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The Danger of Extremism

This article was published in the Presbyterian Standard, Issue No. 39, July-September 2005.

IN the light of recent bomb attacks in London, the government seems to be pressing ahead even more urgently with the introduction of new legislation in an attempt to try to stop any more "extremists" from carrying out their wicked crimes. Such legislation as making it an offence to "advocate violence to further spiritual beliefs" may seem to be quite irrelevant to the Christian community, because we know that "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds" (2Cor.10:4); consequently the true Christian would never use such 'this-worldly' techniques to propagate his religion (unlike Islam which seems to have spread itself through North Africa and most of Europe and elsewhere mainly by the power of the sword).

However, Christians should be wary of two potential problems with the hurried introduction of new legislation. Firstly, "advocating violence," "intent to murder," etc., are already crimes in this country, so the addition of a "spiritual" or "religious" element to these laws is quite meaningless. It rather tends to imply that there is some deeper belief held by the framers of these laws that "extremists" are anyone who simply has a different worldview from themselves, such as those they term "religious" people. And where do they go to find out who exactly is an "extremist"? In the case in point with regard to muslims, they have only spoken with the mainstream liberal mosques, and not with those who believe that the authority for truth lies in their "holy" book, their Koran. Switch this over to Christian circles. Where will they go to find out what Christianity teaches, and who therefore the "extremists" are within Christendom? To the mainstream liberal churches in the ecumenical movement! True Bible-believing Christians will be seen as the "extremists,"who as a result will be granted no rights and at worst will have their activities curtailed.

Secondly, this could be the thin end of the wedge. It could lead to the government making it illegal to "incite religious hatred" or (and this Society and its supporters could be caught here!) to "sell or possess extremist literature." Of course, Christians do not hate anyone. Rather we are called to love our enemies (Luke 6:35) and, if it be possible, as much as lieth in us, to live peaceably with all men (Rom.12:18).We have nothing but pity for all those who are caught up in the bonds of sin and false religion. We are only concerned that they should be set free from their bondage by coming to a knowledge of the truth. However, the rulers of the land may not think this to be so, but rather when we believe and indeed proclaim that "homosexuality is sin," "Islam is a wicked, false religion" and "the pope is the Antichrist," which are all true statements, we could easily be misconstrued as hating all who think differently on these things. If laws ever come into being whereby we are no longer allowed to proclaim anything as sin, and a transgression of the holy law of God, then the persecution has begun.

Let us not fret when these things seem to be coming to pass, rather let us realise that all things are within the providential control of the Almighty, and that the words of the psalmist are true: "They shall not be ashamed in the evil time: and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied" (Psa.37:19).

In the meantime let us encourage one another to pray for our rulers, as Paul taught Timothy: "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men, for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth" (1Tim.2:1-4).