What Republicans really mean by the term “Radical Islam”

Many Republican politicians and pundits say we need to kill ALL “Radical Muslims,” because that’s who our war is really with. They complain that Obama won’t call our enemies by their name (of course, their names are ISIS, Al Qaeda, Jihadists, terrorists, etc., which is what he calls them), and that he refuses to define the real enemy, which is the religion of “Radical Islam.” Yet, among Muslims, there is no such denomination as “Radical Islam.” So we cannot look to them for the definition of this term. We must instead look to the Republicans who came up with it for the definition. So how exactly do Republicans define “Radical Islam?”

I’m assuming that since it’s Republican Evangelicals like Ted Cruz leading this charge, that “Radical Islam” is defined in a similar manner as “Radical Christianity” is defined by Republican Evangelicals.

One might expect that a politically-liberal/moderate Christian like myself would have grown up in theologically-liberal churches and know nothing about the teachings of Republican Evangelicals. But nothing could be farther from the truth. While I grew up in a nominally-Christian Pennsylvania Dutch family, I found myself immersed in conservative Evangelical church life upon attending Belmont University in Nashville, TN. I spend most of my 20s and 30s in denominations ranging from the Southern Baptists to the PCA to non-denominational churches. It was in these churches in which I would, from time to time, here a sermon on how we Christians need to be “Radical Christians.”

How did they define “Radical Christian?”

A Radical Christian was someone who changed their life in a significant way as a result of their Christian faith – someone who lived as if God is real. For some churches, that meant leaving the comforts of home to go into the missions field. For others it meant abstaining from alcohol, secular music, and R-rated movies. Just showing up in church on Sundays wasn’t enough. The world needed to see that you were a Christian in your daily life.

If that’s what a Radical Christian is, then Muslims who lead their daily lives differently that those around them as a result of their faith are Radical Muslims. For a Muslim, that might mean abstaining from pork and alcohol or wearing Muslim clothing. It doesn’t just mean being violent. So if our war is against Radical Muslims, then even peaceful Muslims at home are the enemy.

So while the general public might think that Republicans just want to wage war against violent Muslims, Evangelical “Radical Christians” know that Republicans are calling for a holy war where the only good Muslim is a dead Muslim. They are calling for religious genocide. Since most Evangelicals believe that Islam is the most evil of religions, many of them see the eradication of devoutly Muslim people as a righteous endeavor. In other words, they really want to give the jihadists the holy war they’ve been longing for. This works out well for the Republican Party, because the Republicans have been that party that increases military spending at the fastest rate, looking for any reason to shovel hundreds of billions more tax dollars per year to the military-industrial complex, which, along with tax cuts for the wealthy and lawlessness for corporations, has been the Republican Party’s primary goal for decades.

So what does the Bible have to say about this?

Some might say the Old Testament calls for genocide, because the Israelites were to eradicate the people of Canaan, so they could move in and take over. Remember, however, that the Israelites were homeless after having left Egypt. They needed a home, and all of the good spots were taken. Moving thousands of people into an existing small nation and expecting to live side by side with its inhabitants was unrealistic. They would have been killed or enslaved. Their only chance of survival was to clear out the land they were to inhabit. That was simply the unfortunate reality of the brutal, ancient Middle East.

But over time, God led His people to overcome that brutality and become leaders in peace. Jesus and His disciples never saw the need to kill people of opposing religions in order to lead them to join the Christian faith, not even when Christians were being persecuted by those people. Killing people of other religions has no place in Christianity. Yes, our nation may defend itself. But there’s never a need to defend ourselves from a religion; only a need to defend ourselves from attackers, regardless of their religion.