I want to choose #1, but in light of the current news about an evangelical whack-job in Florida who wants to commemorate September 11 with the burning of the Koran, I am leaning toward one of the other three options. Once again, I am flabbergasted at the narrow-minded intolerance of some of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I get the fact that whole religions are judged solely on the actions of a few fringe elements — that’s the point. Many American Christians think they know all about Islam because of a segment of terrorists who claimed they were acting in the name of Allah. Now, many people will think Christianity is all about religious intolerance because of our own segment of terrorists claiming they are doing some holy thing. It makes me sick. It makes me sad. It makes me ashamed.
At the very worst, others around the world are misguided, unenlightened, ignorant, and deluded — none of which should result in a violent response on our part. Where is the compassion and love? Where do we extend a hand of fellowship to bridge differences and open honest dialog. Certainly some will reject it, but others will accept it. At the very best, people are seeking truth from a variety of directions and by God’s grace and in God’s time all will be sorted out, and we won’t have to waste so much time arguing about who is in and who is out. The bottom line for me is this: violence begets violence, and if we as Christians hold any claim to “a more excellent way” then the burden lies with us to break the spiral of violence.
This is not to say we are doormats. We must stand firm to the individuals and organizations that seek to kill, maim, mutilate, and terrorize. But we cannot, must not, extend our response in broad, destructive generalizations of a whole religion. Islam is no more a religion of violence than Christianity — both have histories that should make us shudder and repent, but at their core is a life-affirming and restorative vision. The best of Islam and the best of Christianity are more similar than different. It is at the fringe that both fray terribly and give each a bad reputation.
Let’s not lose our heads. Book-burning of any kind is a throw-back to primitive and unenlightened times, but burning the sacred writings of another faith is an abomination. Disagree? Fine. Debate? Excellent. Defend? You betcha’! Attack and destroy? No way! That’s not who we are — at least, not anymore. It is time we finally put an end to the white-sheets-and-hoods mentality that has done so much damage in the past. We are not holier than others, just lucky. We are blessed, and we have a God who we claim is love. Let’s act like it, and stop behaving exactly like those we say we are better than.
Obviously I am indignant. This is nothing more than a personal rant. I am fed up with other Christians giving the church the reputation of being petty, small-minded, arrogant, unjust, unloving, and intolerant. We are better than that, and I want people to know it. I would love for us to stand up to intolerance in all its forms and simply say “this is wrong.” I understand that this may be exactly what the folks in Florida think they are doing, but I disagree. I cannot reconcile what I believe about Jesus the Christ with such behavior.