My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

07 February 2006

Here's the sermon from Proverbs 22 last Sunday evening:

pdf
mp3

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This could be an interesting movie: The Second Chance. It's about two pastors from "different sides of the tracks"... perhaps it only popped out to me because it bears on my daily work. From the trailer, it's hard to tell if it will be an accurate rendering of the gospel in real life and an accurate critique of American evangelicalism or if it will bear more on the social justice part of the gospel, which seems to be much more popular these days.

Here's the homepage.

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Two weeks ago, Garrison Keillor brought Prairie Home Companion to Purdue University. It happened to occur during our annual congregational meeting, so I wasn't tempted to go. But the wife and I were listening last night and it was a lot of fun.

Perhaps the best part was hearing the Purdue Fight Song sung on national radio by the Glee Club. All the stars seemed to be aligning...(it's in segment 2).

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What do you think about the many Muslim riots over the Mohammed cartoons?

Here's the latest (NATO troops firing on protestors in Kabul) - you can also read past related stories from this page. You can see the cartoons here.

Some questions for discussion:

  • Since we're always being told that Islam is a "noble" religion, a religion of peace...will the widespread violence of these protests be enough to convince the world otherwise? Is it time to see what's just below the mellow surface of Islam?
  • Apparently, many Muslims are rioting because it is against their law to have any pictures of Mohammed, to prevent idolatry. Is there a lesson here for Christians? Not to imply that we ought to be violently protesting anything, but are we passionate enough about God's laws to, say, call the NFL to move their games off the Lord's Day?
  • Do these riots scare anyone else other than me? Thousands of people, all over the world, shouting and burning and shooting with abandon - how long can it be before this comes to Indiana?
  • Conversely, does the recklessness and the vitriole of these protests encourage you in a roundabout way? Think about it this way: Christians all over the world don't shoot and burn stuff when Jesus is made fun of through cartoons or other media. Why should we? The weapons of our warfare are spiritual and Jesus can take care of His own name, thank you very much. But if your weapons aren't spiritual, if you're in another camp where all you've got in the quiver are the same old bullets and riots, then the very intensity of your protest gives testimony to the shortness of your cause. Jesus doesn't need us to burn stuff when people make fun of Him. Mohammed, on the other hand, has no way to defend himself, no true spiritual power, so he must resort to inflaming his disciples on his behalf.
  • Any other lessons I'm missing?

10 comments:

Micah & Emily said...

That movie is directed by non other than Steve Taylor of CCM fame! And it has Michael W. Smith! Sweet.

-DL said...

Riots Shmiots! Are these “religious riots” not the reaction of a "godless religion?"... if such terms exist. Anger is a response the average person has when their core beliefs and most precious values are threatened or mocked. In fact, I believe that the only real reason we do not take to the streets, riot and burn things when an angry, anti-Christian “letter to the editor” is printed in the local paper is because our Father has given us wonderful words of comfort to rely on in such situations. Ponder 1 Peter 3:14-17, But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.

Wow, “Have no fear of them, nor be troubled….!!!” That is sweeeet….read it a few times….when it really sinks in it’s so cool! What this tells me is that no matter how hostile the non-believers are, it is my place as a Christian and a believer of the true and inspired Word of God, to not be troubled. What a relief! It is clear by the rioting that this teaching is either not present or not followed in the Muslim faith. Jared, I don’t think that riots of the same magnitude are likely in the Hoosier state, but if they were to occur I’m sure our Law Enforcement would be ready and willing to meet the challenge.

JBlogger said...

Two very quick comments on the Islamic riots:

First of all, I'm a bit surprised that you included a link to the cartoon images. As a RP pastor, I would think that you would be particularly sensitive to the Islamic desire to not show images of Muhammad. It's one thing to support freedom of the press, but it's another thing to support and condone what the free press prints.

Secondly: These riots are clearly not just a reaction to the cartoons. Like the LA riots a few years ago or the recent problems in Paris, this is powder keg situation, and the cartoons just provided the spark. It says very little about a supposed culture of violence in Islam, but it says a great deal about the cultural and ethnic and economic pressure many Muslims are under. This kind of violence does not break out randomly--it's a response to a social group feeling as though its back is up against the wall. For example, you don't see Christians currently engaging in this kind of mass violence (although they have in the past, creating a bilical mandate to do so, and continue to do violence in small numbers today), because they still feel as though they still have social and political outlets for their grievances. Those who do use violence in the name of Christ, like the current Muslim rioters, do so because they believe that American society provides them with no outlets.

