Friday, September 10, 2010

To burn or not to burn! Is that really the question?

If, ultimately, the goal of Christianity is to introduce people to Christ by living out the message of the gospel authentically (and indeed it is), then how is that goal accomplished by burning Qurans? In fact, judging from the vociferous reactions from around the globe, if anything, such an act would not only serve to derail the message of the gospel, but it would put many Americans (and Christ-followers) in harms way. For instance, this Saturday (proposed “burning day”), my son’s football team, the USF Bulls will be playing against Florida up in Gainesville. As a result of the antics of the “Quran burning congregation” additional security is required for the stadium and the town. The lives of these kids are unnecessarily endangered, as well as those of the over 90,000 people who will be in attendance simply to watch a college football game. Additionally, General Petreaus has made it abundantly clear that burning Qurans would simply provide unnecessary fodder for the Taliban to engage even more dramatically in harming US troops stationed in Afghanistan. The effects of this singular act would be more far reaching than anyone can imagine.

Amazingly, the pastor of “Quran burning church” has stated that he is simply trying to be obedient to God’s will. I give him the benefit of the doubt! I believe that he is being sincere (yep, go ahead and call me gullible). But I also believe that he is sincerely wrong. I don’t know what his church background is or how he’s been raised, but I do know that the Scriptures make it succinctly clear that neither Islam nor Moslems, nor any other religion for that matter, are the enemy. Jesus died for all people and He made it abundantly clear that the enemy against whom “all people” battle is Satan. The way to win this war is to snatch people who are unwittingly ensnared in the enemies clutches, out of the “enemies” camp and into God’s camp. The only proven way to “snatch” people out of the clutches of the enemy is to try and understand why they are the way they are, and why they think the way they do, all the while loving them unconditionally. That’s the way Jesus did it (remember the woman caught in the act of adultery?), and that’s the way He’s called us to do it.

So, while we’re ranting and raving against this beleaguered pastor, let’s spare a thought and a prayer for him and his family too, recognizing that whatever has made him view God and the Scriptures through the lens that he does, also needs a touch of God’s love, mercy, and grace. Before you begin to attack me for riding the fence on this let me unequivocally state that I’m not a pacifist; I’m simply a Christ-follower learning to live out the love of God that is so desperately needed in our love-starved world. After all, love does cover a multitude of sins, right? And that includes yours and mine too. What are your thoughts about this?

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Joseph,

I have really been meditating on this event, and the building of the mosque near Ground Zero. Our world is in such flux.

To be clear, I think the Koran burning things was a terrible idea, and not one I think God is behind. You are right in much of what you wrote.

What I am wrestling with is the response to this whole thing.

It was reported the Sec. Gates called this Pastor and asked him not to do this. The Iman from NY said not to do this, or there will be consequences against Americans, and if you listen to the tv news stations, people are scared to make the Muslims angry.

It is clear, America seems afraid of Muslims.

So, if the victory for a terrorist is that people are scared into inaction, does our fear say they have already won?

It seems like we are so scared to make Muslims angry in any way.

Does that not speak to the nature of their religion?

If so, what are we do to as Christians?

Do we do nothing? If Koran burning is wrong, what is the right thing to do?

I am very concerned about where our country is headed.

This "tolerate everything, stand for nothing" culture sounds good on paper, but history shows that in this context, ultimately someone rises up who says I STAND FOR THE RIGHT THING AND YOU BETTER GET IN LINE AND FOLLOW and they take over.

I am concerned about who will enter into the vacuum.

How do you think we should prepare?

Joseph said...

Let me begin by saying I wish you hadn't posted anonymously as I'd love to be able to dialog with you openly about this.

You spoke well when you stated that "Our world is in such flux." The problem stems in part from not being able to make the distinction between radical Islam and Islam. Radical Islam undoubtedly has a militant and ignoble agenda, but in classifying all of Islam as terrorists, evil, or the enemy, we make the very same mistake that people make about Christianity and Christ-followers.

We don't all believe the same way, we don't all see a demon under every unturned rock, we don't all see life as a battle of "us against them." Yet, this singular act will further solidify in people's minds that "Christians" are all about what they're against and not what they stand for. To be sure, fear, under any circumstance is not the right approach to an issue, but wisdom is a requisite quality in dealing with issues that are at once spiritual and yet emotionally charged political issues.

