The Challenge of Religious Extremism

The following is a brief recap of Reverend Dr. Sara’s opening message at the recent Christ at the Checkpoint conference.  

The President of Bethlehem Bible College began with a word of welcome to the diverse mix of attendees at the conference.  The diversity of the audience was a testimony to the conference’s core values of peace building and reconciliation and their vision of creating a place to engage in dialogue with people of differing viewpoints, while advocating a Palestinian Christian perspective. With that in mind Dr. Sara set the scene with a question from Voltaire:

What can you say to a man who tells you he prefers obeying God rather than men, and that as a result he’s certain he’ll go to heaven if he cuts your throat?”

Dr. Sara contends that it was precisely this spirit of extremism that Jesus faced, the spirit that believes that everyone else is wrong and only “we” have the truth. Dostoyevsky said “Discard your gods and worship mine or I will destroy both your gods and you!” How should we respond to this spirit of extremism? Dr. Sara suggests that a god who would tell someone to kill and destroy is most certainly a false god. Instead he points to the God of scripture with characteristics of love, mercy, justice and compassion, evidenced by his good plans for the nations and the peoples of this earth.

Dr. Sara reminds us that God’s heart for all people is not death and destruction, but is expressed by what he did on the cross of Calvary for mankind, the people of the entire world. This radical act of sacrificial love is God’s defining quality. He does not send his followers with swords, guns or any kind of weapon, but instead he sends them with his love and compassion for every individual being regardless of their race, color or language.

Let Justice Roll Like a River

Dr. Sara set the tone for the Palestinian Christian pulse that we sensed throughout the conference; one that is not afraid to call out the injustices and violence inflicted upon it, but equally one that consistently responds with the love, mercy, compassion and sacrifice that are the signature marks of the God they serve.  In the words of the prophet Amos, “…Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”   (Amos 5:24).

Before finishing, Dr. Sara challenged those who may think that the love he refers to is weakness. Instead of weakness, this pure love filled Jesus’ heart and enabled him to stand strong in the face of his enemies.  His love enables us also to show this same strength.

Dr. Sara showed us the heartbeat of Christ at the Checkpoint; a movement of men and women who seek justice and mercy in the Land of Christ.The hearts of Dr. Sara’s hearers are invited to beat in time with his, for this movement to encourage and motivate God’s people everywhere to stand against injustice, to stand with the oppressed and marginalized, and to honor those who have been murdered for their faith.