Friday, March 10, 2006

Vive La Difference (again)

An article today in the New York Times (among other papers) notes that two arrests were made in the nine cases of rural church burning in Alabama.

The college administrators where the suspects attended school felt horrible. Quoting the article: "I almost have a sense of grief about this and about Birmingham-Southern's association with it," said Martin Landry, a junior from Pell City, Ala. "The bottom line is that this is a great school. I'm still extremely proud of it, and I do think we have an obligation to help make this right."

Church members, however, angry at the suspects for setting fire to their sacred, holy places, formed up in large numbers in front of the University steps, marching to loud yelling, angrily calling for the two suspects to be brought forward to answer for their crimes. Several church members were seen throwing stones through the University windows while covering their faces with bandanas, and running from police. The church pastor denounced the suspects, calling them abominations before God, and demanded that the University hand them over, threatening that if the University refused, then his followers would have no choice but to declare a holy war and destroy the University chapel and clock tower.

Wait.... I'm sorry. That's not right. What was I thinking?

These are Christian churches in America, not Islamic mosques in Iraq. 9 churches burned.... nine! (The Christian Science Monitor notes that 200-300 cases of church arson occur each year - the vast majority go unsolved.) Not one rock thrown in anger that I've heard. Not one angry demand for justice that I've heard. Not one fatwa issued. No church pastors giving fiery speeches on the evils of University life and how it must be overcome with the help of Gaw-awd! Not even a photo of a wailing women wearing black, half-crumpled over in grief.

What's that? Oh, what WAS the response?

Offers of help.

After the arrests, the president of the college, David Pollick, promised to help rebuild the churches. "We have people contacting each of these churches right now," Dr. Pollick said on Thursday. "The important thing is to be helpful, not cumbersome."

Dr. Pollick said the effort would probably make use of student volunteers. "Or it may be that alumni want to do labor, to drive nails," he said. In order to receive donations, the college said that it had established the "Alabama Churches Rebuilding and Restoration Fund."

No, the fundamental cultural and religious differences between Christianity and Islam - between The West, and The Middle East - cannot be stated or observed any clearer than how we react to indignity and affliction.

Christianity teaches grace and mercy in the face of adversity. If someone forces you to walk a mile, walk another mile freely. If someone strikes you on the cheek, turn the other as well. If someone takes from you your cloak, give him your shirt as well. Do kind to those that hate you. Pray for those that persecute you.

Islam teaches retribution and revenge. If someone denigrates Mohammed (by drawing a picture of him, no less), then riot and kill people (some 40 people have died due to rioting and violence directly related to the protests over the European editorial cartoons). If someone destroys a Mosque, then riot in the streets and plunge your country to the brink of civil war. Fight those that don't believe in Allah. Kill those that blaspheme the Prophet and his followers.

I'm fascinated by the apologists who say Islam is just misunderstood, and it's truly a peaceful religion, teaching love and understanding to all. It's only loving and understanding to those that strictly follow its teaching and tenants. If you do not, then you are infidel, and must be dealt with harshly, because Allah is Great and His will must be done. Opposition cannot be allowed.

People say Christians are just as bad with their "Turn or Burn" evangelism, or their "If you don't accept Christ, then you are destined to burn in Hell!"

The difference is most Christians won't try to convert you at the tip of a sword. They might annoy you and beg you, but if you don't want to accept Jesus, then you are free to go your way; the First Baptist Church generally won't run you out of town or kidnap and kill your family for being infidel and opposing the local Imam. The worst thing the Christians might lay on you is a guilt trip.

I could go on and on. Anyone have a comment, difference of opinion?


Ed Abbey said...

I have never studied Islam or read the Koran. I have had some Muslim friends in the form of an Iranian and several Pakistani. All of them tell me Islam is a peaceful religion and that those we see on television are radicals and don't follow the teachings. Those people, my friends, would give me the shirt off their backs and have practiced what they tell me through their actions. I have no reason to doubt them.

Many conservatives write that what you see on the news is very liberalized and not the actual truth. So why do we take the news at face value when it comes to Muslims teaching hate and spreadind distruction?

From all that I read and have seen, I think the majority of Muslims don't hate Americans but they hate our government. Unfortunately, some bad apples among them skew the world's perception. It wasn't all that long ago in our history when vigilante justice was prevalent in our society, when we indiscrimately wiped out large numbers of innocents for the actions of a few. We too have bad apples among us.

