Today I was able to chat to Dave Schenk & Damien on 92.2 Voice FM in Toowoomba about the recent events during the Sydney Siege, and how we can negotiate the aftermath, particularly on social media.
As always, I hung up, and realized there is much more that could be said on this topic. During the program, the hosts and I agreed that to be Christian is to practice the love shown by Jesus. How did Jesus act? Jesus demonstrated love for His enemies. To put this into words, he dealt with them as humans. We see so many times how Jesus drew any engagement with the ‘other’ down to the level of the individual. And I think we need to continue this model (not an argument that negates civil action, by the way). Jesus didn’t treat ‘Samaritans’ or ‘Romans’ all the same. He reached across boundaries and barriers and had intense, personal engagement. We don’t get away with stereotyping groups using the biblical text.
Our problem is, that many Australian Christians are still locked inside their cosmic conspiracies and stories.
We’ve conflated the word “Australian” and “Christian”, as if this is a win for us all. But does it lead us to more Christian behaviour, and a better Australia? Many Muslims would say no, that Australia = a place of fear.
During the Sydney Siege, for many hours we only saw a flag and hostages’ faces. We were free to speculate. Many questioned “why us?” In possible answer, we thought of recent events with ISIS, and even 9/11. An historical arc of “Islam versus Christianity” reaches far back into our psyche. Many have added a new chapter to this narrative entitled “Islam taking over Australia” – and can point to all the evidence. But this wasn’t a reality that we found once the doors were stormed, and individuals were carried out. We’re left here in the dissonance, with partial facts, and a whole lot of emotion.
Unfortunately, many Christians are motivated by emotion rather than rational thinking. This is both our superpower, and a fatal flaw. Many of my colleagues reject the church, running as far away as possible from groups that use internal logic to sustain theories after all evidence is presented. And because of it, Christians become used to ignoring ‘evidence’ presented by scholars and thinkers, assuming they are atheists and agnostics cruelly attempting to dismantle their very precepts of their faith. This is how we operate now.
Does this incident justify a Christian response against Islam? Should we be free to continue to speculate wildly under the guise of “watchfulness”, and to post hateful content online?
Well, as far as the facts go, it is a pretty isolated incident. This is not a clear continuation of 9/11. It is not a payback for hundreds of years of crusades. It is a self-professed Sheik, a guy with a record of evil actions, and a mixed history of religious activity that had recently found a home in the new Islamic state and Sunni ideology. Although the Christians I spoke with last night continue assertions that he was a part of a larger Islamic plan, this isn’t backed up by the known facts.
However there are some other lessons. We can say that this *is* another evidence of how globalization turns a relatively small act of terrorism into a global event. This *is* definitely a warning sign to our community that people will clothe themselves in whatever ideology suits them best, and at the moment Islam fits the bill. This is also a warning to our health professionals and legal systems to be vigilant in assessing warning signs. There may be some lessons for the police to take away, in addressing ideologically-motivated hostage situations that seem very likely to end in the perpetrator’s death.
But perhaps the best take-away is that we have to be vigilant in making sure that we don’t *create* another crisis with our unchecked emotion. It is entirely possible for *any* faith to radicalize.
My attention was caught by many Christian posts about Islam and its dangers – not unusual on my feed yesterday. I finally objected to a small comment on facebook that read: “for every hour the hostages are inside, let’s bomb another Mosque”. It felt painful to speak up and say that I was distressed at this comment. When I asked that the comment be removed, the author of the status responded that she would not be held hostage on her own facebook page. It turned the attention on me, and people objected to my policing of facebook. They were incensed that I saw bombing Mosques as an act of terrorism in the same way killing people was. They cited human life as primary and Islam as a “lifestyle choice” that should be quenched in Australia.
I sadly say that in this instance, I do not believe these people are practicing Christianity. And should there be a day that their words become reality and they start bombing Mosques, or that one of them takes a gun and holds seventeen people hostage in the Lindt cafe, then I would be very sad that religious leaders didn’t speak more clearly and quickly to denounce these voices in the Christian community.
I know that there are many Christians who are saying #Illridewithyou. I think this is what Jesus would do. And if you don’t like it, I’m not sure you can call yourself a Christ-ian. Happy for you to prove otherwise.