In what has become a terrible fact of life this week featured yet another senseless act of violence perpetrated by Muslim extremists in their misguided and futile religious war, this time the gunning down of a dozen people at an admittedly distasteful satirical publication in Paris. There is no justification, no rationale that stands any scrutiny that would justify this act. From our genteel and enlightened position in America we sadly shake our heads and thank God that we are not like those Muslim terrorists, a bunch of sinners.
Not so fast.
It may seem like ancient history but the history of religion that went under the name of Christianity was plenty brutal in its day. Wars waged against unbelievers? Check. Persecution of religious minorities? Check. Torture and murder of those who espouse the wrong beliefs or make proclamations considered blasphemous? Check.
Well sure but that was a long time ago. That was then and this is now, the world has changed and matured. True but the rest of the world is not at the same place the West is (and there is ample evidence that the West and America are not quite as tolerant and enlightened as we might like to pretend). Thanks to various social, cultural and economic changes the Western world has moved to a different set of norms, norms that were not all that common not too long ago. Our much touted Western tolerance is a recent phenomena that has yet to overshadow a pretty ugly and brutal past.
Thankfully that past is in our rear-view mirror. We grew beyond our tendency to kill others for false beliefs and blasphemy, although we certainly are quick to go to war, to overlook the needs of our neighbor, to kill the unborn for the crime of being inconvenient. Even still the often ugly reality of our own history in the West should give us hope even midst acts of terror like the one on display in France this week.
We can hope that Islam will mature into a religion that, while damnably false, manages to get along with other world religions. The best way for that to happen is to engage the people of Islam with the benefits of being a part of the world community and not by killing Muslims in an often counter-productive "war on terror" or by demonizing the entirety of an incredibly diverse and enormous population of people.
Even more we can and ought to pray for the salvation of their collective souls. The great sin of Islam is not that a few adherents commit acts of terrorism but rather that it vainly seeks to diminish the person and work of Christ and leads hundreds of millions of people away from rather than toward God Almighty. Christians should be burdened with the saving of Muslim souls, not with protecting ourselves from terrorists. The attack in Paris is a clarion call to preach the Gospel of peace, not to once more beat the drums of war.