It's been said ad naseum that you need to pick what mountain to die on. While fighting our daily battles we must not lose sight of the primary purpose: Reach those outside of a convenant relationship with Christ with the message of the Gospel. The overarching message of the gospel was and still is love.

Peter wanted the militant approach in the garden of Gethsemane and he demonstrated that fact by violently removing the ear of Malcheus, the High Priest's servant. Jesus, though not a pacifist by any means, recognized that though Rome ruled with an iron fist by instilling fear in everyone (much the same as Radical Islam), this was still not the time or the battle to fight. For sure I don't have all the answers, but I do know that burning Qurans does not advance the case of the gospel one iota!

Tracy Dush said...

I find it really ironically sad that his church is called Dove World Outreach. The dove is symbolic of peace, and as to world outreach, this act unfortunately won't promote that goal. This seems more like an Outrage center. The mark of genuine believers is our love- for our Lord, our fellow believers, and a lost world. Prayer is definitely in order for this sadly misguided congregation and for the safety of those he has put at risk. His freedom of speech is not a license to jeopardize others.

Hope said...

When Jesus sent his disciples out there remain one unhealed man - he had demons. Jesus said, "this type only comes out through prayer." I'm ashamed to be associated with people who shove the Gospel down peoples throats - we are supposed to feed the sheep. I can tell you this, you can burn my bible but you can't remove the word that has been sown in my heart. And you know what else really bothers me...you need to earn the right to speak into someone's life you don't force it on them. Let your deeds show the light that is in you.No one so many people detest Christians. Pray for them and serve them as you serve all those you love ... without a hidden agenda. They will see Him in you and they may be drawn to His Light without you speaking even a word.

Hope R. Clark said...

This pastor said today on the news that there is a double standard in the media...that radical Muslims burn Bibles all the time, but no one ever talks about it. He also said that this Koran burning was a message to those same radical Muslims.

Gandhi said, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."

Did I miss something? ...or are there still hungry people to feed, abused children to help, and destitute families to care for?

I'm just so bothered by this idiotic waste of time.

Joseph said...

Hope Clark, very well said! Has the message of the gospel now been reduced to religion? Because people burn the Bible ergo: we can burn the Quran? Like (the other) Hope said "you can burn my bible but you can't remove the word that has been sown in my heart."

If we would simply live out Christ and His message, we'd be viewed very differently in such an angry and confused world. Let them burn Bibles, in the meantime we'll continue to feed the hungry, help abused children, care for destitute families, and share the love of Christ!

Bob said...

So many thoughts to consider but the ONE thing that seems a prevailing one is that; this is a "spirit realm" very strategic chess game and the powers that be are exposing their hand and the whole world is watching. This is a battle against many different, (Legions) of religions and we need to differentiate mankind from religious systems. Jesus died for people not man's interpretation of his gospel. It's a done deal in this "chess game", Jesus already won! I do believe that our Creator assigns us to various posts in His kingdom; perhaps some to hold up "anti-abortion" signs, some to speak from a pulpit to FEED the flock, some to function in the local assembly, some to guide in worship...the list goes on, but it's all for one purpose, to glorify the one who won for us the battle of the ages. The battle gets ugly and I believe that being "nice" can be a dangerous enemy of progress but the focus is on souls NOT religious ideologies. God have mercy on those of us who may be entrenched in our religious strongholds and help us to come outside our minds where Angels are dancing.

Joseph said...

Bob, quite astute my friend!

Rob said...

I wonder what they are going to do with all the Qurans they have stockpiled for the bonfire that never was. What a conundrum!

Book burning always stirs up people's passions, and for many different reasons. Torched Qurans would probably only serve as kindling for torched Bibles, and who knows where such a conflagration would end? The German author Heinrich Heine drew upon centuries of horrific European experience when he wrote that those who start by burning books often end by burning people.

There is already too much angry, pointless and tragic destruction in the world. We do not need to preoccupy ourselves with arguments over who are the worst offenders when it comes to destruction, or with contests to find out who can become the worst. What we need is something more constructive: Building bridges is better than burning them.

Joseph said...

Wow Rob! For being the Chairman of the Atheists of Florida, you're in very real danger of sounding like a true, authentic Christ-follower! :)

Seriously though, I appreciate your comments and couldn't agree more. I love the phrase, "Building bridges is better than burning them." Sadly, because it takes more work to build than to destroy, the default action is typical destroying.

Hope we'll connect soon.