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Friday, June 24, 2016

How A Christian View Of Terrorism Shows A Christian Problem In Viewing The World

On June 20th, the podcast from the Legonier Ministries' Renewing Your Mind program consisted of an interview with the deservedly, well-esteemed theologian R.C. Sproul (click here for a brief bio) called A Christian Response To Terrorism (click here for the interview and ignore the text below the interview).

This blog has reviewed Sproul before on at least one issue and has disagreed with a significant portion of what he said. The disagreements expressed in this blog should not be taken as any challenge to Sproul's many contributions to the Reformed Faith. Sproul is well-deserving of the respect and regard many from the Reformed Faith have for him. But it is issues that this blog tries to cover. And some of Sproul's views of terrorism need to be challenged.

The purpose of the interview was to provide a response in the light of the tragic mass shooting in Orlando. In short, many of Sproul's comments could be characterized as being short-sighted. And it appears that they are short-sighted because of a certain insularity that Sproul and many religiously conservative Christians suffer from or endulge in when examining the world around them. Even the connection of the Orlando shooting with Islamic terrorism shows an inadequate knowledge of the shooter's background. For as of now, there are too many factors involved to assume that the shooting was an example of Islamic terrorism.

By insularity what is meant is that the sources some religiously conservative Christians use to learn about the outside world are significantly restricted by the spiritual or ideological credentials of their sources. The result is that certain views on terrorism are inadequate and thus make it more difficult to present an adequate Christian response to it.

An example of the result of Sproul's insularity is when he states that Bush's invasion of Iraq was justified because of Iraq's participation in the training of terrorists, it is said in such a matter of fact tone it is as if that view is widely held. Now if he was referring to Iraq training terrorists who attacked America, he has a problem because such a  position is not widely held. Neither the 9-11 Commission nor the Pentagon agree with the connection between the terrorists who attacked us and Iraq (click here, there, and there again) and their views were documented over 10 years ago.

In addition to insularity, Sproul's views on attacking terrorism indicate how his political views on terrorism are governed more by an American-centricity than by the information available. For example, suppose in Sproul justifying Bush's invasion of Iraq he was referring to Iraq training terrorists per se, the question becomes so what. Here Sproul seems to forget how America has trained and supported terrorists when it supported Bin Laden et. al. during the Soviet Union's Afghanistan intervention during the 1980s or how the US supported the Contra rebels in Nicaragua as they at attacked civilian targets, which was also during the 1980s. If Bush's invasion was justified because of alleged ties between Iraq and terrorism, did Afghanistan, Nicaragua, and even the Soviet Union not have the right to attack the US back then because of our ties to terrorism? In addition, Sproul seems to not include military actions conducted by a nation's armed forces as terrorism. Was not even the American threat of Shock & Awe a terrorist threat since civilians would be killed and the intention was for Iraq to make political changes? Terrorism, according to Sproul, seems to be only what Islamic radicals do to others. 

Sproul's American-centric approach to the subject of terrorism continues as he neglects to mention the reasons why terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda attacked us on 9-11. He explicitly stated that they attacked us in order to change our culture as if what they objected to was our culture. The real reasons for the attacks are not hidden. Reasons include the sanctions we helped enforced on Iraq that were, in conjunction with our destroying Iraq's infrastructure during the first Persian Gulf War, responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. Reasons include our imbalanced support for Israel's Occupation against the Palestinians. Reasons include our presence in the Middle East and, in particular, our support for Saudi Arabia when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. We should note here that neither Kuwait nor Saudi Arabia agreed with the need to invade Iraq in 2003. We should also note that the US has supported a number of brutal dictatorships in the region. Those reasons could never justify the 9-11 attacks, but they do help explain why we were attacked. And we certainly were not attacked because we had the freedom to choose between rooting for the Red Sox or an evil empire.

Likewise Spoul's explanation of Radical Islam where Radical Islam is explained as being more consistent with the fundamentals of Islam itself shows insularity, only this is of a Christian kind. For when most religiously conservative Christians compare Christianity with Islam, they only compare today's versions; they neglect to mention Christianity's violent past such as how Christianity often rode in on the back of Western Civilization's expanding empires. In addition, with Sproul's belief that violence is one of the roots of Islam, it appears that he has never asked the peaceful Muslims in his community why they are peaceful though their religion, according to him, is rooted in violence. When Christians criticize Islam for its history of violence, they never include the fact that Islam is actually a religion of justice and that one of Muhammad's main concerns was the elimination of injustices he saw in his area of the world. Certainly that does not excuse Muslims from much of the violence they have taken part in, but it does give us a context for the violence. And while Sproul mentions the part of the Koran that says to kill the infidel, he neglects to mention the parts that say to live in peace with those who wish to live in peace.

Sproul's insularity indicates that he has succumbed to tribalism. Sproul has shown that he is perhaps tied too closely to Western Civilization, America, Conservative Christianity, and conservative political ideology to look some of the subjects discussed objectively. This insularity prevents Sproul from developing a wider perspective and a view of Islam and the world's problem with terrorism that is characterized by fairness. And such distracts from the positive remarks he made during the interview such as when he talked about a Christian's duty to help all who are in need regardless of the groups one may belong to.

This falling to tribalism where group loyalty trumps principles and morals so that what is right and wrong depends on who does what to whom is a temptation that is faced by all who belong to groups. In other words, it is a temptation that is faced by all of us and none of us have never given in to it. But at the same time, tribalism, along with the love of money, are the two human weaknesses that are destroying the world today. So while we can no longer tolerate either weakness, we must understand why others not only submit to it, but embrace it. We must understand in order to battle these weaknesses because all of us are giving in to these weaknesses at various times.




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