I feel Mazdak does injustice in the paragraph quoted below and some of what flows from it. A little reminder of history may also be helpful.
Mazdak wrote "For instance, while Jesus taught us to 'turn the other cheek' if slapped, the Old Testament encourages Jews, and later, Christians, to seek vengeance under the precept of 'an eye for an eye.' So how should the true believer act in the face of such contradictory advice? Obviously, the more muscular approach has guided Christians more often than the gentler, other-worldly teaching spread by Christ."
Any Christian will tell you that the "eye for an eye" principle cannot be used to justify vendettas under any circumstances in Christianity. Though Pakistani Christians are under great pressure to fit-in and align their views to those of the majority Muslim community, still I venture to say that if you ask any Pakistani Christian "agar tumharay bhai ko koi katal kar dai, tuo kiya Masihat tumhain budla lainay ki ijazat daiti hai?Ã¢â‚¬Â the answer will be "No". Vengeance cannot be justified under any circumstances in Christianity; it lies with God.
Does this mean that Christianity and hence Christians must be pacifists? All talk and no action? Most Christians would be confused if asked this question and may erroneously answer yes. Indeed Christ whipped money lender out of a synagogue, he did not just preach or, upon failing to convince his audience, lower his head and walk away with a sore throat. He whipped them out showing that violent action is sometimes a must. Doctrinally speaking, though a Christian can not avenge the murder of his brother, right a wrong by committing another; he/she can certainly fight to defend himself or his brother, family, country etc. from harm. Very few Christians know or understand this as it is not preached in Churches any more; the Christian world having been a safe enclave for sometime now. It also lends itself easily and sometimes unfortunately to order pre-emptive strikes.
Historically the Popes, by the way, used this doctrine, in the 12th Ã¢â‚¬" 14th century time period to call the faithful to wage a "defensive war" in the holy lands, now known as the Crusades. This is akin to Pakistani Muslims supporting Palestinians or Iraqi's today. The Crusades are a touchy subject, however, because of the indefensible behavior, exception though it was, of some fanatical Christians, during that period, namely the indiscriminate slaughter of its citizens, Muslims, Jews and Christians in Jerusalem upon its conquest. This includes entering into a Church and slaughtering all Christians taking refuge in it.
Muslim historians, and by the early 12 Century, most historians were Muslim as Europe was steeped in darkness, have naturally highlighted the Muslim slaughter only. This is erroneous. Medieval European authors, writing a couple of centuries later, using Muslim authors as source, have furthered this error. This is like a historian, 500 years in the future from now, using CNN and other western media as primary source. Would you call CNN a reliable source of information? A more authentic source is the Papal letters written at that time. These document the Crusades and Crusaders actions and strongly condemn barbaric behavior including the incident mentioned above. Why did the Pope ask Christians to fight this war? A quick lesson in history may not be inappropriate at this time and will help answer that question.
By the early 8th century, the Middle East and North Africa, except Saudi Arabia, were part of the Roman Empire. Its official religion, the religion of the Emperor since Constantine in the 4th century was Christianity. Most of the people living there by the 8th century were Christian, Jewish or pagan. Islamic political expansion, starting in the latter half of the 7th century, was to the East. Hence under Caliph Umer, Zoroastrian Iran was conquered and converted to Islam overtime. Starting in the 7th century huge swathes of lands that were Politically under Christian Rule or had large number of Christian inhabitants like Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq etc and Turkey, were conquered and co-opted. This constant expansion of Islamic rule over Christian land and tales of forced conversion emanating from there caused the Pope to request Christian Kings in the west to defend the east and hence started the Crusades.
By the way, a little side note to draw a distinction, until the 6th century AD, being Arab meant and constituted only some tribes living in Arabia, now Saudi Arabia, like the Qurash of Mecca for example. The Lebanese Arabs of today are actually the Phoenician traders of the old Mediterranean world. Alexander the great Macedonian, Mark Anthony the Roman or Cleopatra the Egyptian would have recognized them as Phoenician. Indeed Cleopatra might have been offended if called an Arab. It was only after the advent of Islam that the Arabs came up in the world. They made great contributions to almost every field of human endeavor but even before the death blow delivered them by the Mongols in the mid 13 th century, greatness was slipping them and being transferred to the Saljuk Turks. So although the people of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan etc think of themselves as Arabs today, most are actually not ethnically Arabs. That is if Arabs are defined as the children of Ishmael, son of Abraham and Hagar, the Egyptian maid of Sarah. They are also not Arabs if Arab is defined as descendants of people living in Saudi Arabia in the 6th century. This is probably true even though there have been extensive mixing of people, the conquering Arab with the conquered locals. However if the definition is changed to anyone adopting Arabic culture and language, then we can even broaden further the Arab landscape and include some living in Africa and elsewhere in the world. Academic though all this is but most Middle Eastern countries would probably not appreciate this broader definition of Arab as at present they refuse nationality and citizenship to anyone who is not local to that area. By local I don't only mean a Pakistani being denied citizenship in Middle East but even a Palestinian or Jordanian.
If more information were available on the strategy used back then to co-opt these different people into one big loose group, the story of that make-over would be a great read. Europe and North America, trying to integrate large foreign population today and failing miserable could probably learn a trick or two. For example though the Iranians were conquered before the Syrians they kept their language and parts of their culture. So did the Turks who where conquered later.
Going back to the reason I started writing this letter i.e. to correct Mazdak's article on its lack of understanding of the basic tenets of Christianity yet so authentically commenting upon it, and to conclude as well, though in the past 2000 years many crimes have been committed in the name of religion, and many of those crimes were committed by Christians, against non-Christians and Christians alike however, and this is crucial to understand, "they never found sustenance from Christianity" and civilized people of every religion, including Christians, condemn them. Indeed probably the loudest voices of condemnation have been of Christians, in conflicts of the past and present. Catholicism for example has never provided cover through creed for IRA bombings though IRA member are all Catholics. Though a rabbi or a maulavi can preach an-eye-for-an-eye philosophy, a Christian priest, of any denomination, cannot. There is only one incident where the church has, sort off, supported offensive action i.e. during the Spanish war of independence against the Moors. A different topic and contained to Spain, it is a very interesting read if anyone cares.
By Adil Gill