When the shooter attacked the Jewish synagogue in a California suburb, he also claimed responsibility for vandalizing a mosque in the same state. Muslim groups were among the first to offer sympathy and condemnation for the attacks on Sri Lankan Christian Churches and the synagogue in Poway. And Christians were quick to condemn the shooting at synagogues in Pittsburgh and California.
What’s happening is that all three monotheistic religions are starting to realize that they are all facing a common evil, and it’s not one of these fellow faiths, as some have suggested.
Seven years ago, my students and I researched the link between religion and war. Contrary to what many scholars have argued, our statistical evidence from 1648 to the present found that it was a distant fourth cause among the four issues of war that were studied (regimes, real estate and resources). The idea of fundamentalist religions attacking each other over minor matters of differences in doctrine in recent years is largely a myth, often inflated by critics of religion, a relic of the Thirty Years War and cases far earlier.
As we speak, in North Georgia, Rabbis, Imams and Pastors are putting on another inter-faith conference, an event which occurs with increasing frequency, as these shepherds try to remind their flocks of their that the fellow lambs aren’t the threats…it’s those wolves out there.
Think of that Chabad synagogue shooter, calling out the Jewish “race,” claiming they are using immigration to wipe out the “European” race, while attacking a Muslim place of worship and expressing admiration for the New Zealand spree killer who used a gun to wipe out congregations at mosques. In fact, the Christchurch shooter did his best to film the event so he could upload it on Facebook. The Poway synagogue shooter even tried to record his activity. He had already uploaded his “manifesto” of hate online as well. The ISIS killers of the Tamil Christians were seeking media attention for their cruel bombings as well.
Another news site asked if the Poway killer’s Christian “theology” could be to blame, but his moderate Presbyterian congregation and message could hardly provide anything that would recommend killing anyone else. It seems he, the New Zealand shooter, and the Sri Lankan bombers of Christians all have something in common: An inflated sense of self.
Research these murderers and you won’t find some ignorant poor person who is doing a crime out of desperation. He or she tends to be well-education, well-off, with many of life’s benefits available. But these are “6’s” who think they are a “10” and feel someone else is to blame for not having the world worship at their feet, just as Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin or Mao Tse-Tung once did. So they replace love with instilling fear to get others to pay attention to them. These modern day executioners seek victims who are helpless, because the narcissist is a coward at heart, instead of “picking on someone their own size.” Social media, not a congregation of like-minded religious people, is the audience, because they know their fellow worshippers wouldn’t approve. Of course there are zealots in each faith who call for such violence and demonization of others, but it’s for themselves and their own selfish purposes and not their faith.
That doesn’t mean that such inter-faith activities are useless. I applaud these congregations for having them, our college and other schools and communities for hosting them, and those elected officials for supporting them. The more people realize that this is the norm, and killing those of other religions is a deviant behavior, the better the chances we have to combat such societal evil.