When Religion Is Hijacked By Hate

It has become so predictable that you can practically set your clock by it. I'm talking about the point after a national trauma when actual Christianity gets hijacked by someone spewing the kind of hateful, harmful utterly unchristian diatribes that make Jesus - in the words of Anne Lammot - "want to drink gin straight out of a cat dish." It is a sad and crowded history.

Jerry Falwell blamed the 9/11 attacks on "gays, abortionists and feminists." Pat Robertson blamed Hurricane Katrina on gay people. And Terry Jones burned copies of the Quran to mark the anniversary of 9/11.

Today's hijacker of actual Christianity is Sacramento Pastor Roger Jimenez. In his Sunday sermon -- just hours after the Orlando massacre -- he asserted "these deaths shouldn't be mourned because if the victims were gay, then the Bible calls them sinners, and they deserved to die." He went on to say "If we lived in a righteous government, they should round them all up and put them up against a firing wall, and blow their brains out."

For those of us who are Christians, our horror and outrage at having our faith hijacked by this homophobic asshat (and yes, this IS me choosing my words carefully) is a tiny window into what billions of Muslims feel every time they hear the horrific distortion of their faith being called "Islamic."

This man is to Christianity what ISIL is to Islam ... and (I'm speaking to my Christian brothers and sisters now) it is up to every single one of us to speak out against this hijacking of the core tenets of our faith by those who would distort them as weapons of mass discrimination; lob them like incendiary devices to ignite hate and division; and convince any sane person that Christianity is that last thing they want anything to do with.

It is also up to us to stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters when their religion is hijacked by media pundits and political candidates who ignore the billions of faithful followers of Islam - a religion of peace, justice and compassion - and feed into the agenda of the terrorists.

As President Obama said in his June 14 remarks from the White House:

Groups like ISIL and al Qaeda want to make this war a war between Islam and America, or between Islam and the West. They want to claim that they are the true leaders of over a billion Muslims around the world who reject their crazy notions. They want us to validate them by implying that they speak for those billion-plus people; that they speak for Islam. That's their propaganda. That's how they recruit. And if we fall into the trap of painting all Muslims with a broad brush and imply that we are at war with an entire religion -- then we're doing the terrorists' work for them.

Speaking at the June 13 Interfaith Vigil in Los Angeles, Muslim leader Salam Al-Marayati called ISIS "a cult of death" that "does not represent me and does not represent 1.5 billion Muslims -- you represent the worst of humanity, not just a distortion of the faith."

Al-Maryati went on to address the LGBTQ community saying: "We are your shield. The Muslim community stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the LGBTQ community. We are one, we are all part of one humanity, and we will defend each other -- we will work together."

This is what a "radical" faith looks like: a radical vision of love, justice and compassion that transcends dogma and doctrine and focuses on our common humanity as children of the same God -- refusing to be hijacked by those who would divide, polarize and terrorize us. It is the kind of faith that can and will change the world: if we work together.