Posts Tagged ‘Christian Violence’


The Scandal Tearing Apart America’s Largest Protestant Denomination

A denominational leader’s claim that abused women should remain in their broken marriages is forcing Southern Baptists to pick sides.

 

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Southern Baptist Convention President Paige Patterson gestures as he makes his opening speech in 1999. John Bazemore / AP
Over the past 20 years, the Southern Baptist Convention has weathered an onslaught of controversies, from renaming the denomination to repudiating the Confederate flag. But in the end, all it took to potentially rend the organization in two was a single quote about domestic violence from a solitary leader that most Americans have never even heard of.Paige Patterson is the 75-year-old president of Fort Worth’s Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, which claims to be one of the largest schools of its kind in the world. He is lionized among Baptists for his role in the “conservative resurgence,” which is what some call the movement to oust theological liberals beginning in the 1970s. But this week, his past legacy and present credibility were called into question when a 2000 audio recording surfaced in which Patterson said he has counseled physically abused women to avoid divorce and to focus instead on praying for their violent husbands, and to “be submissive in every way that you can.”
Domestic-violence advocates quickly and unsurprisingly condemned the remarks, but, and as The Washington Post reported, it sent “leaders scrambling to respond.”Some notable SBC leaders echoed concerns about Patterson’s comments and whether he should step down. Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, a book-publishing house and retail chain that is owned by the SBC, released a statement denouncing domestic abuse and calling out Patterson by name. Ed Stetzer, a former Southern Baptist employee who is currently a professor at Wheaton College, penned an article for Christianity Today arguing that Patterson must resign post-haste. Others, including theologian Albert Mohler and mega-church pastor Matt Chandler, also made statements condemning spousal abuse.But the tight-knit Southern Baptist boys’ club is not so easily unraveled, and many leaders have sheltered their colleague. Some have simply remained mum. The denomination’s Executive Committee has not acknowledged the controversy despite the media coverage it has received. Current SBC President Steve Gaines has also stayed silent, though today he curiously tweeted, “You must not speak everything that crosses your mind” and encouraged people to “read your Bible more than you check [social media].” Others have actually offered their support. For example, Atlanta-based pastor and former SBC President Johnny Hunt took to Twitter to praise Patterson as “a man of God and a man of your word.”
It’s not difficult to denounce domestic violence, and it shouldn’t be controversial. And yet, America’s largest Protestant denomination now seems to be ethically schizophrenic when it comes to the topic.In the days since the scandal was first sparked, the situation for Patterson has worsened substantially:

  • First came another quote from the same audio clip, in which Patterson is heard telling a story about a female congregant of his who confessed to being abused by her husband. Rather than report the incident to the authorities or help the woman escape, he sent her back to her spouse and asked her to pray “not out loud, but quietly.” The woman returned the next Sunday with two black eyes, a sight which Patterson said made him “very happy” because it made her husband feel guilty enough to attend church for the first time.
  • Next came the release of Patterson’s defiant public statement in which he only conceded that his remarks were “probably unwise” before painting himself as a martyr who has been subjected to a campaign of “mischaracterization” fueled by “lies.”
  • Then, a video recording from 2014 emerged in which Patterson resembles the ghost of Roy Moore, objectifying and sexualizing a 16-year-old girl in a sermon illustration.
  • If that were not enough, a news story published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 1997 surfaced in which Patterson was asked about women and quipped, “I think everybody should own at least one.”
  • Patterson offered an interview to the denomination’s publicity arm, Baptist Press, in hopes of doing some damage control. But he made things worse by confirming that he believes “non-injurious physical abuse which happens in so many marriages” might spur a woman to “pray [her husband] through this.” (Baptist Press later manipulated the quote to read “minor non-injurious abuse” claiming that it better aligned with Patterson’s intention.)
  • Finally, The Washington Post published an article noting that Patterson has been named as a defendant in a lawsuit, which claims he knew about child-molestation accusations against a close friend of his, fellow Southern Baptist Paul Pressler, but chose to cover it up rather than report it.

A wave of such damning allegations and confirmed quotes would be enough to drag down almost any giant. In a #MeToo moment, it’s astounding that Patterson is still standing. But Southern Baptists are a loyal bunch. One wonders if Baptists’ loyalty to one of yesterday’s leaders is blinding them to the optics of his present involvement and the damage to their public witness should he remain in power.