All of this is not to condone the Islamic riots (or any Christian violence), but to complexify the issue. It seems like you've set up a purely evil, scary "straw man" to do battle with, and that does nothing but generate an ongoing spirit of fear.

Jared said...

Jon, thanks for your comments. They helped me shake some cobwebs loose in my head. As far as posting the link to the pictures, I really don't feel the need to acquiesce to the laws of another religion. Gideon tore down idols; Paul put the Diana-worshipers out of business. I really don't feel much responsibility to Muslim sensibilities on an international level; personally, I wouldn't have those cartoons up in my office or home, especially if I knew Muslims might be coming over.

As for your next thought, I appreciate it, but I think I mostly disagree. There may be some economic pressures, some feeling of having no other way to get one's voice heard...but for you to assert that the riots were based in economic frustration has no more basis than for me to assert that it comes from a religion of violence.

Or to put it another way: if this is a powder keg situation, why is it a powder keg? Is it a powder keg because Muslims are being oppressed and kept down throughout the world, especially in the civilized countries receiving much of the violence? Or is it something else, the spiritual wasteland of an empty religion? Do you really think Muslims don't have outlets for their grievances in England or Denmark?? Everybody and their mother is listening to what Islam & Muslims are saying these days.

"Those who do use violence in the name of Christ, like the current Muslim rioters, do so because they believe that American society provides them with no outlets." Here again, I have to disagree. Those who do violence in the name of Christ do so because they have no real faith in Christ, no faith in the promises of Scripture, not because we have no outlets. I would actually assert that the church has fewer valid outlets in America than Islam does (though I recognize that's debatable). But our Holy Book has directions for our warfare: prayer & preaching.

I guess what I'm getting at is that there really is a fundamental difference between these two religions, and right now it's more evident than at other times. Is Islam anything but "purely evil"? For those who believe & confess that Christ alone is Lord and that Mohammed is definitely not his prophet to be afraid - is this wrong or illogical?

Thanks again for the comments. I hope my disagreement has been cordial :)

JBlogger said...

Jared --

Thanks for the response. Your disagreement was absolutely cordial, and I'll try to briefly respond in kind :)

A culture that devalues Muslim images for political purposes will do the same thing with Christian images. Therefore, what an international paper does to offend Muslim sensibilities remains relevent, and the love of Christ does not stop when I leave my home or office.

I'm not completely comfortable with the reference to Gideon as a justification. This was a particular mandate of God at a particular time. Historically and socially, those Christians (as they would call themselves) who have engaged in violence in modern times have used these particular OT mandates as justification for their actions (see for example, the justifications of those who have bombed abortion clinics).

"Everybody and their mother is listening to what Islam & Muslims are saying these days." I have to disagree. This is like saying that everybody and their mother was listening to Christians back in 1920's Indiana, when the KKK had huge influence in the state. You say that there is a "fundamental difference" between the religions of Islam and Christianity, but that's a serious glossing of history. And it gives no account for the underlying discourse of violence that exists just beneath the surface of contemporary American Evangelicalism (see the success of Tim Lahaye's Left Behind series or Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ).

Saying that Muslims are under particular social and economic pressures does not deny that their religious texts and discourses provide them with a "spiritual" justification for their violence. But this has been true throughout Christian history as well. Of course the Christian violence represents a lack of trust in Christ, but that doesn't expunge the acts themselves.

In short, it seems as though you're arguing for a situation in which we throw all Muslims into the same camp and point out the splinter in their collective eye, while actively forgetting (or at best misremembering) the log in our own eyes.

I hope this has been a cordial response. Thanks for making me think:)

Jared said...

Jon - I just posted a good article by Piper about this subject. It gets to the whole "insulting" bit, in that Christians should be most adept at being insulted whilst other religions cannot tolerate an insult because there's nothing else other than honor to protect.

Also, I have a hard time with the "love of Christ" being equated with cow-towing to Muslim sensibitilies.

Gideon's was a personal mandate, but it is also our collective call to "tear down strongholds" (2 Cor. 10:4), of which Gideon is a prime example.

I think I disagree with your equating my statement to 1920's indiana (although I don't understand your comment entirely). And your accusation of a "discourse of violence" in American evangelicalism is likewise confusing.

