Agendas, Terrorism, and Dignity

I’m so disappointed that people are using the recent San Bernardino shooting to launch into finger pointing about Islamic Extremist Terrorism. The shootings reinforced their desire to see tight restrictions put on Muslims, to justify their opinion that we should not take the Syrian refugees into this country, and pretty much proves them right for being suspicious of the Muslim community as a whole. I get it, I understand their point, but it is very discouraging to see.

I’m equally disappointed in those who, with every incident involving Muslims, rush to provide statistics to show that white Americans, particularly Christian white Americans, are a bigger cause of terrorism than Muslims. As with those who blame Muslims for all terror, let me say that I get it, I understand their point, but it is very discouraging to see.

When I was about to enter the Catholic Church, I went through a course called The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA). When the course got to explaining the Sacrament of Reconciliation we spent a good amount of time learning about the importance of making a good confession. We learned to examine our conscience by pondering the ten commandments. How had our day stacked up?

The answer, of course, was “not very well.” The deeper we thought, the larger was the pile of our sinful shortcomings. One thing struck me, though. Many of the sinful thoughts and actions of any given day were related to a single category. Not respecting human dignity.

Was I angry with someone? It was because I failed to respect their God-given dignity. Did I have a sexual thought? It was because I’d not respected human dignity, either my own or the one I’d thought about. Did I look the other way when someone needed money for food? Human dignity. Did I dismiss someone because they were liberal, republican, democrat or conservative? Human dignity again.

So, that’s what troubles me about the categorizing of terrorism that’s so prevalent today. It’s a failure to respect the dignity of another human. Sometimes that human is the white American Christian. Sometimes it’s the dark-skinned Muslim. Sadly, though, it’s always the victims. In our rush to blame the one who fits our agenda, it often comes down to a failure to respect human dignity. We cling to our agenda because we really don’t respect the human dignity of the victims. We don’t respect the dignity due their families. We fail to see them as human. They are merely ammunition to wage a name calling war. But they are casualties of a real war.

Terrorism is real, of course. And the victims are as dead whether the attacker is male, female, dark skinned or light skinned. People die from bullets fired by Christians as easily as they do from those fired by Muslims. So, if we are to devote ourselves to an agenda on terrorism, let’s champion the agenda that is devoted to ending it, not in just assigning blame. Because, only when we respect the human dignity of all will we be able to take a significant step toward peace.

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