The Almost Extremist!

A bomber shouts Allah Ackbar as she presses the detonation button of her suicide vest; an individual of an other faith sets a car bomb timer in Belfast, both are recognisable images of extremism. Such men and women of God hold onto a narrow theological perspective, seen also in the forced conversions of the crusades and the doctrines and aggression held by Isis in Syria and Iraq.

Could the same fear of difference and religious liberty that underpins the bombers ideology, be the same subtle motive that pushes southern baptist congregation members to picket American soldiers funerals as they come home from Iraq and Afghanistan, or abuse the men online, not because of his faith but instead because of his sexuality?

When fear colours faith its roots become a monster within us, for some of us it is awoken by certain environments and discussions in others the monster never sleeps and rages on and on until the monster is all that is left. Is there a growing uneasiness with that which we see as different or which we might perceive as challenging our religious orthodoxy?

Such uneasiness could be the beginnings of a religious drift towards prejudice. Of seeing our neighbour as something less than which Christ calls us to. A way to battle this theological and ideological monster, is to keep an honest account of your inner life before the Lord and a trusted prayerfully critical friend. Recognising our weakness where prejudice could replace love, where anger could replace peaceful coexistence with others, and where open hearted Godly learning is reshaped by powerful statements that dig roots into your vulnerable heart.

Taking it one step further as Christ’s disciples, let’s make sure our souls are being enriched by the teaching of God’s open heart of love and not from the fearful heart of humankind. Have we perhaps embraced Jesus because the preacher tells us we will burn in hell if we don’t? Or because we have witnessed his power for ourselves. Does fearing the Lord mean for you, the loving respect of a child to a parent or being scared of being condemned for your sinfulness?

Lastly let’s not assume our Christianity which we hold to dearly, has not been manipulated at times by the same fear that manipulates others of different faiths. The Christian church has been nurtured at times by wolves in sheep’s clothing, we have listened to others who teach not from the gospel of truth but another agenda, whose roots can find fertile ground if we do not remain vigilant careful and spiritually and intellectually alert to the cunningness of humankind.

Jesus didn’t even condemn the man on the cross who belittled him. Scripture tells us that truth drives out fear, holding onto Jesus and asking for his liberation, illumination and forgiveness is perhaps where we might begin, as we shake of the monster for a fresh perspective on the things of God.

Let’s pray

Gracious God dig deep into me, that the roots which seek to snatch me away from your heart and purposes for me and your church, might be dug up and thrown into the fire. Then may I serve you as you intend for me too be.

Amen.

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