comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children,
brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple."
quote come from? A jihadist manual on terror? One of the Surahs
of the Koran? Maybe Mao's little red book? Was it spoken by the
terrorist prophet himself, Mohammed? No, it comes from the Gospel
It was read
to millions of Christians a few Sundays ago in churches around the
world. I wonder how many people in the pews heard it and thought
"Wow, that really wouldn't sound too good as a sound-bite in
the media of the Muslim world" (or in atheist media, or even
secular media for that matter). In the same way that lines from
the Quran are taken out of context, lines from the Bible can also
be taken out of context.
that I know personally do not behave as if they hate life. As an
industrialized country with such a high level of church attendance,
the U.S. is a statistical anomaly. Many Americans identify themselves
as Christian, 78% according to this
Gallup poll. We are by multiple measures a Christian country.
country of ours has a very high illegal murder rate, especially
when compared to other industrialized countries. Preventing those
murders is an issue of much contention. This Christian country of
ours also has a very high rate of "legal" extraterritorial
murder in undeclared war zones all over the world. Those murders
are not so difficult to avoid. For example, if an American soldier
is not outside of the U.S., that American soldier will not be able
to shoot or be shot by anyone outside of the U.S. In reality, despite
my loved ones showing no outward signs of hating life, the argument
can be made that Christian Americans do hate life based on the behavior
of the society in which we live. We Americans tacitly agree to extraterritorial
Murder is the
ending of life. Surely a case can be made for Christians, at least
American Christians, not realizing the gravity of life. I'm unable
to argue that life is "hated" as opposed to "disliked"
or even worse, simply not appreciated. Or maybe it's just the value
of other people's lives that is the problem. I suspect an American
does tend to recognize the importance of his or her own life.
I know quite
a few people who call themselves Christians and quite a few who
aren't Christians and I don't see a clear hatred of life among the
one group more than the other. At its surface, those people I know
don't seem to have very effectively followed Jesus' command to "hate…life
It's a strongly
worded statement written in the Bible that doesn't look good as
a sound-bite taken out of context, away from the centuries of schools
of Biblical scholarship that exists and that many of us now read
the Bible through. Perhaps it's intellectually lazy of a person
to try to do the same thing with the Quran and to speak like some
kind of Quranic scholar because he knows a few ideas from the Quran
that he read in USA Today. I supposed in general we all know
better than to trust self-proclaimed authorities. However, the fact
that a single person watches the network news or buys a major newspaper
indicates that there are many people who are comfortable with putting
faith in those self-proclaimed authorities.
On Sept 19,
again Christians heard another confusing verse. It can quite effectively
be taken out of context when one imagines the corporatist American
government, like a greedy octopus, slithering around the world taking
things by force. "And I tell you, make friends for yourselves
by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome
you into the eternal homes." ~ Luke 16:9
agree that Jesus actually said that.
Sunday, the many Christian churches that use the Revised Common
Lectionary will hear a reading from the book of Genesis where the
patriarch Jacob wrestles with God. During this reading, God changes
the unfortunately named Jacob's name to "Israel." Jacob,
one of the patriarchs to which Judaism and Christianity trace their
faith, literally means "he who grasps the heal." Figuratively,
this name has an even worse meaning: "He who deceives."
Israel, his new and improved name, means: "he struggles with
To me, there
can be a beauty in a faith that lets you struggle with God. At the
same time, it's easy to take this out of context. To struggle with
God is to be opposed to God, to challenge the Almighty and His ways.
This presents a rather unflattering talking point about Israel.
The word Israel, the name of the most problematic state in the Middle
East, was chosen by leaders of that country as a way to present
itself to the world — "struggle with God." For the billions
of people out there who believe in a God that's about the worst
name you can come up with for a country.
Let me just
restate all that in a nine-second talking point about Judeo-Christian
"he who deceives"; Israel means "struggles with God";
Jesus commands his followers to be dishonest and to hate life. Are
these the professed values of a good people? What more does one
need to know distrust Christians and Jews?
Do these facts
make me not want to go to church? No, they just make me realize
how important it is to never trust the media about anything. Nine-second
sound-bites are alluring and deceptive. Just like my religious proclivities
seem very strange to others when taken out of context, the religious,
political, athletic, emotional, and physical proclivities of nearly
any person seem strange when taken out of context. For shock value,
the hate mongers of American society love taking religion out of
context, as long as Christianity's not that religion.
topics there is an agenda. Base your understanding of situations
on your relationship with people. Use the media to try to challenge
yourself and to seek out differing perspectives. Never let your
own experience be overshadowed by the words you read from some unknown
journalist. I've sat down with enough respected journalists
to realize that they are not as critically questioning and decent
as their readers seem to believe.
Hungarians are said to be hated. There's a long history in which
Hungarians (Magyars) controlled the land known today as Slovakia.
That history spanned a good thousand years and had some very ugly
moments, akin to a soft genocide, that sought to snuff out the existence
It is said
that Slovaks hate Hungarians. I can attest that some do.
I am invited to visit a Slovak family that has Hungarian neighbors,
I recognize that relations between Slovak and Hungarian neighbors
tend to be quite hospitable. Just as hospitable as with any other
The media and
the whispers of popular culture, especially around election time,
are quick to tell ugly stories about how bad those ethnic relations
are. This no doubt actually influences some relationships. However,
experience in the intimate relationships of a handful of diverse
people tells me that the media is likely incorrect in this matter.
