There are days when it is hard to claim the moniker ‘Christian’. Last week I experienced this in a very acute fashion: a woman was accused of sorcery in Papua New Guinea, and a crowd beat her and burned her to death. Such violence is deplorable under any circumstance, but the fact remains that the outrage levied against this woman was fueled in part by norms and traditions taught by Christian missionaries: that is, that indigenous religious expressions are suspect and a work of ‘Satan’. The animistic traditions indigenous to PNG certainly bore their own share of violence, but the outrage and form of vigilante justice evidenced in this crowd of 50 onlookers is reinforced by rhetoric of ‘spiritual warfare’ and such, common to Evangelical-speak. And I cringe that the teachings of Jesus could ever be carried so far as to commit such heinous acts.
And yet I am aware of a long history of such crimes in the name of the Christian tradition (see for instance, the Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials, etc.). It is just hard to understand in the 21st century. Or so we think.
While people in Papua New Guinea were deemed ‘savage’ as the world looked on in horror while 50 people stood and watched a woman burn to death, last Tuesday we ‘civilized people’ in the United States watched by the millions as murder-suspect Dorner burned to death. So much for ‘innocent until proven guilty’. It seems Dorner required no trial–thus no attempt at stopping the fire or rescuing him was made. Instead, it was urgent that ‘the threat be removed’. How expedient we can be when brown skin is involved.
There are days when it is hard to claim the moniker ‘American’.
I have to confess I’m just grieved over both situations. And at a loss.