Last week, I wrote about avoiding collectivist thinking regarding Islamic terrorism. On the same day, media tycoon Rupert Murdoch demonstrated in a controversial tweet why such thinking is so dearly to be avoided to those who value moral clarity:

Maybe most Moslems [are] peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible.

The sentiment is typical of hawkish conservatives who are in the habit of thinking in collectivist terms, and could easily be replicated by quoting the comments section of any news article on a popular news site. But because of Murdoch’s notability, the tweet quickly became an Internet-wide subject of discussion. I would rather not be redundant in the way I deal with it, so I will try to offer a perspective here that one might not find elsewhere.

To me, the most obvious problem with Murdoch’s statement is its hypocrisy. Surely Murdoch identifies with several groups that have problematic elements that ought to be recognized and addressed. But Murdoch almost certainly does not consider himself to be obligated to “recognize and destroy” those elements, nor to be held responsible for their actions in the meantime.

Now, the phrase “recognize and destroy” could be interpreted metaphorically (for example, in my current endeavor to lose weight, I have been recognizing and “destroying” bad habits and ways of thinking in my life), and if Murdoch were to identify dangerous, fringe elements in the groups with which he associates himself, he might use the phrase in such a way. But despite his attempts to backtrack on his initial comments, in regards to Muslims, he appears to mean it quite literally: peaceful Muslims are required, according to him, to wage actual war against violent extremists in order to be absolved of responsibility for their actions. Given his well-known support for the indiscriminate violence against Muslims in the War on Terror, I think this is a reasonable assumption.

But even if it isn’t accurate, the reckless and thoughtless language he uses is the issue. Whether he means that Muslims have a duty to go to war against extremist thought in their faith or not, there are countless people who do think that way; who think that nuking Mecca is a perfectly reasonable way of dealing with the threat they perceive in Islam. And by the reasoning that follows from his statement, isn’t he to be held responsible for the extremist thoughts and actions of those people? I would argue that yes, he could.

But I suspect I am using the word differently than he does. When Murdoch says “responsible”, I believe what he means is “culpable”: that peaceful Muslims are to be regarded as worthy of punishment for the actions of extremists, and that the way to absolve themselves of that guilt involves the violent suppression of those who actually commit acts of violence in the name of Islam. In other words, what Murdoch appears to be promoting, given the history of his political positions and the original posture of his tweets, is a particularly perverse form of the myth of redemptive violence: that not only are Muslims to shed blood for the absolution of their own guilt, but for guilt by association assigned to them by others outside of their group.

Murdoch identifies as a Christian, and since I am also a Christian, I’d like to talk about the concept of responsibility for the actions of others from that perspective. We find in our Scriptures this teaching from St. Paul on judgment: “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” (1 Corinthians 5:12, ESV) This teaching has two parts. First, we are not to judge those who are outside of the Church. Second, we are to discern good from evil among those who are in it.

So, I will attempt to do the second. But I do not mean to single out Mr. Murdoch. Rather, I want to address the “extremists” within Christianity as a whole; that is, those who would use political violence to achieve their personal goals. And though that violence is not always as obvious as overt terrorism, that sort of “extremism” is far more common than most people would realize, even those who would admit it happens at all.

First, to deal with the issue of responding to Islamic terrorism. I reiterate that we are forbidden to judge those outside of our own faith. But those who judge peaceful Muslims as guilty of the crimes of radical Islamism have not only done just that, but require of them to deal with those in their community who are in the wrong in a way diametrically opposed to the spirit in which we are required to deal with those who do wrong against us. We are commanded not to return violence for violence, but to overcome evil with good; they have prescribed violence on their behalf against people who pose them no direct threat. We Christians are meant to lead people into the way of Christ, the Prince of Peace, even at the expense of our personal security. They have promoted the religion of Mars, the god of war, in order to obtain their personal security.

But what of the extremism I spoke of above? I refer to the tendency amongst Christians to wield the power of the state against those whom they consider a threat to the faith. Programs like the War on Drugs, to give an obvious example, have resulted in a detestable loss of human life, in addition to millions of people incarcerated for nonviolent activities. How it compares to the number of dead from Islamic terrorism is not the point; we are responsible for it, because there are those whom we call brethren who have advocated and legislated the problem into existence in the name of security and public morals. Moreover, the addiction to war in the West plainly attributable, at least in part, to the Religious Right. Statist Christians are all too quick to call for war when they see their personal interests threatened. We are supposed to “find our strength in the shadow of God’s wings” (Psalm 63:7); instead, many look to the wings of the United States Air Force. We are required to love our enemies. That requirement does not cease to apply when our enemies threaten our personal interests, and it certainly does not cease to apply to all Muslims because we perceive a threat from some of them!

Christians who turn to the welfare state for the fulfillment of their material needs, the warfare state for their personal safety, and the police state in order to make society “moral”, have rejected the way of Christ in favor of the way of Babylon, Rome, and every other pagan empire. Those who do so are in no position to judge the members of another faith. Let them look to the “extremism” they tolerate in their own ranks before they turn to address the problems of radical Islam. But if they do so, they will find that violence done on their behalf by the state will not be an option, because they will already have categorically rejected it as unbecoming of a faithful follower of Christ.

Statist Christians, Rupert Murdoch included: look to the log in thine own eye.