In his address to the U.N. yesterday, Bush urged people to reject religious extremism. I’m inclined to wonder if he wishes that to apply in the U.S. as well. Our self-avowed born-again leader is openly advocating for the right to torture captured suspects. Cal Thomas, a columnist who makes no bones about his his rabid Christianity, asserts in his September 19th column that the terrorists have no qualms about torturing us, so we need to be willing to do that to them. He goes so far as to chide John McCain, a torture victim himself, for not being willing to torture the enemy.

I couldn’t have possibly slept through that much Sunday school. When did Jesus become a militant? As I recall, Jesus was the ultimate peace and love guy. Turn the other cheek, love thy neighbor, let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Let’s face it, this guy was only a sitar and a dimebag from being the world’s first hippie. Even during his execution he extolled his followers to forgive the men executing him, for they know not what they do. If ever anyone had cause to tell his troops to rise up and crush the enemy, you’d think Jesus would have launched a little jihad of his own from Golgotha. But no, he was true to his principles and teachings, even in the face of people doing unspeakably evil things to him.

Christians believe he was then resurrected after his death. Surely this was a good time to raise his army up and smite the Jews, the Romans, or both. But no, he still maintained that tolerance, love, forgiveness, enlightenment, and truth were the path to follow. And he taught his disciples to lead by example.

So where in all this do these so-called Christians get the idea that war, torture, deception, and violence are an acceptable and justified means to their end? Jesus wanted the whole world to follow him too, and (according to mythology) had the power to make that happen. He could have crushed his enemies in a single thought. But he didn’t. The only reasonable conclusion from this is that people like Bush, Cal Thomas, and others are co-opting the power of religion for other nefarious purposes. Isn’t this exactly what the Islamic extremists are doing? Why should we not consider these guys Christian extremists?

And if we do, by Bush’s own assertion, we need to reject them, including him. But that’s hard isn’t it? There have been lots of calls, including my own, for Islamic moderates to quiesce the radical extremists. It seems so obvious that the moderate majority should be able and eager to do this. After all, the extremist’s actions reflect on Islam as a whole, and not favorably.

But put the shoe on the other foot. Are the Christian moderates in this country prepared to rise up against our own extremists? Especially when we’re bombarded by the message that to oppose them is to embolden our enemy? Exacerbated by the fact that 80% of what the extremists avow, moderate Christians agree with. Is it really that important to put energy into rising up against that 20%? How much harm can they really do?

I’m sure the Islamic moderates are undergoing the same struggles. And I’m sure they don’t understand why the Christian moderates don’t control their extremists. This is not to say that I’m letting the Islamic moderates off the hook. Not at all. But I am putting the Christian moderates on that same hook. If you’re a Christian, I want you to ask yourself something. Can you separate the wolves in sheep’s clothing from the rest of Jesus’ flock? Can you call out the impostors who feign to represent the will of God? Can you interpret for yourself the true meanings of the teachings of Jesus? Can you really do what he would do? Let’s get our own house in order before we set out to clean up the neighborhood.

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