Radical Christianity

On September 12th, Rosie O’Donnell — the new host of “The View” on ABC — claimed that “radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam“.  Her general point was that in America there are radical Christian forces that deviate from the core tenants of Christianity just as in the Middle East, there are radical elements of Islam that deviate from the core tenants of Islam.  Essentially, in Ms O’Donnell’s mind, the two are equivalent.  To use a social buzzword…  “morally equivalent“.

There is a grain of truth to her comments, but not a very large one.  Where she has a point is in two places…  1) historically broadly, and 2) recently very rarely.

1) Yes, hundreds of years ago, there were Christians who en-masse invaded nations to wipe out religious groups that were different from them (the Crusades), formed inquisitions and burned people at the stake.  BUT… that was hundreds of years ago.  Muslim terrorists are blowing stuff up today, right now, in modern day societies.  If we were to tak their weapons away from them, there’d be peace.  If Europe and America (arguably somewhat Christian, but the closest equivalent) suddenly got rid of all our weapons, they’d do their best to slaughter us in the streets.

2) Yes, Nazi Germany and the Ku Klux Klan did and do many of the things in the name of Christianity that Jesus would have nothing to do with.  For that matter, there are mainstream everyday Christians that don’t act like Jesus.  They’re everywhere.  But it’s pretty obvious that these mainstream folks aren’t killing anyone or blowing anything up, and the Nazis and Klan are universally denounced, shunned and marginalized by Christians, Muslims and atheists alike.  Compare this to the reality of modern-day terrorism, and I think it’s pretty hard to draw a comparison.  And even if you drag in the “Christians” who blow up abortion clinics or haul up in Waco, which are legitimate concerns — obviously bad ideas and deplorable — you still have to admit that these whack-jobs are outnumbered 1000-to-1 by the Islamic fanatic ready to blow themselves up in the Jihad against the great white devil in the West.

So, I’m not sure where Rosie gets off.  The crusades of 700 years ago are the same as the invasion of Iraq today?  Hardly — for a hundred reasons.  Christians blowing up abortion clinics once every 5 years are the same as Muslims blowing up hospitals, churches, cafes, and embassies every other day?  Right.

What I really want to do is disect Rosie’s comments and define “radical” for a second.  That’s where I think the interesting conversation can be found.  I think she has the definition of “radical Christianity” all wrong.  Here are my thoughts…  please respond if you feel the need.

“Radical” Islam— This is what happens when you get a Muslim all hopped up on religious zeal…  He blow stuff up.  Allah has told you to, and a couple dozen virgins await.  You are fighting in the battle, the great cause for Islam by ridding the world of the infidel.  We see it every day.

“Radical” Christianity — This is what happens when you get a Christian all hopped up on religious zeal…  He leaves his job and income behind and moves to Africa to feed the poor.  Or he gives everything he has to start a hospital.  Or he gives up Saturday mornings to go into the inner city to serve the poor.  Or he starts an orphanage.  Or maybe a school.  Or, maybe if he’s really really really whacked, he goes to the mall and hands out really annoying tracts — that say that God loves you and wants you to spend eternity with Him.  Or he might even stand on a box and preach about the end of the world and about how we need to be right with God, or that God judges sin, or that there is still right and wrong.

So let’s stop all the nonsense that there’s somehow an equal sign between the two “radicals”.  There isn’t.  Even when Christianity is at its worst, it’s 10 lifetimes ago or so rare that you can fit 10 years worth of news about Christians blowing things up in America on a single page … and half of them will be in the Klan. 

Sorry, Rosie, I just don’t buy it.  It’s not the same.

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About Jeff Block

Lover and follower of Jesus, the long awaited King. Husband and father. Writer and seminary student. On a long, difficult, joyful adventure, learning to swim with the current of God's sovereign love and walk with Him in the garden in the cool of the day.
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5 Responses to Radical Christianity

  1. Brad Bull says:

    Your definition s of radical are far too convenient. The number of muslims who
    “He leaves his job and income behind and moves to Africa to feed the poor … or that there is still right and wrong.”
    easily outnumber jihadists 1000 to 1. You sometimes act as if Christians and Americans are the only people who practice charity and benevolence.
    Let’s choose a new term with positive connotations. Extreme?, pure?, wholesome? christians and muslims who help there fellow man. Radical christians and muslims (I agree the muslims in this category appear to outnumber the christians by a bit) who blow stuff up, murder, etc.

