Local view: Christian history has its own sins
As a member of the Christian community, I've been deeply troubled by a significant spirit of self-righteousness among some Christians commenting on Islam in recent letters to the editor. Positions rejecting the notion of Islam as a religion of pe...
As a member of the Christian community, I've been deeply troubled by a significant spirit of self-righteousness among some Christians commenting on Islam in recent letters to the editor. Positions rejecting the notion of Islam as a religion of peace, demonizing all Muslims based on the actions of a few and painting the "history" of Christian-Muslim relations as a myth of the attack of "evil" Islam upon "virtuous" Christianity all have found their way into the pages of the News Tribune over the past several weeks.
Because I am not a member of the Muslim community, I do not presume to comment on its history. I can, however, briefly comment on American Christianity and faith-based violence. It is a tragic picture.
Christian theologians justified the massacre of the Native American community in the 19th century through rhetorical strategies that dehumanized Native Americans. Theologians of my own church justified human slavery in the years before the Civil War in a similar manner. My Christian grandmother attended KKK gatherings as a child in rural Pennsylvania of the early 20th century, characterizing them as mere social events, events we now know to have been saturated by religious and racial hatred. As a child, an elderly member of a previous congregation witnessed the burning of her German Lutheran church by the "good" non-German Christians of her small American town as war hysteria arose before World War I. A mere seven years ago, members of our congregation were sent into the violence of war. They were encouraged by the dubious rhetoric of Christian politicians, rhetoric harking back to the Christian Crusades. It is a war which has had the scarring impact of all wars, the deepest scars resting upon the human spirit.
As a Christian realist, I am under no illusion that any community is completely free of the marks of sin. However, I know Muslims whose profound depth of spirit and character puts that of many Christians to shame.
Further, my tradition calls me to begin with myself in assessing the ways sin is woven into reality. That counsel is captured by a simple question of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, "Why do you see the speck in your brother's eye but do not notice the log in your own eye?" Jesus asked, according to the biblical book of Matthew.
The way of truth always begins with honest self-awareness. When we muster the courage to take this way, we discover that the most appropriate action in our time is repentance within our own faith communities rather than judgment against others' faith communities.
Lon Weaver is co-pastor at Glen Avon Presbyterian Church in the Duluth and is the author of the forthcoming "Religious Internationalism: The Ethics of War and Peace in the Thought of Paul Tillich."