Pious and bloodthirsty

This week, a 14-year-old Pakistani girl named Malala Yousufzai was nearly killed when a member of the Taliban shot her on a school bus. Her “crime”? Trying to seek an education for herself and other girls. Two of her classmates were also wounded. The assassination attempts exemplify how the very “holy” will stop at nothing to gain power.

Malala Yousufzai

Malala is no ordinary 14-year-old. In the eyes of the Taliban, she is a very real threat to their extremist agenda. Even at her young age, she has been an international political figure, speaking out against the Taliban’s terror tactics in preventing girls from being educated. Girls who go to school in Taliban strongholds risk having acid thrown in their faces or being killed. When Malala was just twelve years old, she met with President Obama’s special envoy to the region Richard Holbrook and begged U.S. officials to help girls receive an education in safety. Malala, who was shot in the head and neck, is in satisfactory condition.

Lawrence O’Donnell

People all over the world have come to Malala’s defense. Pakistani officials have deemed the assassination attempt “a crime against humanity.” Numerous individuals have already been arrested. The crime was highlighted on MSNBC’s “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.” Calling Malala “one of the bravest girls in the world,” O’Donnell noted how a Taliban spokesperson defended the attack as having been “ordered” by Shariah. He described how these religious extremists have justified their violent and totalitarian actions by claiming that they are “holy warriors” defending Islam:

Without that status of “holy warrior,” they would have no justification for anything they do. More temperate Muslims believe and insist that the Taliban are not holy warriors for Islam, that the Taliban have illegitimately seized that label for themselves and hide behind it to defend their actions.

O’Donnell added that a Taliban spokesperson has quoted a passage in the Qur’an, which describes the killing of a child who was predicted to “cause a bad name” for the child’s pious parents. O’Donnell continued:

Religious extremists all make the same mistake. They all fail to understand that all the foundational holy books of major religions—all of them—have really, really crazy, dangerous stuff in them, stuff that was written by men. Men who were not just fallible, but men who were wrong. Some of them claimed at the time to be taking dictation from God, some of them didn’t. The craziest stuff in the holy books is always the homicidal stuff. It’s always the death penalties.

But then O’Donnell made this naïve statement:

The Bible is full of death penalties. Death penalties for not observing the Sabbath. Death penalties for adultery. Death penalties for things that not one follower of the holy Bible on the Earth today would ever, ever dream of trying to enforce.

Apparently, O’Donnell has not heard of Christian extremists who spout this same kind of “crazy, dangerous stuff” here in the United States. I am talking about men who, like the Taliban, maintain a legalistic adherence to their holy book and, yes, advocate for the killing of children. This year, a Republican candidate for the Arkansas House of Representatives named Charlie Fuqua had a book published entitled God’s Law: The Only Political Solution that calls for a law to be passed that would allow for “rebellious children” to be given the death penalty. Fuqua gets this idea from Deuteronomy 21:18-21, which calls for a “stubborn and rebellious son” to be stoned to death.

Charlie Fuqua

As Fuqua writes in God’s Law,

The maintenance of civil order in society rests on the foundation of family discipline. Therefore, a child who disrespects his parents must be permanently removed from society in a way that gives an example to all other children of the importance of respect for parents. The death penalty for rebellious children is not something to be taken lightly.

Now, most Christians, even many biblical literalists, would not advocate for parents to have disobedient sons be executed. But let’s be clear: Fuqua is not some mentally ill half-wit blogging from a basement storeroom somewhere. In fact, he was elected to the Arkansas Legislature in 1997 where he served on the Judiciary and Children and Families Committees. His campaign website boasts that he was given the “Friend Of The Family” award from the Arkansas Christian Coalition. What’s more, Fuqua has received financial support from the Arkansas Republican Party and members of the U.S. House Republicans.

And to top things off, Fuqua is not alone in urging Americans to follow the Bible and put children to death. One Christian blogger and Pennsylvania pastor calls the Deuteronomy passage  “holy, just, and good” and “a delight to the heart of God’s true people.” Furthermore, the blogger writes:

Christians must not be embarrassed by the law of Deuteronomy 21:18-21, nor should they be chagrined when others try to use it to discredit the case laws of the Old Testament. Properly understood, it displays the wisdom and mercy of God in restraining wickedness so that the righteous might flourish in peace. It is those who reject this case law that should be embarrassed, for they have cast reproach on God and His law, cast aside the testimony of Christ, and have substituted their own imaginations (Jer. 7:24) for the blessed Word of God.

Is it fair to compare Christian extremists like Fuqua who merely talk about executing children and the Taliban who actually carry out those actions? Yes, once we factor in the vast differences between our culture and that in which the Taliban flourishes. Simply put, America has more economic and educational opportunities than places like Afghanistan and Pakistan, and as such, we are better able to curb religious extremism. The Taliban commits more heinous acts, not because they worship a different god, or because their religious text is inferior to the Bible, but because they have the luxury of trying to control the poor and uneducated, while their government has little ability to enforce its laws.

If America had those same struggles, men like Charlie Fuqua would not just talk about putting children to death, they would line up to cast the first stone.


  1. Trond A. Harman says:

    What a powerful view of our society and some of our belief systems. I agree that we have extremely radical members of the Christian religion, of which I am a part of, in our society today who believe that everything should be based on what the Bible says. As is stated in the article, the Bible is written by many different men, who were writing about many different things. It is not the work of one writer, but a number of writers who have differing viewpoints. I don’t doubt that these men “heard” or were inspired by the voice of God, but I question what our society today would think of someone who wrote a book based on hearing voices.

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