In light of the horror of this past week in Paris, there are many calls to fight fire with fire. An eye for an eye. It is easy to understand this attitude in its context. Certainly someone needs to be held accountable and there must be consequences for this senseless slaughter. A reasoned but firm response is necessary but knee jerk reactions often result in undesirable unintended consequences rather than  a solution to the problem.

The growing threat of ISIS must be confronted. We cannot ignore it but we must be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” in our response.

In a recent Republican Presidential Candidate debate Sen. Marco Rubio was accused of being a “closet moderate.” This designation was not delivered as a compliment but a criticism. Perhaps the criticism was not about Rubio’s position but the fact that he has disguised or hidden his real feelings. If he has not been open and transparent, I suppose that is valid criticism.

We live in a time where militant, fanatical individuals and groups seem to get all the spotlight. Radicalism and extremism are on the rise and are dangerous. The voice of reason often gives in to those who would “bomb the ____ out of them.”

“The strength of democratic societies

relies on their capacity to know how

to stand firm against extremism while

respecting justice in the means used to fight terrorism.”

(Tariq Ramadan)

Religious and political radicals represent only a fringe element but they cause much harm. I am not speaking only of Islamic radicals although there is reason to be alarmed about them. Extremists pose real danger whether they are white supremacists or fundamentalist Muslims. Devotees to any religion or political faction who advocate for destruction of those who are different from them are cause for alarm.

When I refer to “radicals” and extremists” I am not suggesting that strong commitment to a cause or belief system is a bad thing. However, when that commitment marginalizes, endangers, or destroys anyone, it is wrong.

Dwight Eisenhower

“Extremes to the right and to the left of any political dispute are always wrong.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower

People who represent extreme perspectives can be helpful. The presence of strongly divergent opinions can cause us to begin to see and understand things that would otherwise be beyond our comprehension. Mutual respect and civil discourse among people who disagree can lead to heighted awareness and constructive change. But hateful and derogatory language and actions cause pain and foster further division.

 “If we destroy human rights and rule of law

in the response to terrorism, they have won.”

-Joichi Ito

A “moderate” is one who stands between two extremes. Is that a bad thing? Dictionaries define “moderate” with the following terms: reasonable, sensible, restrained, fair, temperate, judicious. These seem to be attributes that would be viewed favorably by most decent people.

Clint Eastwood

“Extremism is so easy. You’ve got your position and that’s it.

It doesn’t take much thought.

And when you go far enough to the right

you meet the idiots coming around from the left.”

-Clint Eastwood

Things often appear to be “right or wrong” but many times the truth is somewhere between the two extremes. The person who is a centrist (moderate) sees the value of seemingly opposite opinions and attempts to effect a synthesis of perspectives that is more balanced. Perhaps everything is not “either/or.” Maybe a better position often is “both/and.”

Let us pray and work for peace as we strive to protect the freedoms that we enjoy and believe is the right of every human being.

Jamie Jenkins

 

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