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Anthony Schefter, Published December 13 2009

Christianity is the cure for violence

In the wake of the shootings last month at Fort Hood, American Muslims feel the need to defend themselves, as Syed Sajid Ahmad did in Sunday’s (Dec. 6) commentary in The Forum. I would feel the same way, had a Christian motivated by a warped understanding of Christianity committed this atrocity. I did feel the same way when Scott Roeder allegedly shot abortion doctor George Tiller last May, as did every mainstream pro-life group in denouncing the murder.

People of goodwill the world over abhor violence and recognize its use only as a last resort in self-defense before an unjust aggressor.

I teach new Catholics their faith, but I do not know much about Islam beyond what I hear in the news and what my church teaches. Like most Americans, I have never read the Quran. What the Catholic Church teaches can be summed up in one sentence from the Catechism: “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day” (“Catechism of the Catholic Church,” 841).

At the heart of Christian mystery rests a great and terrible sacrifice, the self-gift of Jesus on the cross for the salvation of humankind. That is why there is a cross hanging in every Christian church in the world. God, whose name is I AM, himself came to earth to forgive us, to heal us and to teach us the way to live. We are commanded to work for peace, to love one another, to forgive our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us.

We are to work toward building a civilization founded on justice and love in anticipation of the great day of the Lord’s return, when he will ratify our accomplishments and usher in a New Creation of peace and happiness for all who have won their salvation in the great trial, which is life in a fallen world.

This great sacrifice of I AM himself is why Christianity is at its heart a religion of peace. Not that people down through the centuries haven’t committed atrocities in the name of the Christian God; Roeder proves that such things are still going on today, and they are reprehensible. But the Christian faith has peace at its heart, and anyone who commits violence as a Christian (except as a matter of self-defense) is disobeying Jesus. I wonder if the same can be said about Islam.

Knowing that there are Muslims of goodwill, I nevertheless am given pause when someone suggests to me that violence is not inherent to Islam. Violence is inherent in each one of us, and therefore in every human society; it took I AM to come down from heaven to provide the cure. If you want the cure for violence, then take a look at what the Catholic Church teaches. If you’ve looked before, then look again, for the first time.

Schefter is a Catholic catechist.