Who said it? If you've looked at any entertainment news today, you know that it was Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame, addressing the problem of the Islamic State while promoting his new book on Sean Hannity's TV show. Robertson says his preference would be to engage ISIS in bible study and teach them about Jesus, but if the other option is a war of religion he's "prepared for either one."
Put this quote in the bank and save it for the next time someone says Christians aren't like that, or haven't been for centuries. As for those already coming to Robertson's defense by saying that ISIS and other Islamic extremists "started it," the fact is that Christians have been saying that Muslims started it ever since they first heard of Muhammad. Muslims "started it," as far as Christians are concerned, by denying the divinity of Jesus and daring to claim that God gave humanity yet another revelation. I don't mean to say that Muslims are innocent over the course of global history, but that they ceased to be innocent in the eyes of Christians well before they started converting people by the sword. Meanwhile, I'm sure the folks at ISIS feel that the rest of the world has been given adequate opportunity to recognize the truth of Islam, and that the gun becomes necessary in the face of what they see as violent resistance, if not outright oppression by infidels. Both Christians and Muslims crow about all the peaceful appeals they've made before they've had to reach for the sword or the gun. But how peaceful are such appeals when the sword or gun is always there, in plain sight of everybody? Maybe the earliest Christians, the ones who let themselves get martyred in Rome, actually proselytized without any threat of violence, but most of history tells a different story. For Muslims, there was probably an even smaller window of time when the invitation to convert wasn't implicitly backed by the threat of the sword.
The most contemptible thing about Robertson's latest rant is the idea that ISIS can be neutralized, short of death, only by their acceptance of Jesus. Again, let history judge the peacefulness of Christians. If I'm right about ISIS in my belief that religion only rationalizes their deeper need for political power, their conversion would really only give them wealthier, more powerful sponsors for their violence. But many Christians persist in a belief that there are political and social implications to the divinity of Jesus, so that people like Robertson credit Christianity for the relative freedom and prosperity of "Christian" nations while blaming poverty in Muslim countries on Islam. They haven't convinced me yet. Instead of getting the ISIS idiots to trade one version of God for another, mightn't we make more progress if we could somehow convince them that there was no God to justify their lust for power and violence? They might well still kill a lot of people in pursuit of power, but at least they wouldn't go out of their way to kill them for not converting, as Phil Robertson proposes doing.
And for those keeping score: he talks a good game about being ready for a gunfight and about sitting down for bible study with ISIS, but as long as talk is all he does about it when his talk can influence others -- he's a coward, too.