to love God and others. We aim to never harm another person. United Methodist Bishop Ruben Job, who died January 3, wrote a book, called, “Three Simple Rules: A Wesleyan Way of Living.” in which he set out these rules; “Do no harm. Do Good and Stay in Love with God.” If all of us who claimed the name of Christ were to follow those simple rules, our world would be a better place.
I certainly claim no easy response to religious extremism of another faith tradition, but I do believe that people who experience the love of Christ through God’s people, are less inclined to act with violence. Jesus told us to let out lights shine. On a personal level, there are times when all we can do to combat evil in our world is to light our own candle against the darkness. But what a mighty light that is, when all of our candles are lit.