    On a slight tangent Eryn has a very conservative coworker who is up in arms because there is a senate race somewhere in the U.S. where a candidate is muslim. If he wins he will not swear on the bible, he will promise on a Koran. I am curious of your thoughts on this.


  2. Jeff Block says:

    I absolutely do NOT believe that either Christians or Americans are the ONLY groups of people in the world who “practice charity and benevolence”. I do believe that they do so MORE than any other groups … and that by a long shot.

    How many hundreds of millions of people around the world has America freed from oppression with blood, sweat and treasure? To whom would you like to compare that? China? Russia? France? Venezuela? Turkey? How about numbers of dollars spent helping other countries (even our enemies) recover from disasters? How much money poured into America from the rest of the world when Katrina hit? What about post-war reconstruction? Who rebuilt Japan and Germany? Was it Russia or China or Australia? Nope. Us. Always us.  And I know we’re rich and everything as a nation, but I would suggest that even the ratios (amounts given to GDP) are skewed in our favor … and that doesn’t even take into account personal (not the government) giving by the people.

    Now, Christians… How many of the top 100 universities or hospitals in the world were NOT created by Christians, churches, missionaries, etc?

    I’m not making the point that other cultures aren’t benevolent. I *AM* making the point that when you supercharge a Muslim, more often than not, he blows something up. When you supercharge a Christian, more often than not, he makes great personal sacrifice to help people in need. And it’s not hard to understand why. Simply compare Mohammed and Jesus. They were *very* different, both in what they taught and how they lived their lives. No way around it.

    And how can you say that Muslims who blow stuff up outnumber Christitans who blow stuff up “by a bit”? How many suicide bombers around the world in the last 10 years have blown up a hospital or wedding or cafeteria in the name of Jesus?

    I may comment on your other question at some point. Need to think about it / look into it.


  3. Jeff Block says:

    More interesting reading related to our discussion…

    Google “radical christianity” and “radical islam“, and compare the results. 

    What does this tell you?


  4. regina olsen says:

    you seem to forget christian zealots who blow up abortion clinics. or polygamists who supress the rights of women for the sake of thier christianity. though their numbers may be smaller than you think necessary to classify as radical and completely barbaric, even one of these kinds of problems is way too many. any effort or cause that makes someone blow somehting up is not ok. it doesnt matter if it happens only a couple times, or all the time.
    besides, i would not trust the results you get from googleing. its not a very accurate way of deciding your posisiton on somehting.


  5. Jeff Block says:

    Thank you for your thoughts, Regina. Let me respond…

    > seem to forget christian zealots who blow up abortion clinics

    I did not forget them. In fact, I mentioned them explicitly. And you’re right, that’s unexcusable behavior that’s the perversion of a religion / philosophy / the teachings of Jesus.

    > it doesnt matter if it happens only a couple times

    So, let’s say (and this is about right, I think) person A blows something up in the name of Christianity once every 10 years around the globe and person B does so 3 times a day in the name of Islam. You’re saying these two things are morally equivalent? It doesn’t matter? One’s not worse than the other?

    If you smoke 3 packs of cigarettes a day, and I smoke one cigarette every 3-4 years, then I’d say cigarettes are a big part of your life, not mine … that they are a part of defining who you are, but probably not so much me. Doesn’t that make sense?

    What I was trying to get at is that violence in the name of Islam is routine and frequent – and has become a large part of its definition. However, violence in the name of Christianity is very rare and does not define it at all. Rather, charity does. This is because, in my opinion, of a reflection in these two behaviors of the fundamental cores of these philosophies and their founders.

    > i would not trust the results you get from googleing. its not a very accurate way of deciding your posisiton on somehting.

    Nobody here is “deciding a position because of Google”. I, and I hope everyone else, form my opinions by searching for information and making decisions based on it. Google *is* a very effective tool for finding information. Surely you’re not suggesting otherwise, are you?


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