It’s Hard to be Anti-Muslim When You’re Stuck with the Old Testament

Poussin Nicolas - The Victory of Joshua over the Amalekites, copy, Public Domain via Wikimedia CommonsThere’s a lot of anti-Muslim sentiment in this country and in many other parts of the world these days: if you don’t look too deeply into history, or at how denominations of Islam differ from each other, or what the political situations are the Muslim world right now, it’s not hard to see why. The bare fact is: the majority of ideologically driven terrorists in the world today are Muslim.

As many are quick to point out, that’s not always been the case: Christians have targeted Jews, heretics, and dissenters for centuries, burning books, homes, entire towns, and people at the stake. Christians defended slavery and racism, and the Klu Klux Klan and the White League’s belief in Jesus did nothing to stop them from beating and lynching; in fact, they may have felt themselves holy warriors of their race, avenging angels of sorts.

But wait a minute! comes the protest. Christians don’t do that anymore: they’ve seen the light and mended their ways. They’ve pondered, learned from their mistakes, and have reformed, which is the whole point of religion, isn’t it?

Well, this is true: not many terrorists are Christian anymore, and the few who are left, such as abortion protesters gone off the deep end, are generally not defended by their coreligionists. And yes, reflection and self-correction are laudable features of religion. As is the effort to realize the love of God in the world, for those who worship the God of love.

But Christians have a problem: the legitimacy of Christ as the Messiah, foretold by the prophets according to the New Testament, is derived from the Old. And the God of the Old Testament is not a God of love, but a God of jealousy and vengeance. At least, for everyone who already worshiped other Gods, or liked to keep their genitals intact thank-you-very-much, or people other than the Israelites if they just so happened to already live where God subsequently decided the Israelites should settle instead.

So as you may expect, as it has always been when adherents of a new religion convinced of their own uniqueness and infallibility sweep in and take over, slash-burn-rape-kill was the order of the day. The Old Testament, other than a few lovely poetic and wisdom-y books and chapters (Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes) is really chock-full of the most God-awful violence and cruelty you can imagine, inspired, condoned, and expressly ordered by the same God Christians worship today.

While his son Jesus is called the Prince of Peace, and his teachings are relatively peaceful (though not entirely), the legacy he inherited of the Father was made plain in the centuries of religious wars and persecutions carried out in his name. But slowly, slowly, sloooooowwwwly, Christianity was reformed, and rejected many of its nastier and more violent aspects, keeping the friendly parts and interpreting away the rest. Or, I think rather, it was forced to do so by the Enlightenment and other humanistic movements in order to stay relevant. Today’s Christians do generally behave very well, and are charitable, peaceful, and tolerant for the most part.

Only thing is, there’s that pesky Old Testament, that Tarantino-like gorefest without the redeeming quality of being tongue-in-cheek. And the Old Testament is so very full of all that awful stuff that’s nearly identical, if not worse, than the most violent stuff found in the Q’uran that inspires and ‘justifies’ Islamist terrorism.

So now that Christianity has undergone that reformation crucial for a future of peaceful enlightenment, what of that Old Testament? Can any of us, of any belief, believe in a future where even those committed to peace can’t let go of the violent relics of the past because they’re foundational myths? Perhaps, perhaps not; we can’t even give up the gun-nut interpretation of the Second Amendment. But until the Christians can give up their violent scriptures, they can’t be taken totally seriously when they demand Muslims give up theirs. And their kids, like me with my Christian upbringing, will continue to think the adults are crazy for telling us to be good while believing in the Old Testament, though sadly some of them will get all too used to those bloody ideas, and learn to believe in them too.

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