Category Archives: the Crusades

“Why is There not a Christian Isis?”

A white supremacist recent challenged a Washington D.C. Muslim lawyer, Qusim Rashid, “Why isn’t there a Christian Isis?”  He was roundly rebuffed, with Rashid pointing out the violent history of Christianity with the Crusades, the genocide of Native Americans, and the brutal enslavement of African “heathens” to bring them Christ. The challenge to this Muslim demonstrated the lack of self-reflection present with many conservative Americans, not having any insight into how that what they see “out there” is usually right in the depths of their own heart.  And I would add to Rashid’s answer the observation that in highly “sophisticated” American culture we have mastered the art of sublimation so that our violence is often camouflaged so it passes for the ordinary.  And I think this is particularly so in all religions, including Christianity.

Violence is intrinsic to human nature and I think religion was given to us by the gods to facilitate an integration of the schism in our soul that leads to violence.  But when a religious practice is limited to the cognitive/rational realm, the inner recesses of the heart are not even addressed meaning that often our religious practice can be intrinsically ugly and escape our carefully-crafted version of self-awareness. (For more on violence and the sacred, check out Rene Girard.)

For example, in this venue and others I have addressed the sublimated violence of fundamentalist Christianity where manipulation, intimidation, shame and social pressure are often one dimension of the Christian emphasis to “win souls to Jesus.”  Just one illustration of this is the post-sermon altar call in which threats of hell-fire and damnation are de rigueur.  The Jesus I believe in today was, and is, the Son of a loving God and does not need human artifice to woo anyone into his kingdom, especially little children.  Little children who have “the hell scared of them” with fire and brimstone sermons are being subjected to systematic abuse and the cultural predominance of this violence will be effective in most instances.  These little children will grow up under the tyranny of a “loving” god, knowing in the depths of their heart that to let any dimension of their belief system go will be to encounter the terror that was evoked in their youth by the manipulation and intimidation by their church.  They will be “trapped” in their faith, not able in most instances to evolve spiritually and learn that God is not the beast they were presented with in youth.

And, of course, this ideological entrapment is obviously true also with the interlocutor of Mr. Rashid.  The ideology and life-style of white supremacists is deeply etched in their hearts, often by fundamentalist religion, leaving them free to make accusations of others about spiritual darkness that predominates in their own heart.  “Don’t believe everything you think,” I would remind them.  But they can’t help believing what they think because, being trapped in a cognitive prison devoid of God’s grace, they cannot find the “space” to question their motives.

(For more on the Rashid interaction with the white supremicist, check out the following link–





“Caking” the Gay Away!

The gay-conversion strategy of some evangelicals has been described as, “Pray the gay away.” Now a pastor has claimed that a cake he had anointed had cured a young gay male of his homosexual impulses. (See link at end of post.) Well, I am sure impressed and intend to contact that pastor to see if he would send me “one of them there” anointed cake that would cure me of bald-headedness and neurosis! This pastor’s claim falls into the bumper-sticker category I use often, “Don’t believe everything you think,” and this is especially so when it comes to religion.  Declaring that God is leading, or that one has received a word from the Lord is easy.  But that does not make it so!  For example, the Crusades of the Middle Ages were supposedly a Divinely inspired effort to convert the heathen even at the point of sword.  They were totally wrong about any Divine leadership in spite of the fervor of their belief at the time.

The Shakespearean “pauser reason” is relevant here.  Reason is much more subtle and complicated than merely letting our internal cognitive chatter run amok and find expression. This “pauser reason” dimension of our rational faculty permits us to assess from time to time some of the things we say, or want to say, and realize suddenly, “Oh, that’s not such a good idea” or even, “That’s non-sense.”  If reason is used with maturity, there will be a filter in play which will take consideration of the context and the implications of what is being said.  An example of someone without this filter is demonstrated by those suffering from “Tourette’s Syndrome” who blurt out totally inappropriate things.   Yes, not unlike our President who is severely impaired with respect to any filter!.

I do believe that the notion of “God leading” or “God speaking” to us is a valid formulation in spiritual life.  But I’ve seen so many instances when one was only announcing what he or his group wanted for self-serving purposes and tacked on “God is leading” to justify it. A great present day example is evangelical Christians who announced piously that “God hath raised up Trump” to lead our nation.  I think some of them are beginning to have second thoughts about that, presenting them with a more fundamental problem, “Can I, being a noted evangelical leader, admit that I was wrong about God leading me?”  I predict that in most instances their answer will be an emphatic “no” as they, like Trump, often have this characterological inability to say the words, “I made a mistake.”

Relevant to admitting being wrong, it is even harder to recognize that one has just been foolish!  But foolishness is part of being human and even more so in the area of religion.  It takes a lot of courage to learn to admit foolishness on occasion, perhaps using the famous word of former Texas Governor Rick Perry, “Oops”!  (That was Perry’ sheepish response when he could not remember the third of three points he was attempting to make in a presidential debate.)