The world watches the current violence in the Islamic world and mouth words of horror concerning the uprising. How quickly we forget our world history classes where we studied the Crusades. Several hundred years later Western Europe suffered through the Inquisitions. More recently the Holocaust provides an example of persecution. Religion has been intertwined with government and armies for centuries.
Currently in some United States political circles there is a strong movement to move this nation to Theocracy based on fundamental, conservative Christianity. Of course, all of the major purging events of history are said to be directed by God. Just as true is the God defined by a religion and its teaching promotes peace, goodwill to neighbors, sharing etc. So how does a group get off track?
Getting off track might be defied as a charismatic leader becoming a despot. Charismatic only the sense that naive people believe and follow them. It is not hard to walk away from a despot, no-matter what the religion is. When ones chosen religious journey becomes intolerant each of us can cut the strings.
I completed 4 years of classic Roman seminary and was ordained a deacon in 2000. I served with eagerness, attending to nursing homes, funerals, various kinds of blessings etc. I soon opened my eyes to the established clergy refusing sacraments or service to people defined as the fringe: women, LGBT, Pro Choice and so on. Then Rome issued a decree that LGBT people were gravelly disordered.
I wrote a letter to the Arch Bishop resigning but they placed me on Leave of Absence status since it was against their rules to resign. Two and a half years ago I was ordained as a priest by the Reformed Catholic Church Vicar General. Since then I have provided "church" to the fringes. This includes officiating a wedding of my son to a wonderful young man at the Memorial Church on Harvard Yard from where the couple both graduated.
We shouldn't be surprised at the violence in the Islamic world; it's part of humanities corporate history. Mankind may never learn a better path. I do believe each of us is called to change our piece of the environment. Leave institutions when they show bigotry, hate or intolerance. Vote and also vote with your pocket book: we avoid purchasing from a radical business. There are places to go that are inclusive, there are multitudes of people who practice good will other then just espouse it. The foundation of what little I understand comes from 12 Step programs who simply say God As I Understand Him. maybe they will morph to someday say As I Understand Her.