Wednesday, September 8, 2010

When is a preacher a "nincompoop"? When he burns the Koran....

Disclaimer - I understand the problems with name-calling, but I looked up the literal meaning of the following words, and I'm using them with deliberate care in the opening couple of paragraphs of today's post:
  • sad: "deplorably bad; sorry; pathetic."
  • idiotic: "senselessly foolish or stupid."
  • indecency: "offense against accepted standards of propriety, or good taste."
  • consummate: "being of the highest and most extreme degree."
  • pathetic: "miserably or contemptibly inadequate".
  • nincompoop: "non compos mentis"; "insane, mentally incompetent;" "a fool or a simpleton."
  • aberration: "deviation from truth or moral rectitude."

I had fully intended to ignore plans for the upcoming "mass Koran burning" September 11. The stunt, an act of deliberate indecency, has been dreamed up by a sad and blatantly idiotic pastor and his consummately nincompoopish followers in Gainseville, Florida.

I didn't want to give any extra publicity to such a pathetic aberration.

However, it has come to my attention that some people actually read this blog, and that I might have a modicum of influence in the world of faith-based thinking. In fact, if I am to achieve anything of long-term consequence in my writing, then I want it to be in the realm of facilitating a reconstructive conversation regarding what it means to be a Christian in this Twenty-first Century.

I am increasingly convinced that some of the loudest religious voices in this culture are not faith-based at all. They are so far off base as to be:
  • Ungrounded in credibility
  • Unanchored in scripture
  • Unrelated to the mission of The Church
  • Unconscionable in terms of foundational moral thinking
  • Unreliable vis-a-vis the eternal purposes of God
  • Indefensible when it comes to our responsibility to follow Jesus, honor the Prince of Peace, love one another ("so people will know you are my disciples"), and live according to the light.
I've said a mouthful, and I could very well be exposed as a hypocrite. Well, let me beat you to the punch! I am a hypocrite. But I believe I'm an honest hypocrite, and one who is committed - day by day - to making progress.

REGARDLESS, I feel that it is critically important that the world understands what it means to follow Jesus. I've said this before, but it bears repeating: I can't sit on my hands anymore when it comes to this Gospel!

Here is what the Gospel means to me: Jesus has extended an invitation for me - in a sense - to move back into the Garden vacated by Adam and Eve so long ago. Because of Jesus, I am free to engage in and to enjoy an ongoing relationship with God - it's exactly what humankind was created for. My life is qualitatively different because I continue to choose, daily, to follow Jesus.

The way that I relate to other people is profoundly affected by my moment-by-moment walk with Christ, as is the manner in which I go about my work, how I order my life, my values and priorities. My "salvation" isn't "pie in the sky when I die", it's the opportunity I have - right now and for eternity - to participate in the ongoing work of God.

And so I am deeply disturbed when - once again - the loudest "testimony" about faith in Christ, plastered all over the news from coast to coast and around this confused, broken world, is a message of extremism, deception and hate.

This pastor is not only turning countless people away from truth, but he is setting up scores of innocent people to be victims of acts of violence all around the world. Acts of violence that are the spawn of this cycle of ignorance and hatred.

That's why I can't sit on my hands anymore when it comes to telling the story of Jesus! It's the Greatest Story Ever Told! It's Good News for the entire planet! It's the only story with the power to heal! It's the answer to this world's deepest need!

Grace and Peace - because we sure need them - DEREK


John said...

Well put. You are right: the plan deserves to be ignored, but with this media firestorm, we simply cannot. I encourage you to publish this piece through other outlets.

John Ragsdale
Presbytery of St. Augustine

Charles Willard said...

Well, Derek, it's hard to know what to say in the face of such off the wall actions ... OK, proposed actions. Surely the Burning Pastor must remember the most notorious bibliographic firebug. Surely, he must recognize that he has done enough damage already so that when missionaries are beaten and lives are lost thanks to the incitement his announced intentions have already generated ... he can give up his fiery proposal and disclaim responsibility for the consequences of what he has already done.

John said...

Derek, I agree with your thrust about the pastor's actions. However, let me play the devil's advocate with you (as I sometimes do.) First of all, I still believe the world (and the Christian world included) needs to open its eyes as to the reality of Islam in relation to Christianity. You are aware as the information is plentiful, that the Bible can not be burned in Saudi Arabia, for example, because possession of the Bible is highly illegal and is destroyed upon discovery and the possessor stands a good chance of meeting his end prematurely. And anyone who names the name of Jesus is taking the path of martyrdom in the real sense of that word. Elsewhere, any Christian work, often purely humanitarian, in the name of Christ is muzzled and His followers generally risk economic, social and even bodily threat. (Anyone wishing accurate information about the Islamic situation can go to the Open Doors web site and get the real scoop.) So in the name of balance, do an article on what our brothers and sisters in Christ endure in the Moslem world.
Secondly, the inherent tension in Western liberalism (broader than political) is apparent. One advocates freedom of speech and behavior in the name of liberty yet it is a selective one. The pastor of a tiny church has been assailed by even the president of the nation for...voicing his belief. (The only consistent one is Mayor Bloomberg who says the pastor has the right to do this.) Not that I agree with the action of the pastor for the same reason as you but it is interesting watching the rest of the supporting actors of this very interesting and revealing theater.

Derek Maul said...

I'm not aware of anyone - liberal, conservative, progressive, reactionary... - who fails to understand the pastor's right to free speech. And the abuse of freedom under Islam is - as you say - well documented. The problem is the effect of such behavior (irrespective of if the Quran actually gets burned) both in steering the conversation away from reasoned dialog... and perpetuating a false picture regarding what it means to follow Jesus. Jones' behavior misrepresents the Gospel, abuses the privilege of free speech, and effectively blinds people to very evils he purposes to expose!