As I’ve wandered Kosovo’s countryside, I’ve witnessed firsthand the results of unchecked religious hatred ”” the ruined buildings and the graveyards and the barbed wire. And while visiting the city of Prizren, an infamous place of atrocity and deadly reprisal in which businesses and churches and lives have been rebuilt, I’m amazed that things ever got this far. Rebuilding should not be necessary, as the widespread destruction of Kosovo should never have occurred.
The path toward religious cruelty begins, it seems to me, when folks identify their own political agendas as the clear will of God. And that’s easy to do, since arrogance is a major part of our fallen nature. Rare is the person, however, who derives political views from direct divine revelation. Most of us bring our agendas to our faith, where we have them blessed and sanctified.
Political beliefs made holy can easily entice people to move to another level: denegrating and even dehumanizing those who disagree with them. I recently heard a priest claim in a homily that the prophet Muhammad might have been the Antichrist. I’ve heard Episcopal Church leaders vilify their political opponents as somehow being agents of evil. And while demonizing others does not necessarily end in violence, the experience of Kosovo suggests that it’s certainly a step in getting there.
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