Extremists misrepresent religion

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Cartoon by Michelle Phillips

Cartoon by Michelle Phillips

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Mahatma Gandhi

 

Christianity was built on love, but Christian extremists give love a bad name.

Society perceives Christians as hateful and intolerant. These stereotypes stem from a small portion of the Christian population.

In the last 10 years the number of hate groups has more than tripled. Many of these are “Christian” organizations. Hate groups increased from 149 to 813 groups in 2008 and rose to 1,360 groups in 2012.

In 2013, the U.S. Army presented a list of 17 religious hate groups that threaten U.S. military forces such as al-Qaeda, Hamas and the Ku Klux Klan. Catholics and Evangelical Christians were initially listed among these groups. More than half of Americans self identify as a member of one of the two congregations. After coming under fire, the Army removed the slide from the presentation, but the problem remains.

Christian extremists, such as the Westboro Baptist Church, commit acts of hatred and bigotry against gays, soldiers and minorities. These extremists protest outside of funerals, pop culture events and military ceremonies. They tote hateful and offensive posters, fliers and signs adorned with “God hates fags” and “Thank God for IEDs.”

Westboro Baptist’s unhinged website tries to justify its hatred of gays:

1. The absolute sovereignty of God in all matters whatsoever.

2. The doctrine of reprobation or God’s hate involving eternal retribution or the everlasting punishment of most of mankind in Hell forever.

3. The certainty that all impenitent sodomites.

Huh?

Another extremist group is the Ku Klux Klan, a Protestant group best known for violent racism. Its stated goals include establishment of “Protestant values in America by any means necessary.” This claim is reinforced by an advertisement on their website which reads, “Join one of the best or die with the rest!”

Klansmen (and women) define themselves as “A white man’s organization,” exalting the Caucasian race and teaching the doctrine of White Supremacy. Christian civilization, they say, is meant to preserve the “white race.”

Jesus preached acceptance and equality to the world. Hateful Christian organizations are contradicting and insulting the religion that they claim to represent and its visionary prophet.

By doctrine, Christians are taught to love all people unconditionally. Extremists, however, do not show much love. They use their religion as a twisted excuse for hatred and violence.

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” reads Matthew 22:39. Maybe extremist Christians hate themselves.

Not all Christians are hateful. Pastor Greg Laurie puts on events around the country called Harvest Crusades meant to bring people together and promote love and tolerance. Services include food assistance, minor medical services and charitable resources for attendees regardless of race or religion.

Similar faith-based organizations serve in Mexico. Centro Shalom in Tijuana is a group of churches that provides essential services to the city’s poor. It operates doctors’ offices, dental services, pharmaceutical services and food assistance for those in need.

Many Christian churches participate in mission ministries. Congregations leave their pews to provide humanitarian aid around the world.  Whether it is building houses in the Philippines or handing out food and water in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, many Christians provide aid to people in need.

Matthew said not to judge, an ancient message recently echoed by Pope Francis. Many modern American Christians are accepting of people regardless of their lifestyles.  Although they may not agree with it due to the bible’s teachings, which says that polytheism, premarital sex and homosexuality are sins.

“It is what comes out of a person that defiles,” reads the Gospel of Mark. “For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, and folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Paul had spread the message that Jesus is accepting of all people. He wrote to the young apostle Timothy: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”

Christian extremist groups only represent a small portion of a very large population, but they leave a scar of misrepresentation on Christianity. Extremists need to learn to follow the true meanings of Christianity instead of judging others.

“Do not judge and you will not be judged,” wrote the Apostle Luke. “Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

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