Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Feel Like Crying

Last week, a Dallas Baptist mega-church pastor said that all Muslims are evil. Or, at least the Muslim religion is evil. One and the same. He said it on television for all the world to hear. Painting with the most judgmentally broad and theologically and historically uninformed brush within politically correct reach, he effectively condemned all Muslims based on the activity of one Muslim in the ninth century A.D.

He knows all of this to be true because, well, because he believes it and because he read it somewhere, no documentation cited. No mention was made of what Christians did to Muslims during the Crusades during the Middle Ages. I wonder if the pastor, like me, doesn’t even know so much as one Muslim by name or has ever had a personal conversation with a Muslim.

A Florida pastor is leading his small congregation to burn scores of copies of the Quran on the anniversary of 9/11. Despite pleas from everyone from the Pope to a four-star general with boots on the ground in Afghanistan and who is concerned for the safety of troops actually fighting real terrorists, the pastor believes this is what God has told him to do and is planning on going ahead and lighting the bonfire. As though, like Hitler, he believes that burning books destroys ideas.

Isn’t that what the radical Islamic terrorists believed as they nosed-dived hijacked airliners into the twin towers nine years ago? God told them to. Incinerate, verbally or literally, whatever is different from you.

Of course, it’s always easier for so-called evangelicals to say such things, in Dallas or Florida, because that’s where their pulpits are located, safely removed by thousands of miles from the dying and those who actually have the courage to do it. I wonder if the pastors’ perspectives might change if they had to remove their feet from their mouths, lace up combat boots and sling M-16’s themselves.

Are we less evil because of what we believe or because of the religious worldview to which intellectually subscribe? Are we less evil simply because Jesus was holy and we say we believe in Jesus, even if, in the way we actually live, we are self-centered, greed-driven consumer-gluttons, unforgiving political and socio-economic segregationists?

Even the venomous vitriol spouted by Republicans against Democrats and Democrats against Republicans who all then sing, “Oh, How He Loves You and Me,” must rise like a putrid stench in the nostrils of the Father who calls all of us His children. What is evil, anyway?

Long before the Nazis lit the ovens in Eastern Europe that eventually helped incinerate six million Jews during the Holocaust, someone started talking about how evil the Jews supposedly were. Religious leaders were among those who at least condoned the vitriol and the eventual extermination of European Jews, all in the name of God, of course. We think evil and then we speak evil and then we do evil and the rest is evil history.

The world will not be transformed for what is truly good and not evil by those who spew hate in the name of political correctness, especially those who do so in the name of the Jesus who conquered real evil by his own, personal, blood-soaked death. Just because it’s said from behind a pulpit doesn’t make it true. Jesus really does love all the children of the world, red and yellow, black and white, Democrat or Republican, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, or whatever.

No one has the right to speak evil of anyone for whom Christ died. The world will only be transformed by those who speak and then live out the gospel of the one who said, with his own mouth and because God really did tell him to, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). Strange. Jesus didn’t specify the peace we preach or the name of the political party or religious affiliation in which we do so, but the peace we actually make.

As we approach the anniversary of 9/11, there is a sick feeling in my stomach. I cried that day nine years ago. I feel like crying again. How sad that all of those people died, not to mention those since, and no one seems to have learned so much as one thing about why.