It doesn’t take a fortune teller to recognize that this will not end well.At the denomination’s annual gathering next month, Patterson is scheduled to give the coveted keynote sermon. A growing number of Southern Baptists are protesting his involvement, calling for him to be replaced. But because the messengers approved the schedule last year, there are only two ways he can be removed from the program. Either Patterson can voluntarily resign, which seems unlikely given his recalcitrance throughout the debacle, or the messengers in Dallas next month can offer a motion for his replacement.“If Patterson preaches at the SBC, he will, because of his past work, get a standing ovation,” Stetzer wrote at Christianity Today. “Every news story will point to that moment, tie it together with the accusations against Paul Pressler, and say that Southern Baptists don’t take abuse seriously.”Stetzer is right. If Patterson preaches in Dallas, then the Southern Baptist Convention, which has lost a million members over the last decade, will appear to be tolerant of spousal abuse in a cultural moment in which Americans overwhelmingly oppose such things. Such a perception, whether true or not, will doubtlessly come at a high price.

On any given Sunday, there are more women than men who attend church. These women, in communities across America, may think twice before pulling into a Southern Baptist church’s parking lot. And what of the many social justice-minded Millennials? They may see the denomination’s lack of conviction of their belief that organized religion is irredeemably corrupt, giving them one more reason to saturate churches with their absence.

One can only imagine how the million of Southern Baptist women feel when their own denomination cannot seem to muster enough moral courage to offer a full-throated repudiation of domestic abuse. The denomination holds that God intends for wives to submit to their husbands and has not passed a resolution on domestic violence since 1979.

It’s somewhat easier to tolerate disagreement on matters like race when the majority of SBC churches are overwhelmingly white. But when every congregation is at least 50 percent female, domestic abuse hits closer to home. The Southern Baptist Convention simply cannot afford to stand by a leader who has exhibited a decades-long pattern of dangerous comments that appear to trivialize women’s suffering.

With their denominational meeting fast approaching, Southern Baptists now find themselves in a situation that is precarious, perilous, and frankly ironic. The man who three decades ago unified his denomination now seems poised and willing to divide it.

*This article originally referred to Wheaton College as Wheaton University. We regret the error.

 

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Are Christians more Violent than Muslims?

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Are Christians more violent than Muslims?

What does the record say?

Murder rate: White America, like most Christian countries in the Americas, Africa and Eastern Europe, is markedly more violent than most of the Middle East (murders per 100,000 population):

  • 0.6 Bahrain
  • 0.7 Oman
  • 0.8 United Arab Emirates
  • 0.9 Qatar
  • 1.0 Saudi Arabia
  • 1.2 Egypt
  • 1.7 Cyprus
  • 1.8 Jordan
  • 2.0 Iraq
  • 2.1 Israel
  • 2.2 Kuwait
  • 2.2 Lebanon
  • 2.3 Syria
  • 3.0 Iran
  • 3.3 Turkey
  • 3.4 WHITE AMERICA
  • 4.1 Palestine
  • 4.2 Yemen

Terrorist attacks: According to the FBI, only 6% of the terrorist attacks on U.S. soil between 1980 and 2005 were carried out by Muslim extremists. Even Jewish extremists carried out more (7%).

War: Wars with at least a million dead:

Christian wars:

  • years: name: conservative body count in millions
  • 535-554: Gothic Wars: 5.0m
  • 790-1300: Reconquista: 7.0m
  • 1096-1272: Crusades: 2.0m
  • 1337-1453: Hundred Years’ War: 3.0m
  • 1562-1598: French Wars of Religion: 3.0m
  • 1568-1648: Dutch Revolt: 1.0m
  • 1618-1648: Thirty Years’ War: 3.0m
  • 1655-1660: Second Northern War: 3.0m
  • 1763-1864: Russian-Circassian War: 2.0m
  • 1792-1802: French Revolutionary Wars: 2.0m
  • 1803-1815: Napoleonic Wars: 3.5m
  • 1830-1903: War in Venezuela: 1.0m
  • 1882-1898: Conquests of Menelik II of Ethiopia: 5.0m
  • 1910-1920: Mexican Revolution: 1.0m
  • 1914-1918: First World War: 20.0m
  • 1917-1922: Russian Civil War: 5.0m
  • 1939-1945: Second World War: 41.5m (European deaths only)
  • 1946-1954: First Indochina War: 1.0m
  • 1950-1953: Korean War: 1.2m
  • 1955-1975: Vietnam War: 1.1m
  • 1998-2003: Second Congo War: 2.5m

