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January 25, 2007

Violence Fails Both Our Religions

By Rev. F. Vernon Wright and Zachary Wright - 01/25/07

(Rev. F. Vernon Wright is currently the pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church UCC in Helena, Montana, and is the director of the Progressive Clergy Alliance. Zachary Wright Wright, his brother, is a PhD student in African-Islamic History at Northwestern University, and a licensed muqaddam (teacher) trained by the Senegalese Shaykh Hassan Cisse, one of the world's more renowned Muslim scholars.)

In today's political and religious climate there is growing perception that Muslims and Christians are at odds. For my brother and me from New Hampshire, this is not the case. Though we both grew up in a traditional New England Congregational church, one of us has become a Congregational United Church of Christ minister, and the other has embraced Islam. Our faiths have inevitably been the cause of heated debates, but they have also provided the basis for us to remain fond of each other, even through difficult times that would perhaps have alienated us if not for our mutual love and trust in God.

As persons of faith in Christianity and Islam respectfully, we feel jointly compelled to condemn the political and theological implications of current US militarism. In the last ten years, the American government has been steadily directing us on a course of global, military-backed imperialism.

According to the 1996 and 2000 Joint Chiefs of Staff's vision for the military, America should prepare to implement "full spectrum dominance," through which the military can control any "situation," military or otherwise, throughout the globe. Though the vision for military dominance was begun in the Clinton administration, our military commitments have intensified drastically under the Bush administration. We are behaving less like a democracy, guiding the world by exemplary respect for human rights and self-government, and more like an empire dominating the world through force of arms.

Such militarism is frightening enough, but it is positively catastrophic when combined with religious fanaticism. Recent articles by Lawrence Davidson and Gary North reveal the real reason for Protestant Fundamentalist "Dispensationalist" support for American imperialism in the Middle East: to hasten the Rapture and Tribulation and God's judgment on the non-Christians. Under-girding the new American Empire is thus a pernicious theology of "the righteous nation at war with the enemies of God."

Despite what fanatics and power-mongers on both sides would have us believe, religion can and should serve as the basis for mutual understanding and common concern. As Christian and Muslim citizens of this nation, we are infuriated that fundamental precepts to both our religions continue to be violated and neglected right here at home with our dangerous distraction in Iraq. Christianity and Islam prohibit neglect of the poor, unjust imprisonment and torture, subjugation of religious or ethnic minorities, abandoning the education of children, the rape of the environment, and not providing care for the sick or elderly. With the amount the U.S. has spent on Iraq, we could have fixed social security and provided universal health insurance, revived a public school system in crisis, and provided people with a living wage. All of these would have been acts of great faith in a Loving and Merciful God. Instead we have the privilege of being engaged in a disastrous and deadly conflict.

Christians and Muslims have a responsibility to testify to our duties to promote loving, humanitarian assistance and to establish societies of justice and peace. Ultimately Christ as interpreted by most main line Christians is the prince of peace instructing us that the Reign of God will be fulfilled not at the jack boots of advancing armies but as neighbors and enemies alike love one another. The Qur'an declares that God's purpose in creating diversity among humanity is that the various communities and tribes should come to know one another, not to show enmity towards each other. In the end, those who would use their faith for the murdering of innocent civilians of another religion, whether by hijacked planes or cluster bombs, have not taken to heart their own faith.

"Full Spectrum Dominance," combined with the theology of "hastening the rapture," goes beyond the need for a nation to defend itself from attack. It constitutes nothing less than an anti-Christian, anti-Muslim, ungodly assault; not only on thousands of children, women and innocent civilians murdered by US military attacks, but on American citizens themselves. Too many of us are marginalized, unfed, uneducated and forgotten. Let the people of faith unite to spread the message of the Merciful God, who requires us all to feed the hungry, care for the sick, be kind to our neighbor and educate our children. Together, let us put down the weapons and rhetoric of tyrants, and revive the ideal that has always inspired this nation: a merciful and just society which would stand as a beacon of light to the world.


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