I am not apologizing for the acts of those radical Muslims. I just haven't seen the proof from the Muslims I know personally or what I have read or seen in the world around me to cause me to believe that Islam is religion of hate. Rather it is a few that skew it to suit their means, just like some radical "Christians" here in the United States like the Aryian Nation or Ku Klux Klan.

Ed Abbey said...

Oh by the way, I really loved your use of example for making your point. I hadn't heard that the college these arsonists attended was doing something like this but it is an awesome and heart warming thing to do. It restores my faith in humanity when I hear something like this.

I also heard your background song this morning. Another moving experience.

sage said...

I agree with you that being a follower of Jesus Christ gives us a unique perspective on the world--as we're to pray for our enemies, etc. However, few people, including me, live up to the calling.

One of the dangerous things is how easy it is for us to become self-righteous of our own humility--a trap that I've stepped into many times in trying to "defend my faith."

As for Isalm, somewhere along the way I came across a figure that only 5% of Muslims had radical tendencies. I'm not so sure if that's good or bad news, for when you're talking about the second largest faith group on the planet, 5% is a lot of people and can create lots of problems.

Mike J. said...

Sage, I agree with you about the dangers of being self-righteous, and honestly, I try to keep myself and my thoughts in check. Don't always do a great job of it, but I try... ;-)

Ed, MOST people, of whatever religion (or none), are kind and benevolent when you get to know them on a personal level.

I'm not saying Islam is a relgion of hate. I don't believe I ever said that. Like I said in my post, Islam IS a religion of peace - for those that adhere to it.

For infidels (non-muslims) though, it can be a tough road because the mission of Islam, just like the Great Commission of Jesus, is to spread Islam throughout the world. The difference is in how the orders are to be carried out.

Jesus said go, teach, and baptize. If a town doesn't recieve you, shake the dust from your shoes as you leave.

Islam says go, teach, and convert - teaching people to follow the laws of Allah (because Allah will save you and let you into heaven - much like Christianity). But, the Quran is explicit, and says if the infidels resist you, do what you must, up to and explicitly including violence, to bring Allah's law to the unbelievers. That's the basis for Sharia, forcing dwellers in a country, town, or wherever, to follow Allah's laws for their own good, so that Allah is glorified, and good deeds are added to the believer's life for spreading Islam.

It's not hateful or spiteful. It is, in their eyes, righteous and just.

Most American muslims are good social muslims, just like most American christians are good social christians. They attend mosque (church), do their prayers (go to confession or weekly services), and act nice.

The true believers are in action. Fundamental christians who pray at public events, pass out literature, talk to people about accepting Jesus, etc... you've seen them, the ones who truly, deep down, believe in Jesus and want to put to work in their lives everything he taught and meant. Those Christians are rare in our churches, we all know that, but they are the ones truly following the Bible. We roll our eyes because they are mostly harmless, but nonethless, THEY are the hot ones that Christ asked for. Luke warm? Christ wants to spit you out of his mouth.

Same goes for Islam, guys. The true believers want to convert everyone. The true believers think about how to bring attention to Allah, and how to make people change their minds from whatever religion they follow to the true religion (in their eyes), which is Islam. And since salvation is Islam IS through works and deeds, making someone follow Islam, controlling their actions and deeds, is a legitimate way to help someone find salvation, in the eyes of a true-believing muslim. And this, unfortunatly, does include violence as a legitimate option.

Gah! I ramble, but it IS my blog. Thanks for reading it guys.

sage said...

I hope you didn't think I was implying that you were self-righteous, because I wasn't, I've found your posts to be very humble.

And I agree with your assessment of Isalm. One book that was eye opening for me was Bat Ye'or, The Dhimmi: Jews & Christians Under Islam... there may be talk about "people of the book," but what Ye'or shows is that Christians & Jews had a tough life under Isalm, which is why they didn't mind European colonization in the 19th century.

Ed Abbey said...

I guess I misunderstood what you were trying to get at. I thought that when you said Islam teaches retribution and revenge and did the splurb about apologists believing that Islam is peaceful that you were implying Islam = hate. I didn't mean to put words into your mouth.

Like I said before, (I think), I have never read the Quran and have no desire too. I just have gone off what others have told me. Even if the Quran teaches vengence, there are many areas in the Old Testament of the bible where God speaks of vengence and having people slay whole nations. Does that put us in the same league?

*Religious discussions have never been my strongsuit.*