So there are just things I have to say about this tragedy. This stems from two comments I made on Facebook this morning and I will write two separate posts because they’re effectively different topics on the same event. This part is in reference to my dual background as a political scientist and a seminarian. This is a moment where political science and theological history can give us some perspective on why this isn’t about God, it’s about power.
First, what happened in Benghazi should not be taken as some kind of referendum on Islam. If we do that, then we better be prepared to make it a referendum on Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Shintoism, etc. We’ve murdered, pillaged and sacked each other for centuries while thumping our various religious texts to reaffirm our behavior. As a former seminary student, it horrifies me what Christians have done over the centuries under the cover of the Bible, more so because in doing so we have so completely misrepresented the content of the document. With that said, I have the same level of opprobrium for the actions taken by political opportunists to project power and take lives under the guise of some twisted notion of defending their faith. From here, the political scientist in me takes over.
I’m a pretty dedicated international relations realist. I believe actors make political decisions based on relative assessments of how much power they stand to gain or lose relative to other actors around them. What we’ve witnessed in that last 24 hours in Cairo and Benghazi is not about Islam or defending the sanctity of Allah. It’s about power. It’s about the ability for a radical set of political actors to reassert to those around them that they are not to be trifled or disagreed with. A single movie will not shake the foundations of Islam, and five diplomats will not end our Republic or our ability to project force abroad. What these people are doing is about solidifying their domestic political positions, using “fear and blood,” to borrow an apt quote from Game of Thrones.
It would be a huge error to make this about religion and culture, when indeed it is about power in it’s more savage form.