Saturday, September 11, 2010
Learning tolerance from Terry Jones
I've been following some of the coverage and comments about Jones' media extravaganza. One comment caught my eye, and I'll have to paraphrase: We have to accept that some extremists like Jones will use their constitutional freedom to insult religion, and Muslims will have to accept that some people will act on their extremism without responding in kind.
99.99% of Muslims understand this very well. The ones that don't are the ones who bomb buildings, shoot filmmakers and throw acid in the faces of unveiled women-- in the name of Islam. But, as my friend Owen Broadhurt posted on Facebook today, "Islam did not attack us on 9/11. Islam, along with all of us, was attacked on 9/11."
Most of the major assaults on the people of the world are no longer done in the name of religion but are crimes committed by one state against another. 90% of the world's population now live in secular states. A few states still recognize some form of Christianity as their state religion-- Finland, Costa Rica and Cyprus, to name a few-- but the majority of countries with state religions are Islamic.
This should not be surprising. Islam is the youngest of the world's major religions, only about 1,400 years old.
So where was Christianity when it was about 1,400 years old, at the time when some version of Christianity was the state religion in every organized European state and when it was poised to expand to North and South America?
A few moments in time:
In 1389, the entire Jewish population of Prague -- some 3,000 -- is killed by Christians.
Joan of Arc is burned at the stake as a heretic in 1431.
Witch burnings begin in 1480; 100,000 women and men lose their lives.
The Spanish Inquisition begins in 1482 and ultimately claims about 2,000 lives.
"In the name of the Holy Trinity," in 1492 Christopher Columbus ships 500 Taino indians to Spain as slaves.
I don't make these points to condemn Christianity. Even in the Dark and Middle Ages, surely most Christians would never lift a hand against another human being because of that person's religious beliefs. But I do think that Islam as a state religion stacks up pretty well against Christianity at the same age.
Part of me is grateful to Terry Jones. On the ninth anniversary of 9/11, as the nation stops to remember and mourn 3,000 deaths, Terry Jones shows us the darkest side of prejudice and fear. The level of thoughtful discussion about Islam has never been higher. Let's not stop here.