Fighting Extremism

Wednesday, 2 December 2009
President Barack Obama spoke during prime time tonight to discuss strategy in Afghanistan.  He says he is committed to battling violent extremism among the Taliban and helping Pakistan deal with the same problem. 

Extremism defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is "advocacy of extreme measures or views."  While never a violent extremist, I used to have extreme religious views.

My late grandfather (I miss him dearly) was a respected and loved Presbyterian pastor.  He helped people who were hungry and poor and even started a non-profit organization in Monet, Missouri where immigrants could buy affordable second-hand wares to start a home.  He was not overbearing in his views but he certainly believed the Bible was infallible.  That's what conservative Christians believe.  The Bible is the Word and the Word is God.

Raised as a conservative Christian (my parents aren't entirely conservative but were active in the church), I believed what my Sunday School teachers and preachers taught me at the First Baptist Church of Powell.  Science was secondary to the Bible.  Women were never to be leaders in the church.  Even if you are in debt, you give 10% of your salary to the church.  The world was created by God speaking it into existence and anyone who was pro-choice or homosexual were "sinners."

Those views spilled over into politics.  In my experience, conservative Christians vote strictly under religious guidance.  Also in my experience, conservative Christians feel safe believing what they were raised believing and do not deter much from what is comfortable.  At the age of 18, I began voting for the candidate who did not support abortion.  Why?  Because I didn't understand that taking away the choice to have an abortion was hurting young women who may not have the money or the support to have a child at the age of 14.   With my narrow-minded religious view, I wouldn't even consider anything beyond a stance for "life!"   I didn't understand that people who were not Christians should be valued just as much as those who are Jews. Was I extreme in my opinion?  Yes.  Debate was not an option.  I only knew what I believed which was what those who taught me believed.

Disclaimer:  Not all churches are this way, obvioulsy.  I remember Dr. Jimmy Albright (PhD) as our pastor in St. Joseph, Missouri.  He was down-to-earth and traveled The Holy Land almost every year and preached with some perspective of world view.  

What is the point of this lengthy rant?

There is still extremism at home.  We are not just in danger from the Taliban which is make up of Sunni Islamist radicals who have implemented a strict interpretation of Sharia Law (God's Law).  Sharia dictates how some Muslims must dress, eat, worship, be intimate, conduct business...etc.  What does the strict, conservative Christian church teach?  The same type of restrictions and lists of rules.  If you follow the "rules" are you closer to God?  Many extremists believe so.

I once helped lead an all-women bible study at my Southern Baptist liberal arts college, Carson-Newman College.  The two young women (20 years old) in charge told us if we wanted to be a part of it, we could not wear tank tops with straps that were less than two inches in width.  That type of clothing was "sexually provocative."  We were teens!  Extreme?  Yes, because it represented something larger than just a dress code.

I'm thankful that I've gained a world perspective and understand moderation.  I'm still learning.  Now I trust Science AND read the Bible.  I'm also thankful that President Obama doesn't believe that only the Christian perspective is right and dump diplomacy with Jews, Muslims and Mormons in the gutter.  He's reaching out to other religions and countries and I feel his actions are making life safer for Americans.  In his speech tonight he said so obviously:  "We cannot rely on military force alone."


Anonymous said...

Oh my, you are going to make some good friends with this post ;) BTW, I am reading a book called "Not That Kind of Girl" by Carlene Bauer. I think you might like it.


Denae said...

I know, right? What gets into me?

The book looks excellent. I've put it on hold at the library.

Anonymous said...

I so enjoyed your posting - there certainly are a bunch of weirdo's out there under the guise of religion. Generally, any religion that stipulates what you should eat, drink or wear as you put it, is hell bent (excuse the pun) on mind control and churning out cookie cutter, carbon copy like people who dare not think for themselves without the wrath of God breathing down their necks in the form of some individual - usually someone who has been given the opportunity to exercise his power, male of course - which makes me question any religion where women are not regarded equal. The more "don'ts" in any religion the more sure you can be that the thinking has been done for you and that thinking for yourself is not an option. Sadly, often people get sucked into this type of thing very subtly and getting out is not as easy as it may seem.

Denae said...

Anon - In my personal experience (I can't speak for anyone else) your point "The more "don'ts" in any religion the more sure you can be that the thinking has been done for you and that thinking for yourself is not an option." is SPOT on. Until I got away from the oppressive cultural restraints of conservative religion by moving from the mid-West to London, I didn't really have access to other options of thinking and reason.