My good friend, Chxta, has spoken at length on this particular subject, and he has been vilified, castigated, chewed out, spat on, and promised an eternity in hellfire for his views. I’ve known Chxta since we were yea high tots. He is not controversial by nature, but he does always speak his mind. Regardless of whose ox is gored, whose chicken is run over, or whose cow was given to Mai Suya.
I was not baptized at an early age. In fact, it took full adulthood for me to become a “practicing Christian”. I did not begin attending church until my second year in the University. And I wasn’t Baptized or Confirmed until Law School. (Ja, I’m Catholic.) My old man had this weird policy: in matters of religion we were to be totally free to make up our own minds. As such, he told us we wouldn’t be forced to go to church if we didn’t want to, and we wouldn’t be forced to stay home if we did. My mother, herself a staunch Catholic, accepted this decision. As a result, while most other kids had to spend their Sundays going through interminable church services and utterly boring Sunday school replete with floggings for failing to recite the Ten Commandments properly, I spent my Sundays doing pretty much whatever the hell I wanted. Some are already shaking their heads at this terrible way of bringing up a child in the “path he should follow.” The thing is though, I wasn’t just given any old weed-threatened path to follow. The man gave me a 10-lane expressway complete with functioning street lights.
While my father didn’t put much stock in religious education (he never went to church, and still doesn’t go unless physically dragged on account of some special occasion or other) he did imbue all of us with a strong sense of right and wrong, and an annoyingly solid foundation of principles. He wasn’t overly strict with us, but if we screwed up, we sure as hell knew it. I learned it was wrong to steal, lie, and cheat, to respect my elders, and honor my father and mother, etc. without being told that these were orders from God. Rather, I learnt that some actions were wrong because they weren’t the right way to live. These principles are so strong, they stay with me to this day. The result – I can’t get a girl drunk and take advantage of her, and I couldn’t find it in myself to jump on the 419 bandwagon. I could have been a millionaire by now. Damn him.
Of course, we had CRK (Christian Religious Knowledge) in school, and I made an A in the subject in my WAEC. Did this mean I was a good Christian, subconsciously? Hell no. It just meant I was a rather smart student. But the fact that I could make an A in the subject while living an actively “pagan” lifestyle minus booze, weed, and women (they would come later) merely shows that I didn’t have to go to church to be able to answer questions about the Bible, and give correct quotations from it.
To wit, Christians and Muslims are God’s children. My proof – when Sarah found that she still couldn’t conceive, she told Abraham to take her servant and knock her up. Imagine that fellas – your wife telling you that not only is it okay for you to sleep with the housegirl, but that you’re permitted, nay ordered, to knock her up into the bargain. Wow. Abraham (strong man that he was) duly did knock up the housegirl, and she bore him a son named Ishmael. The housegirl then began carrying shoulder for her madam because she’d given oga a male child when madam couldn’t. Silly girl. She grossly underestimated the power of incumbency. In double quick time, she’d been kicked out along with her son, and sent into the desert. When they were on the point of death, God sent his angel to her, and he opened up a well for herself and her son to drink. Also fulfilling God’s promise to Abraham that he would father many nations for Ishmael’s descendants can be found in Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Oman etc. Ishmael's descendants also constitute the vast majority of the Muslim population in the world today. And, since the world generally accepts the first-born theory, Ishmael’s descendants hold the rightful claim to being Children of God.
Which brings me to all the “Muslims-are-going-to-hell-and-so-are-you” people Chxta has had to contend with.
Consider this scenario: As a missionary you are sent to a remote village, where no one has previously carried a Bible into. On arriving there, you’re told a certain man just died. While he was alive, this man was a paragon of virtue. He never stole, told a lie, cheated his business associates, took another man’s wife or land, was generous to a fault, would give you the shirt off his back if you happened to need it more than he did, and generally observed what you call the Ten Commandments. Would you tell the villagers that because this man had never heard of God, he was destined for hell? I put this question to a certain “Born-Again Christian” (BAC) and she said yes- the man was on his way to hell. I beg to differ. If God truly sees all things, and knows all things, then a man who lived his life in accordance with the Ten Commandments even though he’d never heard of them, would certainly not be on his way to eternal suffering for being a good and principled man. If he’s not allowed into Christian Heaven, at least he’ll be sent to Valhalla. And that is on the assumption that there is segregation in Heaven, which I seriously doubt. This BAC held on to her views, and began machine-gunning Bible quotations at me to back up her claims. However, when I lobbed a few quotations from the same Bible in her direction, she fired the BAC standard response at me – “even the Devil knows the Scriptures.”
It is my firm belief that no matter what religion you practice be it, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Sun Worshipper, or whatever, it is the ultimate height of arrogance and indeed ignorance to insist that whomsoever doesn’t kow tow to the same faith as you do is bound for damnation. Nobody knows where he or she will end up. Granted, it would appear on the surface that Muslims are much more prone to violent reactions to any denigration of their religion, but for those willing to cast their minds back through history, the Crusades were about Christians trying to force others to their religion. Colonialism, a crass rape of other people’s natural resources and subjugation of their freedom, was carried out under the banner of “taking God to the Godless.” As one writer famously remarked, “They took our land and our freedom and gave us Bibles.” No doubt the early sermons were all about turning the other cheek. Galileo was excommunicated by the Church for daring to insist that the world was round and orbited around the sun. I think most people have heard about the Spanish Inquisition. And, if that trip through history is too far for some people to take, cast your minds back to Waco, Texas, and the Christian fanatic who caused hundreds of his followers to end their lives via mass suicide. Timothy McVeigh, who carried out the Oklahoma City bombing, was a Christian. The white men who shipped our millions of our people off to work their cotton fields in the “New World” were good Christian men. The men who fire-bombed black churches in the southern United States were Christians. The men who hung black men from trees were Christians. They waved their Bibles freely to show that their actions were sanctioned by God. Adolph Hitler was a Christian. George W. Bush, a man who has plunged the world into previously unimaginable chaos is a Christian.
Hell, had “The Da Vinci Code” been written some centuries ago, Herr Braun would have since confessed to giving Eve the apple, convincing David to go out to his roof to see something interesting, and wielding the spear at Christ’s crucifixion, amongst others. Then he would have been barbecued. (There are some who insist that he be given that very treatment even today!)
Clearly, Muslims do not hold the monopoly on extremism. Yes, many are touchy about their religion, but who isn’t? And the fact that some of them resort to violence and back it up with quotes from the Qu’ran doesn’t mean they’re all that way. I’ve met Muslims who quote from the same Qu’ran to show that Islam is a religion of peace and brotherhood.
The other day I read on a Nigerian’s blog that Arabs were “murdering sand niggers.” That fellow has my undiluted pity for his is a mind so shallow an ant wouldn’t drown in it.
We live in a complex, complicated, dangerous, and, sometimes, downright crazy world. We will always have our differences, quarrels will always flare up, but if we can’t or won’t learn to live and work together, perhaps whatever God we individually pray to is already shaking His head in regret.