(A Christian writing pro-Christian and anti-Muslim slogans in Onitsha, photo credit BBC)
Andrew Sullivan, on the Christian violence against Muslims in Nigeria:
In the West, the theocratic tendencies of the religious right have very rarely tipped into violence; and there is no equivalence with the terror of Islamists. But in the developing world, that may not be the case any more. Nigeria is Ground Zero for the new wars of religion.I think we really have to dig through the dregs of 20th C history to find an instance where Christian-Muslim grass-roots violence has erupted on this scale, and in the midst of international crises over oil supply and civil liberties (I'm not counting all-out wars). But it is the first instance that I have ever read of closely that involved Christian rioters, armed with machetes, clubs, and knives, spraypainting "Jesus is Lord" on the walls of their victims' mosque.
The Rev Fleming Rutledge, one of the first women to be ordained to the Episcopal priesthood, speaks out on the "genuine theological emergency" this represents:
The use of the earliest Christian confession, Kurios Iesous (Jesus is Lord) in such a context simply staggers the imagination. Issues about sexuality are very important indeed but must be set aside in this genuine theological emergency. This is not about barbarous, primitive Africans. This is about the universal human capacity to move rapidly from relatively peaceful co-existence with others to murderous mob action in a matter of days when certain conditions are present, and to appropriate even the most sacred religious beliefs for lethal purposes. The 20th century is full of examples -- the Afrikaners in South Africa, Gentiles all over Europe in the Nazi era, segregationists in the American South, Serbs in the former Yugoslavia, the Hutu in Rwanda who murdered Tutsis in their churches with frequent cooperation from the clergy.There you have it: a genuine theological emergency on top of a clear violation of human rights. The conservative Anglican communion needs to wake up to the fact that recents actions by the Archbishop of Nigeria represent a problem far beyond the distinctly American or northern struggles over orthodoxy.
Even so, there is something particularly horrifying about this example from Nigeria. The use of the name of Jesus Christ to celebrate destruction and murder is beyond sickening. This is the Name of the One who voluntarily gave himself up to a tortured death to show us how to forgive our enemies and not to seek vengeance. Bishop Tutu of South Africa led his people in non-violence for more than thirty years under conditions of utmost provocation. Let us fervently pray that Archbishop Akinola is made of similar metal -- for the sake of Nigeria, for the sake of the Anglican Communion, for the sake of the Gospel around the world, for the sake of the Name of the Crucified One.
A friend has sent this link to a statement by Abp. Peter Akinola. I find it profoundly disappointing. ... I look in vain in this statement for any sign of a transforming cruciform theology. It has a truculent sound, as if he were saying: if you're going to beat us up, we're going to let loose our young men to beat you up. This is not encouraging. I am comparing it in my mind with something that any of the recent Popes might have written, for instance. I think of Lech Walesa in his great early days, Martin Luther King -- not to mention Desmond Tutu. There was no doubt about these leaders' strength and determination, but it was clear to everyone that they intended to rein in their troops. They were enabled to exhibit dauntlessness while at the same time still teaching us about what a distinctively Christian witness looks like. When a Christian leader speaks truth to power, it should have that unmistakable note of trust in an invincible unseen Power that arms its servants with alternative weapons. [her emphasis]
In comments I've seen from conservative American Anglicans, I've been disappointed by the nearly complete lack of sensitivity to what Rutledge called the "invincible unseen Power that arms its servants with alternative weapons." If you've ever seen it in action, it gives you goosebumps, bristling with the power of actual righteousness, not the righteousness of mere orthodoxy. Romans 12 (and Proverbs 25):
20On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.