Is religion responsible for the world's violence?
As conflicts rage within Nigeria, Iran, Sudan, Pakistan and on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border, we are reminded of the late Samuel Huntington's observation about the world's "bloody borders."
BY: Rob Kerby, Senior Editor
darkness of human hearts – which religions from the dawn of time have attempted to address?
Consider Jesus Christ and the Apostle Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane. The Gospel of John, chapter 18, tells us that at the conclusion of the Last Supper, Jesus went out into the night with His disciples. Judas, who had accepted 30 pieces of silver to betray Him, knew the garden where Jesus liked to pray and guided the soldiers there, carrying lanterns and torches and weapons.
Jesus, knowing what was about to befall Him, said, “Whom are you seeking?”
They answered, “Jesus the Nazarene.”
Jesus answered, “I am He.” As they stepped forward to arrest him, Peter drew a sword and struck Malchus, the high priest’s servant, severing his right ear.
What followed was not a historic battle between good and evil forces. Instead, Jesus said to Peter, “Put the sword back into the sheath! The cup which My Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?” Then He picked up the ear off the ground and healed Malchus.
As we see far too often today, the divine did not prevail over human will that night. The disciples became confused that Jesus was intent on living out His instructions to them that if someone should strike them on one cheek, they were to turn the other one also.
We humans just don’t get this “turning the other cheek” idea. It’s too dangerous. It requires trusting in the Almighty. We aren’t very good at that.
Even though Jesus performed an incredible healing miracle – restoring his wounded enemy to full health, the darkness of the human heart prevailed. Jesus was arrested, paraded through the city, given a mock trial, then executed alongside two petty criminals. The disciples would have preferred to launch a religious war right then and there. Only days before, the people of Jerusalem had lined the streets, laying down their coats and palm branches in front of their Messiah, mistakenly believing He was about to lead them in a triumphant rebellion against the occupying Roman Empire – and would re-establish the mighty Israel once led by King David.
Instead, Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified – and in doing so established a kingdom that the human mind still has trouble grasping, a realm which would transform Western Civilization and alter the course of world history.
Seven centuries later, some would say Christianity was saved when French military genius Charles Martel turned back the Muslim invasion that had conquered the Holy Land and swept over predominantly Christian Turkey and Egypt – imposing Islam from the Balkans to India and deep into Africa.
In October of 732, at the Battle of Tours, Martel stopped the Islamic hordes from sweeping over Europe.
Historian Edward Creasy said Martel’s decisive victory “gave a decisive check to the career of Arab conquest in Western Europe,” and birthed modern civilization. Historian Edward Gibbon is clear in his belief that the Muslim armies would have conquered the known world — from Japan to the English Channel — had Martel not prevailed.
“Few battles are remembered 1,000 years after they are fought, but the Battle of Poitiers, (Tours) is an exception,” wrote Matthew Bennett,