Thursday, September 9, 2010

Kuran burning? We might as well be shooting ourselves in the head...

I felt as though it was appropriate for me to respond to what has been going on in the media about this Florida church's plan to burn copies of the Kuran on the anniversary of September 11th this year.
What I really want to know, is, how, can the Pastor of this church, claim to be loving and serving the Lord Jesus Christ, and yet be showing such hatred towards the Muslim faith?
Now, don't get me wrong, I can understand people's frustration, and anger, even, against the people who were involved in the bombings of September 11th. But in a situation like this, I am reminded of the words of Christ on forgiveness in Matthew 18:21-22:

"Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."
Where is the forgiveness? Where is the love (insert Black Eyed Peas song here...) for our enemies? God has forgiven us of our sins, why can't we extend grace to the people who hurt us?
Sometimes I think that as Christians, we think that it's okay to love everyone who is like us: socially, economically, spiritually, etc. and that that is where our "love for others" should end. We think that it's okay for us to hate our enemies, and it's justified because they have wronged us, or just because they are different from us.
It is easy to hate something you don't understand. But we also need to remember something else: The people involved in the Trade Center bombings on 9/11 were extremists, and terrorists- not every Muslim on the planet thinks that that is the way to take care of things.
Maybe if that Pastor took the time to at least research the Kuran, and look through it, he might be surprised at what he would find.


  1. I think you're right Pastor Nick. I think the guy in florida would be surprised if he read the Koran. I got into a discussion about the problem of Muslim extremism with some friends today on facebook. The consensus seems to be "we must be sensitive" and the big question "Where does cultural understanding end and protecting ourselves against extremism begin?" I think it's clear to most everyone that the guy in florida is a textbook jerk, but he's also claiming the name of Christ. In that sense christians are getting a taste of what moderate muslims feel when they see another muslim extremist blow themselves up.

    The other interesting aside to this whole thing is "where does Jesus really stand on violence?" One person brought up the cleansing of the temple that Jesus did...with the help of a hand-made whip. The bottom line, in most people's minds, seems to be Jesus' "turn the other cheek comment."

    Here's where I'd like to ask you to flex that super-expensive Greenville degree for me. A long time ago I read something (I guess you'd call it exegesis) that claimed the three sayings around that passage (carry the soldier's pack two miles, turn the other cheek, give him your shirt as well) are not advocating meekness but rather a form of non-violent resistance. The reason was in each case the person being acted upon is not simply taking what's being done to them but instead reversing the power structure in order to shine light on the wrong that actor is doing.

    The examples were:

    1. Roman Soldiers can legally make you carry their pack one mile, so take the power back and carry it two. It's illegal for them to do that and they will be chasing you down the road looking like a fool.

    2. If someone sues you for your coat give them your shirt too. (If I'm not mistaken Jesus is quite literally telling them to strip naked) This way they will be ashamed at your nakedness and be forced to see the evil they are really doing.

    3. Turn the other cheek: the first strike would have been a backhand motion - something that a superior does to a subordinate. "Turning the other cheek" then is forcing the person to hit you with the palm of the hand which was a statement of equality. In effect the person is once again turning the tables, showing the evil, and demanding equality.

    What do you think?

    The only other comment I can think of from Jesus that might suggest violence is "Sell your cloak and buy a sword" I never took this one seriously though. Maybe you can shed some light on it.

  2. Well, I will respond according the order in which you commented:

    1. The passage you referenced is Matthew 5:41, and it actually does not specify roman soldiers- the NIV translation says:
    "If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles."
    To be clear, I looked up the Greek text, to get a clearer sense of what was said- here's what I came up with: "And whoever forces you to go with him one mile, go with him two."
    But the point remains- if someone is demanding service of you, go the extra mile (literally, in this case) for the sake of love. In doing that, you are in fact taking away the power from the person who is taking from you, because you are voluntarily going, they are no longer forcing you.

    You are correct, sir- the reference here is Matthew 5:40-
    "And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well."
    that if you give both your tunic and cloak, you will be naked, so you are going without- but again, it is for the sake of love that you do that, and again, you shift the authority to the person who giving, because it is voluntary.

    3. The reference for this one is Matthew 5:39:
    "If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." You are right in the sense that for a right-handed person, the first strike would be a backhanded one- and as a result, the person getting slapped would be insulted.
    As far as the equality thing, I haven't found anything on that, but I can say that the point is to take the extra beating for the sake of love. But again, taking another slap would be voluntary, and shifts the power from the attacker to the defender, if the defender is doing it willingly- the blow loses some of its sting.

    Your final reference comes from Luke 22:36- Where Jesus tells his disciples to:
    "He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one."
    We have to look at this verse in context, though to attempt to understand it.

    This is Luke 22:36-38:
    "He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: 'And he was numbered with the transgressors'; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment. The disciples said, "See, Lord, here are two swords. That is enough," he replied."
    It would be irresponsible of me to assume that when Jesus tells his disciples to "go and buy swords" that I can take that as a literal meaning that I should go out and buy a weapon to defend myself and my family.
    Christ is talking to his disciples here, and this is during his final hours on Earth, before he is arrested and tried and crucified.

    What I found when I looked it up in my commentary (The Expositor's Bible Commentary with the NIV, Volume 8) gave me a few different possibilities:
    It could be an ironic statement by Jesus, or Jesus could be giving the disciples a symbol of impending crisis, which seems appropriate, in light of the fact that he was about to go to the cross.
    Either way, it's a confusing text, and to be quite honest, I'm not really sure what is actually meant by that.
    Any way you look at it, Christ never directly says to go out and strike back against your attackers/offenders, etc.
    I have to come back to the greatest two commandments, according to Jesus: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind,
    with all your soul, and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself."

  3. As for that first point, I'm referring to what I understand was the law at the time this statement would have been made. Jesus doesn't point out that this is something a roman centurion would do because to his audience it's common knowledge that Romans can, by law, force you to carry their pack for a mile. The point is still the same.

    What I'm trying to figure out in all of these statements is what Jesus is really trying to say. I think that most christians take the "turn the other cheek" statement for granted; that we just have to lay down and be abused. I think in light of the cultural context you've shown pretty conclusively that Jesus isn't advocating making yourself into a punching bag literally or figuratively. The point DOES always come back to love and it would take a great deal of love in any of these situations to follow through in the way Jesus prescribes. I get special joy about the 2nd one which could be rephrased "If he tries to sue you unjustly, flash thy love" Jesus must have had some sense of humor; a quality sadly lacking in most preachers.

    I also think you're probably right on the money with the sword statement as far as it not being a justification of violence. The one thing I think you do have to contend with though is John who writes about Jesus making a whip and using it to drive people from the temple. That's a fairly violent scene when you add the whip; which the synoptics do not.

    I do hope you'll keep posting.

    Strange, completely out of left field theological query: Do you have any thoughts on Paul's words about idol worshippers in Romans vs. the words about Idol worship attributed to Paul in Acts? I've been reading about it recently and they seem fairly irreconcilable. Not that most scholars would have any issue with that; Acts was written after Romans after all. But I know that it seems to throw a wrench into the works if you're from the inerrant/infallible perspective. Paul is either being misrepresented or he's lying to get on people's good side.

    I know, random. Just something I was thinking about.

  4. Ryan,

    I only found one reference in Romans in direct reference to "idols" - Romans 2:22, and when I look at that against all of the texts in Acts about idols, to be quite honest, they don't seem that different to me. Maybe I'm not sure what you mean, but it was always my understanding that to Paul, an idol is an idol is an idol. Period.