A brief plea for help as I try to understand a few well used words in everyday vocabularies but the true meaning of which escapes me. Well, maybe not the meanings, but rather the context in which they are used.
Example: When a person born and raised in the Protestant version of Christian faith and joins the Roman Catholic Church the term we use is “converted”. The individual making that move has weighed long held beliefs against newly discovered doctrines to which, after a period of contemplation and discussion, he or she has “converted”
It’s the same procedure when it goes the other way and a long time Catholic believer finds greater solace in Protestant doctrine, studies new found beliefs and after contemplation “converts” to a new way to worship the same God, but with a different cover on the book and different statements of faith between its covers.
Missionaries in both Catholic and Protestant faiths still actively and energetically work to attract converts. The multifaceted Protestant-faith preachers with their door-knocking foot soldiers offering front-step sermons and easy conversion are possibly more prominent than Catholics at the local level.
So here’s my problem: When young people of one of the many the Christian faiths – or of no previous faiths at all – announce that after a period of investigation and instruction they have joined a Muslim mosque with a militant attitude we are informed they have been “radicalized?” Not “converted”, but “radicalized.”
“Radicalized” has become a flavour-of-the-year popular-press word to describe conversions to the Muslim faith with its quick move to a self-called holy army to fight Christians of whatever faith, wherever they may live. I have “blogged” before those new recruits to Muslim militancy should be helped to leave Canada, or wherever else they live, and find a Muslim governed country in which to dwell and further their aims. That thought, however, does nothing to clarify my confusion with the usage of “converted“ and “radicalized.”
It seems to me that early Christian missionaries were into some heavy duty radicalization when they set about converting other races with force-fed Christianity. The records both Catholics and Protestants have in their foreign-fields call to “come to Jesus” are far from enviable with fear of death, hell fire and the sword their main weapon of persuasian.
In my last blog I wrote about the Crusades, the slaughters Christians and Muslims thought essential to convert the world to each other’s one true faith. Muslim nations seemingly want to continue killing their way to peace while the Western World claims to continue its search for more peaceful ways to live together. But while we insist peace is our only ambition, we still bristle mightily and militantly when singing about how we intend to convert, or should that be “radicalize?” those we demand believe.
Who cannot thrill when a choir and congregation in a glorious cathedral or a simple country chapel soar into William Blake’s “Bring me my Bow of burning gold, Bring me my arrows of desire; Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold, Bring me my Chariot of fire! I shall not cease from Mental Fight, nor shall my sword sleep in my hand…..”. It’s not exactly the Sermon on Mount is it? More like the Battle Hymn of Republic where “mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord, He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored; He hath loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword; His truth is marching on.”
Or that old revival hymn written so many years ago as a song for children in Yorkshire when they marched from one village to the next to celebrate Whitmunday 50-days after Easter: “Onward Christian soldiers marching as to war, with the Cross of Jesus going on before, Christ the royal master leads against the foe, Forward into battle see the banners go.” They are all still sung fervently today but what does it signify? Are we really anxious to convert unbelievers to our Christian ways? Or have we remained, as many Muslim leaders appear to have remained, in the dark ages of intolerance where indoctrination and radicalization are the passwords for conversion.
I fear the answer.