Muslim wars:

  • 1370-1405: Conquests of Tamerlane: 7.0m
  • 1681-1707: Conquests of Aurangzeb: 5.0m
  • 1967-1970: Nigerian Civil War: 1.0m
  • 1980-1988: Iran-Iraq War: 1.0m
  • 1983-2005: Second Sudanese Civil War: 1.0m
  • 1989-2001: Afghan Civil War: 1.4m

Seven times more people have died in Christian wars: 113.8 million compared to the 16.4 million who died in Muslim wars.

There are more Christians, but only about 50% more, nothing like seven times more.

Western history is Eurocentric, so we know more about wars in Christian lands than in Muslim ones. But not for wars since 1900, and there the imbalance is even worse: 73.3 million compared to 4.4 millon – 17 times more dead in Christian wars.

Some blame technology, yet the Muslim world has all the weapons the West had to kill over 100 million people. And yet it did not.

Democide: counts those who died not through war or street crime but through the wilful in/action of government, like genocide or Mao’s Great Leap Forward.

Christian democides of a million or more (does not count communist democides):

  • 940-1917: Russia (tsarist): 2.1m
  • 1095-1272: Crusades: 1.0m
  • 1451-1870: European slave trade: 17.3m
  • 1492-1900: Latin America: 13.8m Amerindians
  • 1600-1900: Caribbean: 10.0m slaves worked to death
  • 1618-1648; Thirty Years War: 5.8m
  • 1651-1987: British Empire: 1.1m (not counting slavery)
  • 1800-1900: Brazil: 1.5m Amazon rubber companies
  • 1900-1920: Mexico: 1.4m
  • 1933-1945: Germany (Nazis): 20.9m
  • 1945-1948: Poland: 1.6m

Muslim democides of a million or more:

  • 400-1900: Iran: 2.0m
  • 1110-1918: Ottoman Empire: 3.9m
  • 1958-1987: Pakistan: 1.5m
  • 1983-2005: Sudan: 1.9m Nuer, Dinka, Christians, Nuba, etc

Christians have killed eight times more people in democides than Muslims: 76.5 million compared to 9.3 million. Almost the same rate as for war.


Despite Wingnut Freakout, Obama Is Right: Christian Violence Is Just as Bad as Muslim Violence
If anything, the president understated the case.

Photo Credit: Mykhaylo Palinchak/Shutterstock.com

This week, President Obama met with Muslim leaders in a private political meeting for the first time in his six-year presidency. The meeting set off predicatable angry reactions from the political right, with Fox News’ Sean Hannity even saying he wished Obama had demanded that the leaders publicly denounce radical Islam. Obama further raised the hackles of the Christian right when he said at the National Prayer Breakfast that no religion has a monopoly on violence, saying, “And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. Slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”

The reaction to these comments was apoplectic. Rush Limbaugh called it an “insult” to Christianity; the Tea Party News Network said Obama threw “Christians under the bus”; the Daily Caller surmised that Obama’s remarks were designed to “curb” criticism of Islam.

All of these critics failed to engage with the substance of what Obama was saying. The president was not attacking Christianity, he was simply noting that just as ISIS may be using the name of Islam to rally followers to its violent agenda, extremists within the Christian faith have done the same thing historically. Violence has been in the mainstream of Christianity throughout history.

If anything, Obama didn’t go far enough in his remarks. Christianist violence isn’t a relic of the Crusades; it continues today, and in many of its forms is just as violent as what we are seeing from ISIS.

Christian Violence in the Past Century

In the spring of 2013, Middle East historian Juan Cole decided to compare the body counts between violence committed by Christians and that committed by Muslims in the 20th century. He found that Muslim violence has claimed the lives of around 2 million people, mostly during the Iran-Iraq war and the war in Afghanistan, while violence by Christians claimed the lives of close to 100 million people. Here’s what that looks like on a pie graph:

Click to enlarge.

