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  1. An Unexpected Thank You

    I don't know how well this blog is going to go over, and I probably haven't thought this completely through, but I am posting it anyway. I have to get this off my mind, and I am sure just the idea of what I am suggesting will infuriate a few out there, but hopefully if read all the way through, I make sense, just not articulated well. This all began earlier this week when a friend of mine, our very own Brother Jeff, was being persistently pursued about the concept of Hell, and the need to open his mind to the possiblity because of NDE experiences that incorporated the fiery land of sulfur. These experiences should be considered as proof of the reality was essentially what the poster was insisting on. Further than that, he even made the assumption that Jeff is far too involved with atheist acquaintances, which might be why he doesn't believe in the concept at all. Atheist friends like myself. While this commentator's blame laying on atheists for being part of the main reason Jeff had left behind religious belief (see what I did there?) and lava filled oceans was flattering, his accusations were at best desperation. Even more desperate? He was hell bent on convincing Jeff to at least just visit a particular website called http://www.hellisreal.net, because the internet must only have accurate information and evidence. As is typical of such proselyting tactics, when Jeff remained unfazed and determined in his views, the poster went the last desperate step in argumentation. Desperate equates to fallacious, of course. "What about all of the Islamic terror and political bias? You aren't being fair in your slander." This type of tu quoque argumentation is a favorite of mine to read. It's classic avoidance by meeting criticism with criticism instead of actually answering to the charges. And it's an easy one to fall into. Meeting criticism with much of the same is a great way to avoid talking about topics you are hard pressed to defend rationally. Ironically, his accusation that my friend only feels comfortable criticizing Christianity brings up an interesting perspective about showing preference. First, I think it is plainly obvious why one often focuses on the majority religion in their communities. The majority religion has the largest impact on day to day life, upbringing, and political ideology. Christian extremism has affected my life 99.9% of the time. I am in a country that truly believes that the Christian god is personally blessing our nation in particular, every day. (C'mon, share the wealth with livable wages then, right?) Islam? Hasn't played a significant role in my day to day life until the last decade, and even then the footprint is minor, but somewhat significant in my relationship with our nation's evolving obsession with Christian culture and rules in our everyday society and government. Now, when I read interactions like that of Jeff and a religious commentator and the accusation of sympathizing with terrorists for not equally criticizing Islam, I start to bristle at the absolute ridiculous comparison. Are there terrorists who are Muslim? Absolutely, I won't deny it or defend it. As this commentator should acknowledge there are Christian terrorists today. The Identity movement, evangelical pastors convincing African nations to pass "kill the gays" legislation. Potential vice presidents of our nation wanting to jail gays for even applying for a marriage license. Every group has extremists, but the ones that have truly influenced your life are likely the ones you will focus on. And that is okay. Lack of focus on other religious extremists isn't a denial of what they have done. If one cannot relate to the substance of particular sects of violent ideology, why is one obligated to give it equal air time? Personally, extreme political cults like ISIS and Al Qaeda have had an unusual positive impact on my perception of the world, and influence of belief within politics. I could actually send a thank you note for the awareness their extremism has introduced into my once clearly biased attitudes. My bias had always allowed me to minimize the damage our country's majority Christian outlook has wrought against those who wouldn't conform. But no longer. Children killed in the name of teaching Syrian parents they must follow ISIS. Children killed by their own mothers in America because they were not following God's laws. Muslim children being denied vaccinations because it was considered worldly and an affront to Allah. Christian children denied vaccinations because God supposedly condemns worldly intervention over divine providence. Gay Muslim men thrown from rooftops in Iraq for their sexuality. Then I remembered having read about James Byrd Jr.'s dragging death in Jasper, Texas for being gay. He was drug to death by Christian white supremacists. I listened to Muslim clerics explain to fathers in Afghanistan that their women and daughters should not go in public without a family member, or they would invite sexual assault and be permanently dishonored. I watch Christian fathers in our country tearfully accept their daughters' promises of virginal purity until marriage because these young girls' sexuality belongs to their fathers. I cried as Boko Haram handed out school girls as sex slaves, and I cried as my Christian politicians condemned abortion in cases of rape because babies are gifts from God, regardless of how conception occurred. Up until the daily news casts started sharing with me the extreme imposition of theocratic policies in extreme Islamic belief, I was able to rationalize that we could be a lot worse here in America, and that it wasn't so bad. And it is true, we could be a lot worse, but there is so much we suffer under today that is outrageously unconstitutional and is still permitted because we are a supposedly "Christian Nation" even though our Constitution tells us otherwise. When I had a daily visual to compare our own nation's attitudes and practices against? I realized we put up with a lot of unfair demands for conformity or face retribution on many unimaginable levels. While it is very true that extreme Christian acts of violence like mothers and fathers murdering their families are met with judicial justice head on, we still allow deprivation of legitimate education, deprivation of necessary medical care, and theocratic conspired laws to force submission in matters of family law and women's autonomy. If it weren't for extreme groups like ISIS, Osama Bin Laden, or the Taliban, I don't know if I ever would have seen the horrifying depths we have allowed Christian extremists to dive to in the name of belief. I hear all these arguments that we are allowing too many special exceptions for Islam, and that we are inviting extreme views and practices from Muslims to start taking root. All I can say is that in order to prevent extremists, you have to enforce the boundaries of church and state. By already allowing blatant preference for Christian agendas on every level of federal, state, and even local government, you have already set the precedent for other extreme religious ideologies to have their fair place too. So at the end of the day, maybe Jeff's persistent cheerleader for Christ might take his own advice and pay more attention to the similarities between his belief system and that of every day Muslims. He ought to be grateful that the majority doesn't act as depraved as the extremist minorities in either version of God. Most importantly, maybe he ought to hold the same standard against his personal belief as he does Islam and see how the two ultimately are similar in goals, and even methods, in order to secure authority in community.