Revisionist history and other confusions

What was then and where we are now and why it is so provide a lot of territory for artificial support for fantasies. The Middle East Forum takes a look at one example in Conflating History with Theology Judeo-Christian Violence vs. Islamic Violence by Raymond Ibrahim. The fantasy here is about Islamic terrorism and the ‘everybody does it’ argument. Since Christians conducted the Crusades, then an Islamic ideology behind the terrorist attacks is just more of the same, aren’t they?

While such questions are popular, they reveal a great deal of confusion between history and theology, between the temporal actions of men and what are understood to be the immutable words of God. The fundamental error being that Judeo-Christian history—which is violent—is being conflated with Islamic theology—which commands violence. Of course all religions have had their fair share of violence and intolerance towards the “other.” Whether this violence is ordained by God or whether warlike man merely wished it thus is the all-important question.

The point being made is that of making a distinction between what people believe and what they actually do. Crime and sin are failures of the human. Much of religion is about clarification of these failures so they can be set apart from desirable behavior and to provide a path of redemption so that those who suffer these failures have reason to change their lives and minimize such failures in the future.

There is an historical context to behavior. Group or social behavior such as war also has context. Much of the Biblical violence cited to rationalize current violence applies to a specific historical context. Trying to pretend that that context is the same as the current one is not appropriate.

This is where Islamic violence is unique. Though similar to the violence of the Old Testament—commanded by God and manifested in history—certain aspects of Islamic violence have become standardized in Islamic law (i.e., Sharia) and apply at all times. Thus while the violence found in the Koran is in fact historical, its ultimate significance is theological, or, more specifically, doctrinal.

Revising history by selecting just those parts to support your point of view is only good for that purpose. It is not helpful in achieving goals that require bringing others to your views.

And it is from here that one can best appreciate the Crusades. However one interprets these wars—as offensive or defensive, just or unjust— it is evident that they were not based on the “Sunna” of Jesus, who exhorted his followers to “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matt 5:44).

In fact, far from suggesting anything intrinsic to Christianity, the Crusades ironically help better explain Islam. For what the Crusades demonstrated once and for all is that, irrespective of religious teachings—indeed, in the case of these so-called “Christian” Crusades, despite them— man is in fact predisposed to violence and intolerance. But this begs the question: If this is how Christians behaved—who are commanded to love, bless, and do good to their enemies who hate, curse, and persecute them—how much more can be expected of Muslims who, while sharing the same violent tendencies, are further validated by the Deity’s command to attack, kill, and plunder non-believers?

We can learn from history and that learning can lead to a more healthy society. If we do not learn, especially if we twist and distort reality to fit specific fantasies, then the result is a sick society.

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