If Islam is a Violent Religion then so is Christianity

Anyone who refuses to learn the culture behind a religious text forfeits the right to speak about it.

According to the latest Public Religion Research Institute poll, the fear of terrorism has increased fourteen points in just the last year with nearly half of Americans saying that they are somewhat or very worried about terror coming to their homes. Ironically, and likely much to the chagrin of Donald Trump, the majority of Americans support allowing Syrian refugees into the country (though 41% oppose it).

However, Americans are twice as likely to say that violent Muslims are really Muslim than they are to say that violent Christians are really Christian. In other words, many people in this country still believe that Muslims and their religion are inherently violent.

They're quick to point out that the Qur'an not only sanctions but encourages violence to spread its message. One such selection says: "And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter (2:191)."

It sounds like a ringing endorsement for holy war like the kind that ISIS is currently waging. But, if I'm not mistaken, it also sounds reminiscent of the Israelites' campaign in Canaan: "In the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them (Deuteronomy 20:16-18)."

Of course, as a student of the Bible, I'm fully aware that this was a corrective action at the time because the land in question had been subjected to centuries of bloodshed and needed to be cleansed. Furthermore, on this side of Christ, such extreme measures are no longer needed as the church can bear witness to God rather than his judgment.

Besides, there are plenty of other heinous passages to be found in the Qur'an. Like this one: "And all married women (are forbidden unto you) save those (captives) whom your right hands possess. It is a decree of Allah for you (4:24)."

Now we're seeing men being given license to not only own women but to have sex with them, even if they're married. Surely this kind of perversion sets Islam apart from Christianity. Oh wait: "Kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man (Numbers 31:17-18)."

Sadly, it seems that both my God and Allah share an unfortunate antipathy for the oppressed. Thankfully, I've also studied how God revealed a progressive ethic to his people that allowed some concession to culture with the intention of retraining humanity gradually.

Those women were just property to the Ancient Near Eastern mind. But the Qur'an isn't any kinder to wives: "So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them (4:34)."

Today, we'd call that domestic abuse and that man would be sleeping on a steel sofa in jail. And this time, you won't find any verses in the Bible that allow men to beat their wives. But there is this: "If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity (Deuteronomy 25:11-12)."

Obviously, Allah doesn't have a monopoly on severed extremities. Honestly, sometimes I have a hard time accepting that my God ever condoned such brutality. I can only console myself with the knowledge that Christ's brutal death put a stop to all of that. Unlike the vile, acts of cruelty found in the Qur'an: "As for those who disbelieve, garments of fire will be cut out for them; boiling fluid will be poured down on their heads, whereby that which is in their bellies, and their skins too, will be melted (22:19-22)."

Only cannibalism could top that kind of savagery: "I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and daughters, and they will eat one another's flesh because their enemies will press the siege so hard against them to destroy them (Jeremiah 19:9)."

I know much of the country is worried about Islam, but if I had to bet on who would pull a Mike Tyson in a Celebrity Death Match between Allah and God, I'd have to put my money on the good old Prince of Peace. At least Allah never commanded the slaughter of innocent children--as far as this novice can tell.

That's just the point. I know very little about Islam. And I'd wager that those people who use cherry-picked Qur'an references to defame Islam are not credible students of the religion. I say that because I've had to watch the ignorant abuse my own religious text.

Those biblical passages I listed above aren't even the most popular choices for the anti-organized religion extremists seeking to tear down my beliefs. From Buzzfeed to Salon to The Telegraph, everyone seems to have their own uneducated opinion about why Christianity should be left in the Dark Ages.

It's not the conclusions I take issue with because, let's face it, they seem pretty justified after a first read. I take issue with the confidence placed in reading the writings of an ancient culture as if they had been authored by Dr. Seuss. Expecting that someone like Moses, displaced by thousands of years and thousands of miles, would have written in a western, post-Enlightenment style makes about as much sense as wondering why the Bible wasn't written with a typewriter.

Every culture has its idiosyncrasies that resist translation; thus, interpreting texts this old requires a measure of nuance. So when Muslims claim that their religious practices aren't quite as simple as a cursory read of the Qur'an, they deserve the benefit of the doubt. At least as a Christian who makes the same claim to people who don't know the difference between a psalm and a proverb, I have to give them that much.

Photo credit: Mahmoud Helmy via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND