Lest We Forget

Nine years after the tragic attacks on 9/11, what have we learned?  Have we learned to folly of fanatical expressions of our religious faith?  Have we learned that turning whole cultures of people into an enemy is short-sighted and stupid?  Have we developed a deeper awareness of other faith’s, extending hands of friendship and fellowship to create peace- and grace-filled relationships?  There is a strong sense that America is actually less tolerant today than nine year’s ago.  The current furor over burning the Koran (thank God, literally, that this isn’t happening after all…) is just the latest indication that getting along with others is not really a core Christian value.  Nope, we seem to have a need to win, to be right, to be superior, and to punish any and all who disagree with us.

So how does this make us different from those we rush to condemn?  Almost a decade ago, a fringe segment of a radical terrorist movement committed atrocities in the name of God.  Immediately, voices around the world condemned these acts, including a majority of Islamic leaders and practicing Muslims.  The acts of terrorism were not the will of Allah, nor were they the desire of the majority of faithful Muslims.  They were the acts of some troubled and twisted minds, led astray and deluded as to what true faith is all about.

I simply know too many Muslims whom I admire, respect, and understand. Their is not a hostile, hateful, hurtful bone in their body.  They seek a world of peace — and, yes, they believe Islam is the true faith, just as I believe Christianity is the true faith.  We disagree — and we love and honor one another.  We are brothers and sisters despite our differences.  We are part of a human community, and we each believe that the others don’t fully understand our position, otherwise they would see the wisdom and believe as we do.  I don’t hate them for that, and they don’t hate me.  We talk about our faiths, and we sometimes get angry.  But anger doesn’t damage our relationship.

And maybe this is the point.  We HAVE a relationship.  We know each other.  We like each other.  We care for each other.  And in the context of a relationship, we are able to rise above our differences to find common ground.  When “others” are merely faceless masses, there is no possibility of relationship.  It is easy to hate and despise people who are stereotypes or caricatures.  We do it all the time with politics, and it is easy to do with religion.

But it has only been nine short years since we paid the price for religious fanaticism, intolerance, stereotyping and pointless aggression.  It has been too recent for us to forget the important lessons the experience taught.  Responding in kind makes us no better than the people who committed such heinous crimes.  There is a better way, and it is time we committed ourselves to living the better way.  Hate is no answer, acting out of anger is a losing proposition.  September 11 should be a reminder to us all that the healing power of love and grace are needed now more than ever.

4 replies

  1. Well said, Dan and thank you!! I’ve been thinking about this all week too and we still have a ways to go. I was at our first CA/NV UMC Young Adults Conference last month and one of our workshops was on other faith traditions and one of the stories we heard was St. Paul’s UMC in Fremont, CA who shared their building with a mosque for a short time, plus still maintains a relationship with our Muslim brothers and sisters (in fact, the street both buildings share is Peace Terrace). Cal-Aggie House at UC Davis also has a similar practice by welcoming and engaging in dialogue with other faith traditions (http://cahouse.org/). We need to keep the conversations going and continue working for the common good.

  2. To be fair, many people in this world live under intense fear of Islam, and many of them feel those who do not see this threat just “don’t get it”.

    Many of my close friends are Muslims from many countries and my second language is Indonesian which is the largest Islamic nation in he world. But I’ve also had very close friends from Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia, Kuwait, Yemen, Eritrea, and elsewhere who were not just passing acquaintances but who were very close friends.

    Still, one cannot escape the fact that people fear Islam more than they fear Christianity. Some may beg to differ. But, many have complained bitterly that our tax money was used to support pornographic and offensive art which included a crucifix with Jesus on it sitting in a vial of urine. When Christians spent their money to send copies of the Bible to soldiers in Afghanistan, Bibles were burnt–not by some fringe Islamic fanatic group, but by our own military. Would the military have burned the Qu’ran were Muslims to send them to our troops in a nation where Christianity may be more prevalent? If not, why? Fear of violence?

    And what nation exists today that would incarcerate or impose a death sentence on a 15 year old girl for converting to a religion other than Christianity, or leading another girl to do so? What nation requires Mosques to have a sign saying, “Not for Christians or Jews or Hindus, etc.”?

