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How Dangerous are Religious Radicals?


Church in Flesch, Wallis, Switzerland Credit: Oliver Regelmann/Flickr/Creative Commons

Church in Flesch, Wallis, Switzerland Credit: Oliver Regelmann/Flickr/Creative Commons

There is an interesting video of a religious conference where the speaker talks about radicals in his community. The religion, in this case, is moderate Islam. If you believe all the people who raised their hands in the video, moderate Muslims are actually dangerous radicals.

Before you panic; the people in the room self selected, they were so devout in their religion that they attended a conference, and they easily made extreme statements. They also were under peer pressure to raise their hands when the questions were asked.

And they were young people at the age of idealism. Life will look very different in twenty years, with a family, a mortgage, and a spreading waistline, and maybe a receding hairline.

The people in the audience are probably not very scary, but the speaker has an interesting message. For him, all moderate Muslims must be extreme radicals who want to impose Sharia law on the world, including stoning of women who commit adultery, and permission for a man to have several wives.

I am sure that none of those people who raised their hands wants to get a phone call from the police, some day, telling them that their fourteen year old daughter was caught shoplifting and is in the hospital having her hand surgically removed. That is never going to fly.

We should note that the speaker disagrees with me. He thinks the audience should follow conservative Sharia law, and that “radical” is actually “moderate.” He demonstrates that the moderate audience is really conservative and radical, by a show of hands. That is a powerful message.

I have had the same experience as a Christian. I remember speakers telling us that a sincere Christian had to follow some extreme cult-like agenda. They told me that if I was a Christian, I had to be like them.

I just didn’t buy it, and some of my friends stopped going to church. If we didn’t like it, we didn’t do it in the long term. As we get older, we all become even more moderate; grey hair and grandchildren change everything. The world is filled with people who want a good job and a happy family.

Imagine if wars were fought by men over fifty. We would shout (not shoot) at the enemy, and then invite over them for coffee to continue the argument. At night we would all go home because who wants to sleep on the cold hard ground? Casualty rates would be low, unless you count high blood pressure and sore backs. There is a reason why wars are fought by young men.

The religious speaker doesn’t understand that he is eroding his religion, and he is only deceiving himself. Picture three houses side by side on a suburban street; on your left is the home of an extreme, dangerous radical. In the middle is someone with the same religion, but with more moderate and middle class beliefs. On the right is a friendly neighbour who has a different religion. I was the third guy.

A few years ago, I organized an LEP Bible study in a Pentecostal church. LEP is “Limited English Proficiency” and the goal was to serve immigrants who couldn’t follow the church services because their English skills were weak.

We had singing, praying, conversations and Bible studies that they could follow and the topics were appropriate for a Pentecostal church. We never apologized for what we believed.

The project attracted a loyal group, mostly Korean and Chinese Christians. The big surprise was all the Muslim immigrants; we had visitors from places like Indonesia, Bangladesh, Iran, Turkey, and probably Iraq. They didn’t always say where they were from, and we didn’t pry; we just kept doing our Pentecostal Bible study thing.

I don’t know how they found us but they just kept coming. My impression is that they didn’t want to be extreme radicals, and that was the only way they could follow God in their religion. So they came to us for an alternative, and we didn’t hold back. We were the house on the right side.

The Bible says “Let your moderation be known unto all men.” (Philippians 4:5) and now I know why that’s important. The majority in this world wants to see a way to God for them and their families. Jesus did not call me to burn the world down for an idea. He came to make me a blessing to others, and He is strangely attractive to people everywhere. That is my radical Christian experience.

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. (Luke 6: 27 and 28)

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