Shortly after the 2004 elections, I spoke with a despondent elderly gentleman who didn’t know me as well as he thought he did. “This isn’t the same country I grew up in,” he said. He was bemoaning the fact that social conservatives had gotten their way. “I see no difference between them and the Taliban.”
I was so taken aback by this that I flat-out didn’t know what to say. I am clearly a social conservative and some might argue a member of the religious right (though I doubt they would accept me given my unorthodox theological views), and yet I have no desire to string infidels up by the neck from soccer goals. In fact I would fight till exhaustion for the ACLU’s right to proclaim their opinions, though contrary to mine.
Recently, because of my social conservative convictions, I was accused of wanting to go back to the 14th century, of being anti-intellectual, unscientific, and intent upon forming a theocracy. Accusations of this sort make great grist for the rhetorical mill, but such polemics simply cannot stand up to rational scrutiny. But rational thought is not the point. Such straw man attacks, when pursued to their core, are no more than an attempt to marginalize political opponents. As soon as you are able to hang a label on someone and get it to lodge in the public mind, no further rational discourse is possible. The discussion has been prejudiced, and any hope for dialogue quickly descends to shouting and accusation.
So are Christians really no better than the Taliban? I can’t believe this is even a subject for intelligent discussion. Someone visiting 2006 via a time machine from even 25 years ago would wonder if we have lost our collective minds!
A recent Reuters news article (Pakistan votes to roll back Islamic law on rape, by Zeeshan Haider, November 15, 2006) reported on a change in Pakistani law that attempts to override Shari’ah law currently being enforced in large parts of that country. Says the story, “The Islamic laws, known as the Hudood Ordinances, were introduced by a military ruler, President Zia-ul-Haq, in 1979. They made a rape victim liable to prosecution for adultery if she could not produce four male witnesses to the assault.”
In case you missed it, here is what Shari’ah law says. It says if a woman is raped and goes to the authorities, she must produce four male witnesses to the crime. Female witnesses apparently can’t be trusted. If she can’t produce these witnesses – and trust me, she can’t — then she can be convicted of slander, for which the penalty is 80 lashes.
Worse, she could then be convicted for adultery, which, if she is single would result in another 100 lashes. If she is married the penalty is death, possibly by stoning. I won’t tell you how this is carried out in some nations, as it is too gruesome to recount. Such information is readily available if you wish to search for it.
So if a woman is victimized and speaks up about it, consequences could be unthinkable for her.
As should be clear, the Christian response is very much like the Taliban response, right? If a woman can’t prove she’s not at fault, we Christians feel it is our duty on suspicion alone to whip that woman within a breath of death and then tear her flesh off with sharp stones until she dies.
In John 8, we see the true Christian response to sin. The Taliban of the day, the Pharisees, catch a woman in the very act of adultery. They bring her to Jesus to see what he would have to say. “Moses,” they say, “commanded us to stone such a person. What do you say?” I find it curious that they brought the woman for judgement but let the man escape (in contradiction to the law of Moses), but that’s another discussion.
Jesus’ response, and what should be the Christian response, was to see through this little charade and point to the hypocrisy that was screaming to be rebuked. “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.” Whereupon the Pharisees and their entourage quietly, one by one, slipped away.
This does not mean that the woman wasn’t guilty. While Jesus did tell the woman that he wasn’t going to condemn her, he also told her (sternly, no doubt) to “leave here and don’t do it again.”
The Christian response is judgement (she did it), repentance (in verse 11 she recognizes Jesus as Lord), forgiveness (“I won’t condemn you”), and changing one’s life (“don’t do it again”).
I still can’t believe that I am being compared unfavorably to the Taliban. To link a follower of Jesus with thuggery is intellectually dishonest and cuts off any avenue to understand each other. Remember this: It will be impossible to understand each other so long as we call each other names.