    In so-called “Christian” nations, people blaspheme Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with reckless abandon without fear of death or imprisonment or lawsuit. But, when a pastor in Melbourne, Australia picks up a Qu’ran and reads from it and shows why he disagrees with the teachings therein, suddenly he is dragged into court and threatened with a lawsuit so heavy that it takes around a million dollars in legal fees to defend him.

    How well do Muslims respect freedom of religion of Christians and others in Saudi Arabia? Iran? Somalia? Maldives? Yemen? Afghanistan? Uzbekistan? Eritrea? Turkmenistan? Comoros? Chechnya? Pakistan? Egypt? Sudan? Iraq? Azerbaijan? Brunei? Mauritania? Algeria?

    I have felt comfortable in Indonesia, and it is far down the list at 41’s among nations that persecute Christians. However, even at 41st place, somewhere around 500-600 churches were burned during the last couple of decades I believe. How is Bangladesh? Kazakhstan? Or northern Nigeria? I think Malaysia is not too bad, but even so, I have heard that churches are supposed to post a banner letting Muslims know that their Christian services are not for Muslims lest any Muslims be converted to Christianity.

    I hear Christians being bashed for “intolerance”. How are the atheists in North Korea doing in regard to tolerance? I hear Christians flee from North Korea to China to escape religious persecution. how is China doing? I have relatives there and I might actually like to go there myself. Some persecution continues there, but Christians also experience that in Australia, too, and here in America. How about the Hindus in Orissa, India where converts to Christianity from the Untouchables cast had their village torched while the government turned its eyes the other way?

    Our people suffer torture, beheading, spearing, incarceration in squalid conditions, burnings, beatings, and I’ve read about 170,000 Christians are martyred every year, and I don’t think that means they died in the act of killing others but rather that they were killed simply for being Christians or sharing Christ with someone else.

    We’re made to feel commanded to respect religious teachings in “love” and “tolerance” when they threaten hellfire and damnation on those who embrace them. We feel threatened yet called to return good for evil. We’re forced to live in a world that demands silence and disobedience to our God. And somehow it’s OK to force the world to fear speaking against some satanic book written by a false prophet and cult leader, yet it’s totally OK to blaspheme Jesus Christ and burn the Bible.

    Maybe it is not reasonable to expect Satan to behave properly, fairly, and in a civil manner. But, I don’t think that means we have to tolerate continual abuse and terror on our nations and our families and people of our belief either.

    There are times when someone wages war and we have to return fire and put up with the losses until the victory is ours. And there are times when the battle is not worth fighting.

    How precious is freedom of religion to you? Freedom of speech? Freedom of the press? How precious is your family to you? Your nation? Is it OK if we’re overrun by Islamic clerics?

    Would you say that could never happen? If you were to read the list of nations I mentioned above, might you become convinced that there is not much protection in assuming, “It will never happen to us”? Or would you do as they did and think this whole notion is nothing but fear mongering and ignorance and Islamophobia?

    Muslims, Christians, Jews, Atheists, Hindus, Buddhists, and all of us need protection and safety and to be free to live in environments free of the threat of violence and abuse.

    So, if people use the name of our religion, whatever that may be, and threatens the lives and safety and freedom of others, then we need to do something to speak out against that. And it cannot be the Christians alone absorbing the blows from everyone else and taking it peacefully.

    • Having travelled the globe, my only response is that there abeaqre many in our world who fear Christians and atrocities done in the name of our religion. Having lived fifteen years in our own “enlightened” south and declining invitations to Ku Klux Klan rallies on an annual basis, I can say you don’t have to travel very far to find people in our own country terrorized by “good” Christians. There are terrorists of every stripe, hailing from almost every faith base, and I maintain that they do not represent the majority in any case. Islam is about 1400 years old. Compare it with Christianity at 1400 years and it can be quite illuminating. Our Inquisition bears a spooky resemblence to what we hate most about Islamic extremists.

      I can’t answer your questions about how precious things are to me, because the world doesn’t revolve around me. There is no freedom or liberty you list that is more precious to me than I would extend it to others as well. My guiding values are justice and equality. I love the blessings I enjoy. I long for a world where what I want and what I need isn’t more important than what everyone else wants and needs. I’m simply not that important.

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