I choose only to speak from my own experience on this topic, which
also has its shortcomings, but is far more honest than pretending
myself an expert just because I've read lots of work from some far-off
When it comes
to neighbors, my Slovak acquaintances tend to be quite welcoming
to the Hungarian minority that still live in Slovakia. Forced language
is a sign of oppression. The Hungarian authorities used to force
Hungarian language on Slovaks and understandably that period in
history still impassions many Slovaks today. Freely spoken language,
on the other hand, is a way to build a bridge into a friendship.
I often hear Slovaks throw around a few Hungarian phrases with their
Hungarian neighbors. Such relationships are in the best interest
are not in the best interest of those who 1. want to sell papers,
2. are filled with hate, and/or 3. have no other issues on which
to win an election.
parties of Slovakia and Hungary don't like these amicable relationships
among Slovaks and Hungarians. They like to poke at the very real
wounds of the past. The more they can get people to foremost remember
those wounds, the more they can get their audience to forget that
these are living breathing people they are asking them to hate and
to mistreat, the more votes, the more media time, the more influence,
the more money there is for those nationalist parties. They have
a formula and they wield it effectively.
consultant by the name of Mike Rothfeld, linked
to here, gives a great speech on political participation that
I saw at the Leadership Institute in Arlington, VA. In his speech,
Rothfeld makes a request of his audience: Whenever you listen
to a speech, whenever you read a newspaper, whenever you are watching
TV, or even just talking face-to-face and see someone trying to
get you to believe something, you've got to ask yourself u2018How does
it benefit this person if I believe what he's saying?' Cui bono?
In whose interest? Is the old concept that he restates. We all know
that people don't often exert great effort just for the heck of
it. Receiving communication through the media, from some person
you don't know intimately, let alone have never met face to face,
makes the answering of that question considerably harder.
Stereotype of the Muslim
Are all Muslims
secretly terrorist time-bombs waiting to go off? I don't know, I
can't answer that one for you, but I can tell you that it's a pretty
effective line — repeated ad infinitum in the media. In that little
idea of the Muslim terrorist time-bomb, you are told 1. You cannot
trust a Muslim, 2. It's worthless to get close to a Muslim, 3. the
closer you are to a Muslim, the more in danger you are, 4. Muslims
are unreliable and may try to kill you at any time, 5. Be on your
guard around Muslims, 6. Muslims live to kill, and especially to
kill you, and of course 7. A Muslim sleeper cell may become active
and detonate itself and those around them at any time and without
If you buy
into this, you involve yourself in some self-fulfilling prophecies.
You can't really believe numbers one through seven above without
eliminating the possibility of a friendship with a Muslim. Muslim
terrorists do kill Americans. It's true. But from the perspective
of a non-American Muslim in the year 2010 things must look very
different than from that of an American Christian. As far as I can
tell Muslims are a very forgiving people. After all, there are many
Muslims who have, for some reason, not risen up against the United
States, despite the very aggressive action taken by out American
government seemingly randomly against Muslim civilians.
so forgiving that I am somehow still able to travel the world and
find a man or woman who does not think America is running a Jihad
on Islam. American behavior — 1.4 million Iraqi Muslim civilian
casualties over the last seven years according to Just
Foreign Policy — is enough to leave me thinking that our Christian
nation does not value Muslim lives. Once again, that is in Iraq
alone, and in the last seven years alone. Expanding the focus would
make America's treatment of Muslims appear much worse.
might be expected to tell a different story. It might be the way
that Americans offer a soothing smile to the Muslim world on television
as the soldiers ransack the countryside roughing people up. Under
Bush, even the political rhetoric made America look like a nation
that does not value Muslim lives. George Bush in
this video addressing the media unscripted on Sept 16, 2001
referred to the pending war as a "crusade." Here
he is addressing U.S. troops in February 2002 from a script
again using the same language. Those who learned something in World
History know that "crusade" is literally a battle fought
under the cross of Jesus, and effectively took place in the past
to take land and treasures from the Holy Land where Muslims, Jews,
and even Christians lived. Many Christian, Jews, and especially
Muslims were killed by European invaders. Despite the treatment,
despite the language, I'm able to find decent and welcoming Muslims.
Reality doesn't match the rhetoric of the media.
Do you genuinely
hate your Pakistani neighbor that you've gotten to know well? Fine.
I'm not going to try to talk you out of building a nice tall wall
between your family and his. At least you're being more intellectually
honest than a person who ignores reality.
of a person who ignores reality might be the proverbial bleeding
heart liberal who seems to infinitely ignore the bomb being built
next door. He doesn't seem to be in touch with the fact that people
do actually do real bad things. Another example might be the Huntington-preaching/thumping/wielding
conservative who has never spoken with/met/known a Muslim. She may
have a hard time acknowledging that human beings are capable of
behaving like individuals. Neither of such persons seem to take
the time to know or understand his or her neighbor. Both are blinded
by significant intellectual biases that the media seeks to convey.
the mainstream media can't be trusted to report anything to us with
authority. Which is a good realization, because in all honesty few
sources should be trusted as authorities. A thinking person
should analyze multiple sources on every issue, trying to derive
multiple perspectives before coming to any conclusions. Grandma
can be trusted as an authority on baking delicious pies and breads,
but not on immigration laws. Dad can be a trusted authority on fixing
the furnace and on whatever it is he does best, but not on campaign
finance reform. You know that the people closest to you have certain
talents in some areas and have little more than unstudied opinions
in other areas. At least that much due diligence ought to be done
before you decide to trust an unknown out there in the media.
In the year
2010, using exclusively mainstream media sources to find those multiple
perspectives is likely to leave you with a big bowl of thoughtless
— but generally appetizing and surprisingly pleasant to swallow
— mush in front of you.