Some of this Christian-led violence is well-known: the World Wars, the Holocaust, the colonial wars in Southeast Asia and Africa. Critics of this analysis would be quick to say that this violence may have been by Christians, but it wasn’t in the name of Christianity. But in virtually every conflict Cole ticks off, the combatants were overtly religious, and often invoked their religion as part of their military campaigns, just as many of the Islamist militants today are not fighting solely due to a religious grievance, but are organized around groups that share a common religious and cultural background.

But religion has played a more explicit role in some of the 20th-century conflicts involving Christians. For example, the 1990 sectarian warfare in the Balkans culminated in an explicit genocide against Muslim Bosnians by Serbian Orthodox Christians. As Balkans researcher Keith Doubt explained in a 2007 paper, the Serbian Orthodox Church was one of the prime movers in the campaign to scapegoat Bosnian Muslims and justify the eventual ethnic cleansing and genocide that took place. He notes that the “role of the Church as protector of the Serbian nation gave the Church increasing social control, and with this power clergy fermented a xenophobic and bigoted attitude towards Muslims in former-Yugoslavia.”

The Church there was so involved in the eventual atrocities it actually dispatched Orthodox chaplins to bless “Serbian forces, such as the elite Panthers commando unit, which has been accused of committing numerous atrocities, before they set off on operations.” The Church would offer “Serb warriors communion without requiring confession,” giving them absolution for the crimes they were committing to create a “Greater Serbia.”

If the Serbian Orthodox Church’s role in the genocide in Bosnia has been forgotten by many, the role of Catholic churches in Rwanda’s genocide is likely even less known. During that mass slaughter, “Churches became sites of slaughter, carried out even at the altar.” One of the figures indicted in the genocide there was Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka, who used to wear a gun on his hip and colluded with a Hutu militia who massacred hundreds of people seeking shelter in his church. After the genocide concluded, various Catholic clergy actually helped church ministers who were guilty of murder flee the country and re-settle elsewhere, including one who allowed all of the men, women, and children hiding in his church to be killed when the church was bulldozed. The BBC actually ran a story in 2004 of a Rwandan girl who converted to Islam after the genocide because churches actively participated in it but mosques did not.

Today’s Christian Violence

Months before ISIS’s brutal beheadings were turned into Western headlines, the Associated Press ran a single paragraph on a beheading that took place in the Central African Republic. The paragraph noted, dryly, that a Christian militia there beheaded a young Muslim man, one of the last Muslims left in the village his colleagues had fled. The story ended up in a blurb on page A11 of The New York Times.

Human Rights Watch goes deeper into the situation in a brief published in December 2014:

The vast majority of Muslims in western parts of the country fled brutal attacks by Christian and animist anti-balaka militia in late 2013 and early 2014. Those who were not able to reach Cameroon or Chad became trapped in the enclaves, where they have spent months living in difficult conditions. UN officials, as well as African Union (AU) MISCA and French Sangaris peacekeepers supported evacuations in late 2013  and early 2014, helping thousands of Muslims to seek safety, including in Cameroon. […] By December  2014, an estimated 415,000 people, most of them Muslim, had fled the country and another 10,500 were protected by peacekeepers in a handful of western enclaves – Carnot, Yaloké, Boda, and Berbérati, among others.

In other words, what ISIS is doing to Yazidis and other groups it has deemed the enemy, Christian militias in the Central African Republic are doing to Muslims. We just aren’t hearing about it, because the victims aren’t as easy to relate to as ISIS’s western captives.

Even the ISIS televised executions of journalists aren’t particularly unique to Islamist terrorism. They’re copying a technique pioneered by Christian-led Mexican cartels, who for years beheaded and otherwise assassinated journalists who objected to their agenda. We rarely identify the cartels as Christian in nature, but there are deep financial links between Mexican churches and the cartel organizations.

No Monopoly On Violence

None of this is to argue that Christians are uniquely violent; that would be as wrong-headed as the Fox News argument about Islam’s insidiousness. It is just to point out that any large organization with enough people in it is capable of succumbing to tribalism, to the idea that our group is “good” and other groups are “bad” and should be feared, or disenfranchised, or even killed. That’s as true of Christianity as it is Islam, or Judaism, or Buddhism, or any large-scale ideology or religion. President Obama wasn’t wrong; if anything, he understated his case.


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