As time goes on, I continue to watch and grow and understand more about the world. I hope you will not see this as arrogant; I’d like to believe it is a natural part of the aging process. You’d be hard pressed to find the person who thought they were wiser at the age of 14 than they are at the age of 40. That being said, it is amazing how well this analogy can be applied outside of the simple process of human aging.
The aging of a religion is a very interesting historical study, and I would say one that is far too quickly, far too easily overlooked.
Look back to the birth of Christianity, while the religion fought to find out what it was. There were two major forces within it, each fighting for dominance, easily compared to a child trying to decide what it will be when it grows up, perhaps the two forces could be likened to its favorite aunt or uncle even. The religion, at this young age, was trying to decide who it would best want to emulate. (For a more in depth look at the internal struggle, see my earlier post at the following link: https://blog42.ca/2014/10/10/almost-too-easy/ ) This was not the only internal struggle, either; there were many Gospels, the Gospel of Thomas, Matthew, Luke, Judas, Mary, John, Mark, so many ideas swirling in the head of this child, like any child growing.
As this child grew, it started to learn more of who it was, and who it wanted to be. The Gospels became canon, the battle between James and Paul, which threatened to tear the young group apart entirely, had been resolved. The core ideas became enshrined in Rome, and a Pope had been set at the head, but this child was not a well behaved teenager (as most parents can, I am sure, relate). As the Church entered its teen years (this analogy holds incredibly well if you liken 100 years to 1 year of growth), it began to think it had all of the answers. It knew better than its parents what had to be done to secure its own future. It began to rail against those around it who did not share its own ideas, again as many parents can relate.
Of this conflict, of this anger, and of this feeling of superiority were born two things; the Inquisition, and the Crusades. If we give the birth of the Christian Church as 33AD, give or take a few years, and the formal establishment of The Spanish Inquisition as 1478… Well, just after its 14th birthday (given my 100:1 ratio) was when it began to have ideas that came in direct conflict with those of its parents. The first Crusade, which I would liken to the Church bullying the other kids in the playground (a drastic understatement, if ever there was one) began at just the young age of 11 (1095AD), and the bullying ways continued for hundreds of years.
Perhaps it was just a phase, but the engine of abject *TERROR* (Please note this word, I think it will come up later) that was the Spanish Inquisition ran for almost 400 years, disbanding only in 1838 (and with deaths attributed to it coming even after this date). As the Christian Church entered its maturity, these ideas began to go by the wayside, and there is more (though certainly not universal) tolerance in it. Perhaps, if one permits me to draw another analogy, it is the child of a member of the KKK who has decided that his parents were unjust racists, but who cannot fully get over the indoctrination of his childhood. In any case, Christianity is still (much more mildly) bullying at least one other kid on the playground… And the fight is not fair.
Islam is the younger brother of Christianity (and anyone who argues against this analogy should go and look at some history) born in the 7th century. In fact, it should be having its 14th birthday soon (read: 1400 years since its inception).
In the popular media, both in Canada and the US, in Western Europe and in other nations, the religion of Islam is being criticized for its intolerance, for its anger, for its terrorism. It is being called a religion not of peace, but of war. The intolerance of the world for Islam is strong, and (admittedly) the intolerance of Islam towards the rest of the world is of equal measure; a put-upon teenager will rail against authority, will it not?
But my short history lesson about the Christian Church (and largely headed by the Catholic Church) should show that, at that age, we were not the well behaved child we’d like to believe we were.
So what should we do about it? We should do what any good older sibling would do; we should show them the right way. Certainly, some discipline should be employed, I am not so naive as to think this problem will resolve itself merely by words (certainly, already, it has gone far beyond words, I think you’d agree). But to call Islam a religion merely of war, or calling them warmongering, is to forget what we were like at THAT EXACT SAME AGE. You can argue, if you’d like, that it was just a phase for us, but if you do so I would like to ask why they are denied the ability to have that phase. I am not saying the killings or the terror or the extremism is justified; far from it, but I think we, as the older, more established Church should help them find their way rather than to fight against them.
There are elements in the Muslim world who have lost their way, as there were Christians throughout history who have lost theirs; this is not justification to call for the removal of their beliefs wholesale.
I think it is important, more important than mere words can convey, to quote a certain verse of the Bible as my conclusion:
7 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Remember what you were like when you were 14, what you did to so many around you, the injustice and the killing of the people of the middle East, and remember that you got over it. Remember that you came out of it understanding that you made a mistake. Give the adherents of the faith of Islam the same chance; I’d say, at the very least, they deserve the same opportunities in life that you had.