A reader writes: a response to yesterday’s post:

A reader writes (slightly edited):

Ouch! What you quoted was, of course, nothing really new or surprising, but extremely well said. But look what happens if you replace key words here and there. The result is not perfectly true, but it’s strongly suggestive:

While religion/Christianity, a particularly harsh and distorted version, does play a role to legitimate, recruit, and motivate, studies of most militias and hate groups show that the primary drivers are to be found elsewhere….
Drivers of radicalization include moral outrage, disaffection, peer pressure, the search for a new identity, and for a sense of meaning, purpose and belonging. For many it is the experience or perception of living in a ‘hostile’ society, disenfranchisement and heightened political consciousness, anti-[socialism] and social justice, emancipation and the personal search to be a good Christian or [private schools] as liberation, bringing together a constellation of narratives. The vast majority of the Christian populations of America are also becoming members of a visible ethnic minority of Whites. Their experiences are therefore likely to be shaped by experiences such as xenophobia, lower employment and educational levels and, more recently, the War on Christmas, as reported by Fox News.

If, as I suspect, a great many of the people who energetically want the U.S. to do something about ISIS/ISIL/IS are highly conservative Christians, then I wonder whether it will ever occur to anybody that we have two sides of the same coin trying to erase the other from existence.

Since writing Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed Cross the Road? a few years ago, I’ve been paying more attention to the problems, not just of Christianity, but to religion as a whole … and to the problems of human identity formation, not just within Christianity, but among human groups of any kind. So many times when we’re pointing out the splinters in others’ eyes, we have planks in our own – because the problems we’re facing are problems “common to humanity.” They’re anthropological problems, not simply the problems of this or that subgroup of humanity.
One of the fundamental insights of mimetic theory is that groups often enter dances of imitation. If we focus on our enemies and rivals, we become like our enemies and rivals. This, to me, suggests one of the most stunning dimensions Jesus and his idea of discipleship. He teaches those with eyes to see and ears to hear how to break the cycle of offense/retaliation/counter-offense/counter-retaliation (e.g. if someone strikes you on one cheek … DON’T strike him back). He offers an alternative model to imitate, helping us break out of our dances of death.
We have some peculiarly seductive dances of death begging us to join in right now. May others of us offer a better alternative.