Christian response to the Sydney Siege: #Illridewithyou or #getoffmybus

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.


8 thoughts on “Christian response to the Sydney Siege: #Illridewithyou or #getoffmybus

  1. Pingback: Christian response to the Sydney Siege: #Illridewithyou or #getoffmybus | Christians Anonymous
  2. I’m with you Tanya. Ooops, there I go again, doing the human thing, “I’m with you… against them”. Thus we do what humans tend to do and build tribal communities, in the flesh or online, build tribal narratives and tribal boundaries… stop listening to others and start shooting. Seriously though, all of us, people of all faiths, would be wise to think this event through in the way you have done. Thank you for your thoughtful response… one which I would say is Christ-ian and the type of which puts a model forward for all of us to follow.

    1. Yeah, I guess Phil I’m still thinking it through. I get your point. I do admit there is a sense of that ‘let’s create a group that refuses to vilify Muslims’ versus ‘the group that continues to vilify Muslims as a homogenous and non-distinct unit of 1.57 billion people’. The difference for me is really in intent. Do I *hate* those Christians? Nope. Would I ever, ever hurt them? Well, not intentionally. Would I mobilize others to hurt them? Nope.

      I’m not perfect by *any* stretch of imagination, but I think maybe we can say that this is orthodox Christian behaviour. And a person who doesn’t operate with love as the mode of operandus is *something*else*. And maybe that’s the ‘tough love’ that all the people who decry “lefties” need. So maybe I’m within my rights as a Christian to say “here’s the line, mate. And you just ran over it when you started talking about bombing Mosques. I hope you find your way back, but I suspect you will need to get there through repentance.”

      1. My bad Tanya, I didn’t mean to infer you were build another “tribe”. I was just highlighting how easy the “us an them” paradigm seems to spring forth in our thinking and behaviour. It rises so easily in me! I think your response is exemplary and find myself struggling, as you suggest, with many of my Christian friends pronouncements on social media, and in conversation, that exhibit pretty thoughtless, and worse, heartless “tribal behaviour”.

        Christians need to develop far more thoughtful and loving responses to the complex issues of our day, and the people involved in them. After all, huge numbers in the wider community get it! They get that “love should be the response”… so shouldn’t people of the book get it too? Shouldn’t they be leading in this response? Absolutely! MIght that involve telling a few to pull their heads in and think a bit more… indeed. WWJD? Think Jesus and the religious leaders of the day.

        I have come to think that wherever you see love, you see truth in action, you see something which declares there is a God, and that God is LOVE. Christians don’t have a monopoly on love, but they should have the best understanding of what it is, why its so powerful, how to unleash it, from whom it comes and to whom it points! Its ironic that whilst making such un-loving comments, some Christians use the name and the cause of the one who loved so much he died for the very ones they criticise.

        Even The Black Eyed Peas were asking the question “Where Is The Love?” (great song!)… are we the answer?

  3. Wow. “It is entirely possible for *any* faith to radicalise”. I’d like you to tell me what other faith has over the last 10 years been the excuse for killing 3000 people by flying aircraft into buildings (a couple of Christian friends of mine were in those buildings btw), slaughtering 12 cartoonists, killing random people on trains (London &b Madrid), 2007 attack on Glasgow airport, the Moscow subway bombings and I could go on and on. You are nothing but another western apologist that provided comfort to Muslim leaders “it’s ok, it has nothing to do with you”. Now I know you’ll delete this comment, as you do, but if you really feel pretty strong about your opinion how about going on an aid mission to Syria? Go on, do what you know is right – help those poor muslims from those non-muslims ISIS people…

    1. My problem with your posts is that they are just SO judgemental. For example, I don’t know what you’re talking about “you’ll delete this comment, as you do”.

      I haven’t deleted any comments to or from you. I edited one comment in the reply section due to a lack of clarity. I doubt it’s the one you’re talking about though. I have *never* deleted any other comment from my site. I will edit or delete freely, though if a person’s argument is abusive or gets personal.

      It seems almost impossible to get a clear understanding of where your friends’ comments are coming from, or to convey an accurate understanding of where I’m coming from.

      Well, except in this case. And, seeing as you have called it, I wouldn’t have a problem AT ALL going to Syria, thanks for asking.

      When I said that I believed John 3:16, I really meant it.

      You, however, can hold whatever opinion you’d like, I’m sticking to mine.

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