Thursday, September 09, 2010

A Prayer for Peace and Humility

I'm sure most all of you have heard about the pastor of the small church in Gainesville, Florida, that has declared Saturday, September 11th 2010 as "International Burn a Quran Day".

If not, I'd like to crawl under whatever rock you live under, too, because it's probably quiet and peaceful under there.

If you don't live under a rock, no doubt you've seen the headlines and stories, such as this one, or this one.

I don't need to detail the pastor's feelings or reasons for you, you can read about those or watch the news.  I don't need to repeat the political establishment's reactions to the story, you can Google them on your own.  I don't have to give quotes regarding the Muslim world and what their reaction is or will be, we will know within hours if the pastor actually goes through with his plans.  

What I do want to express here is what I see as both an American issue, and a Christian issue.  

First, it's very sad that US news media has focussed so much time and energy to the issues of one very small church in Florida.  Our news media has inflamed this for it's own financial benefit.  The ensuing firestorm of controversy has been a boon to media outlets all over the country.  

They are all benefiting from the increased circulation and viewer-ship of their products.  

They are all making more money. 

They are controlling the news product, and controlling what we see and hear about it.

Understand that to begin with. 

Second, as a First Amendment issue, I have no problem with someone who wants to burn a book as a political statement, no matter if that book is the Bible or the Quran or any other book.  I may disagree with the message and the means of making it, but it's clearly protected "speech" according to the US Supreme Court, which is the final arbiter of what is legal and what is not legal in the US.  

The speech may be offensive to some, indeed it may be offensive to many, but that's exactly what the First Amendment protects - offensive political speech.  Pleasing speech needs no protection, and our Founders knew this very well.  

No one in the US has the right to "not be offended", just as no one has the "right to be heard".  We have the right to speak.  

Whether anyone listens is up to the individual.

Which brings me to my third point - is this action correct or beneficial from a Christian viewpoint?

I contend it is not.

As a US citizen, I'm not terribly fond of anyone who wants to kill me, my family, or destroy my way of life.  Radical Muslims have clearly avowed these very things as a major goal.  They hate western life, culture and prosperity.  They dislike the fact that most of us in the US are what they would call infidels, or unbelievers. We are routinely called "The Great Satan", which I think pretty well sums it up.

As a US citizen, I think it's important to stand up to and resist people who want to hurt you and take away your way of life. God bless the US military and all they stand for in protecting us.

But as a Christian, one who is not only a US citizen, but first a citizen of the Kingdom of God, as Jesus called it, I think this Quran burning is very misguided.  I don't think offending people is the way to win their hearts and minds to favor with Jesus.

Jesus' first and foremost desire on earth was to bring glory to His Father.  Everything He did was pleasing and correct in the eyes of God.

Jesus never, ever, attacked a "foreign" religion or government.  Speaking of an evil and oppressive regime known at the Roman Empire at the time, he declared "give to Caesar that which is Caesar's.  Give to God that which is God's."

Speaking to a heathen Samaritan woman at the well, a person detested by Jews, Jesus offered up a well of living water to the woman, if she would believe he was the promised Messiah.

Jesus told his followers that if they are struck on one cheek, to turn the other cheek. People often argue about this passage, wondering if Jesus meant to literally not resist physical force, but in thinking about this command, consider the fact that Jesus went quietly to his death without fighting back one bit.  He recognized God's will in that moment, and by his obedience brought glory to God by his death.

Jesus was all about saving people from spiritual death, not political power. One day He will come in glory and He will be King of All, both spiritual and political, but for now, the Good News is about saving souls and eternal life, so that we can enjoy Jesus' reign later.

So how are we as Christians supposed to deal with evil people or ideologies?

Jesus told his followers to love our enemies, and pray for them.

He told them to "treat others the same way you want others to treat you".

And in Romans 12, the Apostle Paul wrote, summing up his assessment of how Christians should live:

"Do not repay anyone evil for evil.  Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written, "it is mine to avenge. I will repay", says the LORD.  On the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. "

I pray that the pastor has a change of heart, but I fear the damage is done.

If he wants to stand as a US citizen and decry Muslim terrorists, that is his right, but his words and actions have consequences that may be farther reaching than he can imagine.

If he wants to stand as a Christian follower of Jesus, he must evaluate his actions in light of bringing glory to God and spreading the Good News to those who need to hear it.  Will this Quran burning help to achieve that goal? Does God Almighty really need to have His Honor defended by men?

Even Islam acknowledges that God knows what is in the heart of a man or woman, and our actions speak louder than our words.  God knows this man's heart, and I pray that God will speak to his heart, and take him away from this confrontational attitude to an attitude of love and humility in Christ.

1 comment:

Lindsey Marie said...

Kinda creepy, that the media controls the "news" to such a degree. Makes me wonder what I'm NOT hearing.