While I am all for getting the log out of our eye, I simply reject the idea that you can put Christianity and Islam on the same plane as it relates to their historical tendencies toward violence. Have there been times when Christians have resorted to unbiblical violence? Indeed. Has Christianity spread the globe by violence? Not historically. Have there been times when Muslims have resorted to un-koran-ish peace? Indeed. Has Islam spread the globe by violence? Yep. I realize this is a grand generalization, but that doesn't make it less true.

Every Muslim is in the same camp (the camp of Islam); I realize not every Muslim subscribes to the same amount or type of jihad. To say that, in regards to violence, there is a splinter in Islam's eye and a log in Christianity's eye is almost flabbergasting...and a great tactic for keeping the church from confidently proclaiming the truth of Christ above all other religions.

Thanks again for your thoughts.

-Jared

JBlogger said...

I think that Paul's behavior in Acts 17 and his writing in 1 Cor. 14:23 clearly set a standard for Christian respect to those outside the faith. This is not cow-towing. It's demonstrating appropriate sensitivity so that our conscience may be clear and we can be above reproach as we speak. We can, should, and must critique and denounce the violence of Muslim groups, their mistreatment of women, and their willingness to destroy life (including their own) to promote a message of radical destruction. We must also speak out about Christ. But I don't see how either of these goals is served by joining with heathen newspapers in mocking and offending Muslims and making a bad name for ourselves among them. If we are reviled for speaking the name of Christ, that's one thing, but these cartoons are not doing that. We can critique the hypocrisy (as far as I've read, James's Wall Street Journal article is accurate about the Qu'ran), but that's not the same as joining in with a mocking world that laughs to hide its own pain. We should weep and pray for the Muslim world, but this is not a time for Paul to spit on the Greek idols before standing up to preach the unknown God.

I will, for the sake of discussion, allow your argument that Christianity and Islam are not on the same plane in terms of violence, and, depending on how you define the terms, you're abolutely right. In any event, that wasn't the point of my splinter/log comment. As I read that passage, the point of the log is blindness. It's easy to read the Muslim world in a particular way, and not understand how they read us (or the justfication they might have for their anger towards us). I think it's interesting that, just a few verses below Matt. 7:4, we find the command to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. My point about 1920's Indiana was that, in the same way we would think it terribly unjust for someone to apply the speech of a radical fringe group that self-identifies as Christian (like the KKK) to all of Christianity, we must be wise in not over-zealously applying the speech of radical Muslim groups to all of Islam.

The whole point of a log is that we can't or won't see it in ourselves. In talking about the Islamic splinter and our own log, I'm not talking about the historical reality of which religion has served as a justification for what act of violence and when (that's debatable, and ultimately irrelevant to this issue). Instead, I'm talking about perception. As Christians, it's easy to increase our perception of our own righteousness by limiting our definition of Christianity to those who agree with us, but many who hear of Christians do not share our self-serving definitions.

For many, if not most, in the Islamic world, America is a Christian nation, and when they see prisoners tortured, people sold for a barrel of oil, and a culture that markets impurity, they associate it with Christianity. Certainly, this is not a just conflation (or, if it is, that's another issue), but the point is that we do no good by pretending that we (as opposed to Christ) are the righteous in a fight against an unjustly simplified version of the Islamic world.

Again, we can and must critique Islam, and it might even be appropriate to point out ways in which the religion lends itself to violence, but we can't afford to be naive in our approach to the Muslim world or our own. It's easy to make up definitions and use them to uplift ourselves at the cost of others, but this is not what we are called to do as Christians. Appropriate humility is not opposed to confidence in proclaiming Christ, and the Christian community only damages its reputation and its witness by pretending otherwise.

Finally, I agree with Piper's essay on an ideal level, but I'm not convinced that it does anything persuasive for discourse on the ground (at least as far as it goes).

In general, I'm not sure I'm making sense, at least partially because I'm really tired, but I hope this at least clarifies some of my thoughts. My goal is not political correctness, but Christian weakness (as in 2 Cor. 12:10).

Jeff Kessler said...

I can't stand it any longer...I will add a couple comments.

I liked Piper's post...I'm going to try to track down Grant's tapes of the worldview conf., he mentioned. I'm sure they will be worth every penny that they cost. James' comments were right on as well. I think we (the West) are in for a long battle w/Islam. One of the problems is that they know for what they are fighting. We (I'm talking our civil govt, not the church) fight for "freedom", "free markets", "democracy", etc. Wouldn't it be great if the USA was a Christian nation and wasn't afraid to say so?

