Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Religious Extremists

St Katherine Drexel
I was talking about the saints in a prison ministry I do. We are going through Fr Barron's Catholicism series and he talks about 4 saints. St Katherine Drexel, St Therese, St Edith Stein and St Teresa of Calcutta. The discussion got on to Muslims and some of the violence that is going on in Iraq. The comparison of the two struck me. There are some important similarities and some important differences.

They are similar in the sense that they both take their religion to an extreme. These 4 women took Catholicism to an extreme. They lived it fully without compromise. They ended up in quite different places but they had that much in common. They were willing to embrace any sacrifice and face any challenge if they believed Jesus wanted them to do it.

The folks at ISIS are the same way. They take what they read in the Koran and they take what has been modeled by Mohammad during his life and they live it. They live it fully without compromise. People say this is not the "real" Islam. That is just arbitrarily defining some version of Islam as "real." If Mohammad really was a special messenger from God then what he believed is the real Islam. I don't think the folks at ISIS have got 
Mohammad wrong. If Islam is true then what ISIS is doing makes a lot of sense.

Now the difference between the two is more obvious than the similarity. That is that these 4 saints are just very beautiful people. The members of ISIS are frightening. The saints made the world a better place. Even non-Catholics have to admit this. ISIS seems to be making the world quite a bit worse. 

If a religion is true then the most radical living out of that religion should bring about a person fully alive. A human person realizing their potential and impacting the world with it. So you can look at the Catholic version of that in the saints. You can look at the Muslim version of that in ISIS. 

It becomes a matter of what you choose to believe. Do you believe in a God who wants us to serve or a God who wants us to kill? All these saints served as nuns but St Katherine and St Teresa made a special point to find the most severely disadvantaged group they could and serve them. In both cases it was a people group that contained very few Catholics. That made no difference. Their dignity was based on their humanity and not on their religion. 

ISIS is very focused on getting rid of those who are not Muslim or not Muslim enough. They serve them with papers ordering them to leave or become Muslim or die. 

You can continue the comparison but the answer seems so obvious to me that it is not needed. Catholicism is just very beautiful and Islam has a real ugly side. Both become more obvious when they religions are pushed to an extreme. So we should be thankful for the saints. In some way we can be thankful for religious extremists in other faiths as well. 

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