Christianity poses a real threat to those who pursue violence and power.
Someone has said, “Truth is dangerous, and religious truth is the most dangerous of all.”
The positive reading of this dangerous quote is that religious truth is a danger to complacency, human laziness, and the natural disinclination to seek only comfort and pleasure in life. Religion is a higher calling and demands a higher standard. The truth in every religion calls the believer to be the very best human being they can be. Religion is therefore dangerous for those who would settle for nothing but creature comforts.
Religion is also dangerous to the wicked. Dictators, corrupt politicians, greedy financiers, abusive employers, and cruel men of power are threatened by religious people who insist on peace, justice, reconciliation, forgiveness, mercy, and ministry. True religion has always been dangerous to tyrants. That is why they have so often sought to stamp it out.
While religion is dangerous to the complacent, the greedy, and the powerful, there is also a negative aspect to the danger of religion. A religion that seeks to convert through force or cruelty is a danger to peace and justice in the world. This kind of religion is an anti-religion. Where religion should bring out the best in humanity, this anti-religion brings out the worst. Where religion should challenge people to be more open minded this anti religion makes them more bigoted. Where true religion is dangerous to cruelty, greed and vengeance, this anti religion is dangerous to peace, justice, and forgiveness.
The rise of ISIS in Syria and Northern Iraq, reveals an anti-religion in full force. In the name of their “religion of peace” the thugs of the Islamic State torture, murder, and maim in God’s name. Good Muslims are right to be horrified by the distortion of their religion into a dangerous anti-religion.
The problem Muslim apologists face is that a strong case can be made that the prophet Mohammed himself promoted conversion by force and military conquest as a keystone of his religion. It is difficult for them to affirm that theirs is a religion of peace when the freedoms they enjoy in Christian countries are denied to Christians in Muslim countries. How can Musllim apologists reject the extremists of ISIS when their religion’s founder was a violent warlord?
Radical Muslims are winning the propaganda war, and the Muslim voices of restraint, peace, and diplomacy seem faint and distant. The real threat is that the anti-religion of radical Islam will predominate, and instead of Muslim countries becoming more humane, open, and tolerant they will become less so.
The anti-religion of radical Islam is even more dangerous because the commitment to a religion is not territorial. Young Islamic radicals sympathetic to the aims of ISIS live and work in countries across the globe. Their allegiance is not to their home country, but to their radical anti-religion. Their loyalty is not first to the land of their citizenship, but to the faith that transcends national boundaries. Their love is not of their countrymen, but of their co-religionists.
In a modern world where travel and immigration are increasingly free and borders are open, old ethnic, national, and tribal loyalties are increasingly meaningless. Religion, therefore, is the one bond which will bring people together across national boundaries. Religion fosters a bond between peoples of disparate histories and ethnicities in a way that no political or economic force is able to approach.
It is all the more vital, therefore, to promote a true religion that fosters peace, justice, human rights, reconciliation and tolerance. The only religion that has forgiveness and reconciliation at its very foundation is Christianity. Christians call Jesus Christ the Prince of Peace and only those who seek to follow him truly and fully can help bring his peace to the world. They are the ones who are a true danger to those who seek only violence and vengeance.
If the religion of the Prince of Peace does not prevail, then the anti-religion of the Prince of Darkness will prevail, and if that anti-religion of mayhem and murder is sown, mankind will reap the whirlwind of war—and the desolation of despair.
Fr Dwight Longenecker is the parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary, Greenville, South Carolina. Visit his blog, browse his books and be in touch at dwightlongenecker.com.