Thursday, September 9, 2010

We Will Be Known By Our Response

The latest American/Christian/Islamic controversy is the plans of Florida "pastor" Terry Jones and his "church" Dove Outreach Center to burn copies of the Islamic holy book the Qur'an on September 11. Most people know the details as this story has saturated the news cycle for a few days. The question before us now is how do we as people of faith respond to this proposed action? By the way, these same options are there anytime there are those who promote hate and violence. Here are four options.

Option A) We can continue the tit for tat, eye for an eye cycle. It is easy to hate Terry Jones and it is easy to lash out at him. People have already lashed out in different ways. In fact, he has received death threats and now carries a pistol for defense. His church's mortgage has been called due by the bank and his church's insurance was revoked. I do not know how much of that is a negative response to his plans, but it does seem plausible. I will freely admit this solution feels good. It offers immediate satisfaction. I have heard, usually anonymously, people who want to burn this church down and do bodily harm to the pastor. The problem with this solution is that there is no end, one side retaliates and the other side follow suit. As the quote notably associated with Gandhi goes "An eye for an eye leave the whole world blind." This kind of response only perpetuates the cycle of violence and pain. Most importantly, it is antithetical to the teachings of Christ. Jesus and later Paul teach to love our enemies and even pray for those who do us harm.

Option B) We can use this proposed event to advance our own agenda. Several people are using this event to bolster their opposition to the Park 51 project, popularly yes misguidedly known as the "Ground Zero Mosque." House Republican leader and Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin have stated that while this group has the Constitutional right to burn the Qur'an it is bad taste which is the same argument they use against the Park 51 project. It is both unfair and unrealistic to compare these two events. The Qur'an burning is an act of hatred and ignorance and the Park 51 center will work to fight against that very same hatred and ignorance. Using this despicable act to further a political or financial agenda makes one an accomplice. You would share in the culpability.

Option C) We can use this proposed event to reignite the blame game domestically and internationally. Another set of arguments that I have heard more and once is "Well they burn American flags in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. So they should deal with it" Another argument that Terry Jones used himself is that "we will burn Qur'ans until they let us build churches in Saudi Arabia." Well the last time I checked this is America and we do things differently. I cannot and will not defend the burning of an American flag except to say that people in this country have the right to burn it. I think it is a deplorable act just like burning Qur'ans. But are we as Christians not called to a higher standard? Do two wrongs make a right? No. Those Muslims who burn American flags are a small percentage of the 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide. We can no more condemn Islam for the acts of their extremists any more than we can condemn Christianity for its extremists like Fred Phelps or Terry Jones.

Option D) We can respond in love. This is the most difficult of the four options because it requires us to respond to something we despise with kindness, gentleness, and love. However, this is the option taught by our Savior. Respond to this hate with love because only love can conquer hate for good. Only love can change the hardened hearts of this group. Only love can show the world who we really are as people of Christ. We need to pray for Terry Jones and his followers. We need to pray that the love and grace of God touches their hearts and heals the hate within them. We also need to turn this negative in to a positive. I propose that we raise $1 for Pakistan flood relief for every Qur'an burned by this group. Not only will this be an act of love to the church, but it will be an act of love to the predominantly Muslim country of Pakistan. They need our help and if we do not help them then the Taliban and Al Qaeda will help them. This is the only option for people of faith. It is the most difficult, but no one said that following Christ was easy.

We will be known by our response. Will we do what feels good or what makes us money? Will we perpetuate the hate in the world or will we conquer it with our love? What will you do?

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