Whenever religious leaders abuse their power and spiritual authority to denounce or exclude other people, they have fallen away from God’s love. As a Protestant Christian, I was having a hard time last year figuring out what to think about this man called Martin Luther. On the one hand, I am grateful for his groundbreaking theological work and his translation of the Bible into German. On the other hand, being someone who loves and respects all people(s) and who cares deeply about Jewish life in general, and in Germany in particular, I will never be able to ignore Luther’s hate-filled tirades against Turks and against Jews. So regarding these issues, I want to say: Shame on you, Martin!
But then again, when I think about some of the statements of popular American evangelical televangelists on, say, Muslims, or even worse, Democrats, I do feel inclined to repeat these very words: Shame on you! Whoever preaches intolerance and hatred in the name of (any) religion, must be held accountable for it. Of course, there is a difference between voicing criticism of certain worldviews and spreading hatred. The first is necessary, in my opinion, whereas the second is criminal behavior. Differentiating between ideas and people is pivotal in this respect. I do criticize ideas, ideologies, and worldviews. Everybody does. But some take it one step further and incite hostility, hatred, and even violence.
Thus one of the most influential Muslim scholars alive, Yusuf Abdullah al-Qaradawi, who once argued in favor of physical punishment for gays and lesbians (although lesbianism is more acceptable in his eyes, probably because he likes it more). Again: Shame on you, Yusuf!
And when I think about some of the things that I have said about other people in the past, I must equally conclude: Shame on me!