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Meditation 1348
Fire or Ice?

by: Vern Loomis

Author's comment: This article is for the most part in response to Robert F vonBriesen's Meditation 1335: Blind Belief. It also responds to the ideas raised in Meditation 855: The Problem with Islam is Christianity, Meditation 961: Respecting Islam, and Meditation 1022: Blasphemy in Pakistan. It's not in opposition to any of the articles mentioned - just thoughts inspired upon reading them.

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Fire and Ice
by Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire, 
Some say in ice. 
From what I’ve tasted of desire 
I hold with those who favor fire. 
But if it had to perish twice, 
I think I know enough of hate 
To say that for destruction ice 
Is also great 
And would suffice.

It's the second thing I think of (Frost's poem) when I hear discussion on the relative dangers of Islam vs. Christianity.  The first is one of those childhood questions:  Would you rather be eaten by a hungry lion, or trampled to death by an angry elephant?

Islamic fundamentalism is clearly intolerant and its call for violence towards infidels is well documented.  Secular United States (though under Christian leadership) offers a more tolerant climate than any fundamentalist Islamic regime.  It clearly provides the better place for expressions of freedom.  That said, by design, our country lacks continuity in governance.  Every four or eight years we do a reset (but always with Christian proclamation).   Each time, a new regime must prove and solidify itself.  It does so, often in a clumsy and self-serving manner, and occasionally some part of the world suffers for it.  By definition, we're a secular nation, but by expression, we're Christian.  The leaders we select for higher office, particularly our presidents, are consistently avowed Christians.  We demand it with our votes.  We wish to be governed by Christians and and to be seen such.  Our forays in the world are thus an expression of Christian value, even when unfounded in Christian doctrine.

Christian doctrine is fragmented and inconsistent.  Beyond the Ten Commandments, there’s little in the way of a list expressing demanded behavior.  What it has instead are six thousand years worth of anecdote - example after example of love, hate, benevolence, and violence – often expressed in God's honor.  There's enough portrayal of all sympathies to suit any purpose.  Even killing, prohibited by commandment, finds acceptance when associated with wayward cultures.   God himself is portrayed as conflicted - peaceful, warring, loving, vengeful - the best and worst of human behavior.  There's plentiful example of each attribute, allowing Christianity to vacillate accordingly.  Does the lack of consistency or precise directive mean it's less prone to violence than a more focused Islam?  

Not so long ago, a Christian nation strode across the American landscape, missions in tow, and for the most part, annihilated a people and culture.  Christianity didn't command, but did allow for it through Biblical example.  Hardly more than a generation ago, a Christian people enslaved and dehumanized a race, not with Biblical command, but with support from a rather special interpretation of scripture.  That's how it seems to be with Christianity - not so much mandated to kill, but given room and license to do so.  The U.S. incursion into Vietnam transpired with Christian blessing (e.g., Billy Graham).  Even a few years ago, our Christian nation invaded Iraq, and a Christian president found Biblical pretext and justification for doing so.  "Manifest Destiny" and "American Exceptionalism" aren't Biblical concepts, but a Christian people have found validation and entitlement in coining and expressing them.  The concepts send us into conflict, often with a sense of fated heroism (like Gary Cooper riding into town, reluctantly confronting an evil gunslinger).  In the real world, when the curtains are pulled away, too often we find that Gary's predicament held fabrications.  Which is worse - to earnestly kill under a fabricated jihad, or to reluctantly kill under a fabricated destiny?  

When we see Muslims beheading and stoning infidels under guise of holy writ, we should (and do) feel repugnance and moral outrage.  What of Christian bombs and bullets?  Is it because the mayhem is less visceral and further away, or is it because the violence is allowed rather than mandated, that we seem to have tolerance, or even appetite for it?  Is one more offensive than the other?  Which is the worse fate - to die by the hand of one whose faith demands it, or to die by the hand of one whose faith allows it?

In 2016, our Christian country, with immense Christian support, elected an unpredictable president of fragile temperament and vengeful personality.  What's loosed upon the world may not be an expression of Christian doctrine, but the unleashing is an expression of Christian held values.  President Trump will not promote a beheading or public stoning.  There'll be no mandate from God invoked to kill the infidels.  When the bombs fall and the bullets fly, it will because of license.  The Bible provides it and Christian voters have blessed it.  We'll kill reluctantly, but with great gusto.

Islam has a mandate.  Christianity has a license.  Either will suffice.

VDL (2017)

 

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