A common American practices his marksmanship.
I received an upsetting email today. Many of you may already have seen it. My brother John sent it out. It shows angry Moslems demonstrating in the streets of London, crying for the death of all their hosts in England and mainland Europe. In one photograph I even saw an English "Bobby" (named for Sir Robert Peale, the father of Britain's high standard of police work) standing near a demonstrator, protecting that person's freedom of expression. Other signs demanded the beheading of all who "insult" Islam. Still others threatened Europe with a 9/11 of its own.
I suppose the one that bothered me the most, because it's what I've been fearing the most, was a well-printed, professional-looking sign which stated simply that Islam will take over the world. It is not an Islamic take-over that I fear. I don't think they can do it. But I do fear that they'll try it and many people will die before freedom of expression and religion are re-established and reaffirmed in Europe and in our own land.
As I was saying to John today, I believe that a short-term solution will involve violence, possibly even on the part of regular citizens. It will be a fight for survival as a Christian culture which is exactly what the United States of America is and always has been. It was not established as a Jewish culture which tolerated Christianity. It was not established as a Sikh, Buddhist, Moslem, Hindu, Zoroastrian, or animist society which also tolerated Christianity.
It was established as a Christian nation which tolerates other religions. Those other religions had their rights enshrined in the First Amendment along with ours. The idea was that everyone would tolerate everyone else so long as no group used its freedoms to attack or thwart those of others.
We have not always maintained a perfect record in following this ideal, but we keep coming back to it after every foolish or cruel deviation from it. Jews, who had endured many centuries of mistreatment in Europe, did not immediately find things much better here. Groups such as the Ku Klux Klan hated them as much as they did the former slaves who now went by the title "freedmen." Poor Irish and Italian immigrants experienced persecution and hostility as they settled in the big cities and stayed in public view while practicing their Catholic beliefs. Wealthier Germans and Scandinavians who only passed through the cities and spent money on farm equipment en route to the plains states were treated as welcome guests. No one was offended by those who were Lutherans nor much by those Germans who were Catholics, because they were just passing through, they were spending money in our stores, and then they were going away! Far away! And when they got out west they established clean, thrifty, productive farms and communities which didn't bother anybody.
No, our record is not perfect. But it's about as good as you'll find anywhere in the world. Tolerance has certainly been practiced here as a typical American tradition. But in recent years the definition of tolerance seems to have undergone a marked change. People in increasing numbers have begun to believe that a truly tolerant person never finds fault with anything somebody believes or preaches. They seem afraid to argue or preach an opposing point of view. Those who do such arguing or preaching are labeled as intolerant, even when they haven't lifted a finger to remove from society those groups with which they find fault. In other words, for having an opinion and openly expressing it, they are called intolerant! For fear of being thus labeled, many have joined the band wagon which preaches that, above all else, we must avoid offending anyone by expressing an honest opinion.
This is both stupid and cowardly. It allows an extremist from any group to bully his way into rights which are not only equal but even superior. For centuries, political cartoonists could lampoon anybody they thought was being foolish, inconsistent, or just plain wrong-headed. But then, just a few years ago, some cartoons about the "prophet" Mohammed were published in a newspaper in Denmark. The Moslems, who had been slowly filling up the major cities of Europe for many years as immigrants seeking better work and housing, suddenly began calling for the death of the cartoonist and the outlawry of all such humorous commentary. Their numbers made their voice a very loud and somewhat frightening one. A few Europeans have essentially told the militant Moslems where to get off. But many editors and national legislators have chosen to give the intolerant minorities what they want - gag orders on certain topics. Freedom of speech and the press, along with free religious and political thought, have begun to disappear from that Europe which, in the middle ages, boldly carried the cross directly into the heart of Moslem lands.
Am I defending the Crusaders? Not particularly, although some of them showed genuine religious devotion and faith. But let's face it. Many of them only went along on the journey because we Europeans were a society with an economy based on the possession and control of land and all the good bits had been grabbed by 1095. Many poor guys were able to kill their way into possession of large parcels of land and build German-style or Italian-style or French-style or English-style castles on them, even though they looked a bit out of place surrounded by all that sand. In the First Crusade, which was attended by such noteworthy folks as Richard Lionheart of England and Louis IX (Saint Louis) of France, the city of Jerusalem was laid siege to, its wall breached, and its inhabitants nearly all exterminated. The blood was ankle deep on every floor of Herod's temple. That's about as intolerant as you can get.
Later Crusades were just as mad but less successful. Constantinople was sacked during one of them. It was a Christian capital, albeit Eastern Orthodox, so this seemed like breaking the rules to the Greek-speaking Eastern Roman Empire. Grudges have been held all these centuries.
The broadsword missionary approach had only limited success for the Christians, as the scimitar missionary approach had enjoyed for the Moslems beginning about the seventh century (600s.) Once the guys with the big knives get tired, gather up all their stolen gold, and go home, lots of folks spring right back to whatever they'd really believed before the shootout had started.
So today many Moslems want to get militant again. They want to spread their religion by the sword. Literally. Some people think we can smile and appease them as Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain tried to appease Hitler by giving away things he didn't own such as Czechoslovakia. But most people who've really thought it out know that, when you give a bully some of what he wants, he'll only push harder until he gets it all. So that's one major problem with our reaction to this threat. Too many of us are cowardly appeasers.
To me, though, the MAJOR PROBLEM with us (the predominantly Christian European and American nation-states) is that our religions don't matter to us any more. We stopped caring gradually, probably beginning with the free love and free thinking and non-thinking of the sixties. It is no longer fashionable to believe too strongly in God. Today it is common for people to declare themselves to be "not very religious." This means not religious at all. It means there are no religious principles or beliefs for which they would fight if those things were under an attack which literally threatened their continued existence. And the problem with that is that those who want to destroy our Christian religion really do believe in their own religion and really are willing to kill us in order to accomplish their goals.
I see two solutions for this. The short term solution is that we get humble, prayerful, and more united. We proclaim openly that we really do believe in God the Father and in his Son, Jesus Christ. We proclaim that we will stop, with armed force if necessary, any attempt to stamp us out as a religion or as a culture. Many have feared this before. A Japanese general once said that he would never invade the United States, because there would be a rifleman "behind every blade of grass." Well, maybe at his time. Today we might have enough riflemen to have one behind every other sage brush. But that would make a real difference to a group hoping to supplant us as the inhabitants of this land. Does our God condone this? Check out Alma Chapter 48 in the Book of Mormon and tell me what you think.
The ultimate or long-term solution, of course, is the preaching of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ as it was revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith. We have been told that it will visit every nation and clime. That must include the Moslems. Can they be converted? Why not? The Lamanites also had a centuries old tradition of hating the Christian Nephites, but they were nearly all converted in the first century AD.
Mr. Lincoln was chastised by a cabinet member for being too soft towards some of his political enemies. "You should destroy your enemies," he was told. His response was, "If I befriend an enemy, have I not destroyed him?"
In summary, then, I opine that Islam is a false religion, established by a false prophet. I believe that its adherents are, by and large, good people who have been misled. I also believe that, if and when they physically attack us, we should fight back vigorously to defend family and home. I believe that we all share in this responsibility. Ultimately, I hope that the growth of the Lord's restored Church will obviate any rift between us and other religionists. Surely in the Millennium this will become the case.
What is your opinion?