One of the truly surprising things about Christianity, as practiced in some parts of the United States today, is the stunning level of intolerance that is freely and cheerfully aired in the 'Christian media'.
the favorite target these days seems to be Islam. From a religion that recognizes virtually all of the Old and New Testaments (with the admitted downgrading of Jesus Christ to the role of prophet), a demon has been created. A major figure in Christian broadcasting recently spoke of 'sweeping away that old Mosque of Sultan Omar'...which now occupies Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
How did we come to this? How did a faith based on love, and a message of turning the other cheek, and refraining from judgement, become so vicious?
Recent events have clearly played a role, obviously. A large number of prominent leaders who happen to be Muslim have called for jihad in the form of mass slaughter...and have both planned and carried out these atrocities.
But condemning every Muslim, and condemning their faith besides, is a terribly wrong path, if only because Christians are hardly blameless. One has only to look at Northern Ireland in the 20th century. One can also go back to the Inquisition, if one likes...and beyond that, to the Crusades. (Which is where the infamous phrase, "kill 'em all and let God sort them out' had its genesis).
One wonders at Billy Graham's choice of the word 'Crusade' to describe his evangelical efforts.
And it's worth remembering that the belt buckles worn by Hitler's SS bore the inscription "Gott Mit Uns"...God With Us.
A simple explanation is pure xenophobia, the fear and hatred of the different. But there seems to be another, and more sinister force at work - a biased interpretation of the Book of Revelation, biased to justify demonization...and, at its worst, excuses extermination.
Revelation is a terribly difficult book. Almost completely allegorical, it's couched in symbolism that probably had very clear and specific meaning in the First Century AD.
Trouble is, that was 2000 years ago. Our culture isn't the same. The meanings we ascribe to words can change completely, even in a few decades. Think of the word 'gay'. it used to mean happy and carefree, but if you use it that way now you'll get some really weird looks. "He's so gay!", in its current interpretation, would be a point of disbelief in, say, 1950.
Revelation's a lot more than words, of course, and that's even worse. You can pretty well fill in the blanks, come up with a consistent model for the symbology, and someone will believe you. Pick a convenient enemy that's already suspect, and it makes it even more plausible.
So we now have 'Tribulation Timelines', and since we have the timeline, we have to identify someone, or some group, as the focus of evil.
And we can even feel annointed, as we share the hate.