The next few decades might be bloody. The war could become very intense. But Christ the King sits in Heaven and "laughs" at Islam (Psalm 2) and sometime before He returns Islam will be crushed. "For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet." (I Cor. 15) In the meantime, our civil governments should keep the powder dry, our churches should continue to send missionaries and Bibles to the Middle East and the rest of us should pray alot.

As for the violenc issue. Violence is not wrong in and of itself. What is wrong is unlawful violence (riots, revolutions, etc.) and trying to spread one's religion at the edge of the sword. For most of her history (and there are exceptions, I suppose) the Church has not evangelized with the sword. Islam has used the sword to gain converts from its very infancy.


Jeff K

JBlogger said...

Jeff --

Thanks for your comments. I really appreciate the perspective, but I have a couple of questions:

First of all, in the past, countries that claimed Christianity as their national religion have been responsible for the crusade attacks on the (Muslim) Moors, the conquest of a large portion of Africa and both the American continents, among others. These acts of expansion and conquest were always supported by a vocal assemblage of priests, missionaries, pastors, and laity, who claimed that they were necessary in order to reach the unsaved and adapt them to European and American culture. How is this different from the acts of violence which Islam has engaged in to spread its faith?

Please understand, I'm not refuting your claim, and you're quite right that Islam began as a religion using the sword to convert, while Christianity did not. I'm really just trying to understand. You say "the church has not evangelized with the sword," but the recent church hasn't had a sword to evangelize with (unlike Islam, where the religion is intimately connected with the military). Back in the time when the church held the sword of the state, it seems as though they very much tried to evangelize with it. Am I misreading the historical situation? Or are you defining "the church" in a different way than I'm thinking of? Or is there something else I'm missing?

Secondly, if the United States was an unashamedly Christian nation, and engaged in a war with Islam, what would it be fighting for? Wouldn't it be doing battle for the name of Christ, to convert or force Muslims to bow before his name? How is this not evangelizing by violence?

On the other hand, as Christians, what should our relationship be to the civil government that know not what they're fighting for? Although America mouths Christian words, they are not fighting for Christianity.

Finally, you may be right about a full-scale war with the Islamic nations in the coming years. But, assuming that's true, I want to have a better sense of what the Christian response should be. When I said my goal was Christian weakness at the end of the last post, I meant that I want to find a place where the Church can rest in the strength of Christ, rather than the stength of the civil government or its own righteousness. It seems, to me, unbliblical for us to put our faith in strength of arms, or to compare our own righteousness with that of those outside the faith (including Islam). I know that's not what you're doing, but many Christians seem to be, and the recent Christian discourse on this topic has become so muddled with imprecise definitions that I'm finding it almost impossible to sort through at times.

Thank you again for your comments, and I hope you feel that this series of posts is productive. I deeply respect both your and Jared's opions, and I really don't want to just annoy or to sit around discussing empty words, so if either of you thinks this conversation is degenerating to that level, please let me know, and I'll stop posting.

Jeff Kessler said...

Jon:

I won't be able to answer all your questions with this post as I don't have the time now.

Re. your paragraph that starts with "Secondly, if..."
Even an unashamedly Christian nation should only fight for defensive purposes, not to evangelize...that is up to the church, not civil govt. So the fighting would be in response to our citizens being killed or our building being blown up (Rom. 13). So if they leave us alone, we'll just send missionaries and Bibles.

Not all the crusades were equal. Some of the later ones might have went over the line, but I think (and I'm not an expert) the earlier ones were defensive and some were in response to the horrible things that Muslims did to Christians that lived in the Middle East and Africa.

As for white Europeans that settled the American continent, not everything they did was lawful or Biblical. Some killed natives for the wrong reasons (greed for example), but I'm not aware of many natives of America being killed for refusing to convert to Christ.

Also, don't forget, the natives were pagens and some were extremely cruel. Cortez (for example) may have been hated by the Aztecs, but the other tribes in the area thought he was a liberator...they were tired of their young virgin daughters being kidnapped by the Aztecs and sacrificed by the thousands to the Aztec's pagan gods.

A good book is "Colubus and Cortez, Conquerors for Christ" by John Eidsmoe.

Thats all for now.

Jeff K