Thursday, February 16, 2006

Muslim Reaction Seems Ironic

I won't even pretend to know everything about the Danish cartoon issue or the Muslim faith. I will even admit that this 'current event' is not even very current anymore...though the outcry still continues. Furthermore, I admit that I have no real place evaluating another culture, another faith, or another country. But screw it...I am going to anyway!

If you have read any of my posts you know that I am a professing Christian. And if you know anything about various religions you know that my faith and that of a Muslim has some similar roots but its main branches are quite separate. I will not expound on my faith vs. their faith in this post or probably ever. But I do want to point out some observations that confuse me on this particular issue.

As I understand it a Danish newspaper published some cartoons of Mohammed in a disrespectful way. Specifically from one picture I saw, Mohammed had a bomb for a turban. So let the assessment begin:

  • The Dutch opinion - I underline the word Danish because the first point of confusion for me comes from the fact that one country is trying to dictate what another country can and cannot publish? Why do Islamic people care what a European countries newspaper says?
  • The Hypocrisy Factor - As an American I have seen multiple countries worldwide, make fun of us. In fact, there is a Muslim website that has cartoon animations showing Muslims fighting against Americans and how to kill them. I suppose I get a bit irritated that our country and its citizens are not respected more but you have to expect nations and groups to disagree with you and possibly make fun of you while doing so.
  • Blasphemy - The inherent argument that I am hearing from the Muslim perspective is that Mohammed is a respected prophet and to besmirch his name is blasphemous. First of all blasphemy as I understand it can only be done with respect to a deity. But who knows...maybe Muslims believe Mohammed was a deity as Christians believe Jesus was. While it would concern me to have Jesus depicted in a similar manner, my concern would be more for those that blaspheme him. By making fun of Christ you do not change his character, his ministry, his impact, or his importance. Though I do not recommend it, I will not burn flags, protest, or make threats if you choose to waste time drawing cartoons of my Lord.
  • The Real Irony - Perhaps the most ironic observation I have made is the actual reaction of the Muslim community. Now, I am very willing to consider these groups as extremists that do not really represent the majority. However, I lack the knowledge or understanding as to whether they are extremists or just the average. The Dutch papers cartoon Mohammed with a bomb for a turban in order to make a point that the Muslim faith is violent (whether this point is true or not). To react in a violent way only adds fuel to the fire and proves their point. So to protest angrily, to burn flags, and to make threats is to prove your enemies right. I find this very ironic and absurd. If the shoe was on the Christian foot, I am sure our extremists would do something stupid as well. When that happens I will be reading a Muslim blog about how dumb we are acting.

What are your thoughts about this issue? I would love to hear from you.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Unchurched vs. The Mischurched

E-mailed letter excerpt:

Dear (insert my brothers name),

Just as an added note to all of this.

It is not my job to critique your church or its functions. I am thankful that you asked my opinion as I enjoy giving it (probably too much). Let me reiterate that I am proud of you and proud of what you are doing.

I run into so many people that claim the covering of Christianity but have such misguided, non-Biblical practices. Between (insert wife's name)'s Catholic friends, Bob at work who just told me about his church and how they believe in Christ but still observe the law and all its festivals, some of the people on the Wesley Blog, some of the people on RealLivePreacher, and even a guy in my E-team from CBC that is too legalistic...I am getting tired and frustrated with misinformation and distorted truth. It amazes me how many people make it into adulthood believing the most ludicrous stuff and when challenged to back up their position, have no evidence to offer as to why they believe as they do. I told my study group this morning that I cannot decide who drives me crazier...the unchruched or the mischurched. Keep up the awesome work and pass on my encouraging words to your staff. My critiques can go where they one ear and out the other. Just keep the main thing the main thing and stay theologically steadfast as various other Methodist churches struggle with backsliding.


(Me) The Edge

The above letter was written to my brother. To fill in the gaps for you, I will give some background. My brother is helping to start a contemporary Methodist church in a small town one hour east of Dallas. An email prior to the one above detailed the various idiosyncrasies of the service I attended and what my opinions of their format and message were (please note: he asked for them). The next day, after dealing with a barrage of “Christians” with various beliefs that span the gamut of possibilities I suddenly became very thankful. Thankful that my brother, his new church, and all of its inner workings were theologically sound. Suddenly, it did not matter that the service could be a bit more polished…it only mattered that they were preaching Christ and using Scripture as God’s Word.

As I struggle daily in my Christian walk, I encounter two major groups of people. Both groups can be frustrating as they both demand patience, understanding, and gentleness (all things that I need to work on). The two groups are the “unchurched” and the “mischurched.” Most are familiar with group A as The Great Commission calls us to preach the gospel to them. Group B is not as familiar or definable. You can have misguided believers everywhere, in every church, and at every age. If I were to pick, I think Group B wins the award for being more frustrating. After all, you have a faction of people claiming to have answers that either don’t in the first place, can’t back them up, or don’t understand reasons for their beliefs.

I really do not want to attack any church in particular as it is not very productive. Even in various denominations you can visit one church on one Sunday and then another church the next and notice several differences. You would hope the differences are only stylistic but it is often more theological.

You can literally go to Christian churches that are so liberal that they teeter on the edge of political correctness and Biblical truth very precariously. In the same day you can cross the street and be in such an overwhelmingly conservative church that you are fearful of eternal damnation and being stoned. Then there are churches and denominations that are just off the deep-end and do not seem to adhere to anything Biblical, traditional, and in most cases logical. Perhaps the saddest statement that can be true for all three churches is that the patrons of each usually cannot tell you why they believe as they do. I have met Mormons that cannot explain why the book of Mormon is even used when the Bible clearly states that nothing shall be added or taken away from Scripture. I have met Catholics that cannot tell you why they pray to saints when they full well admit that they can speak with God directly. I have met Methodists that cannot tell you how to obtain salvation and Baptists who cannot explain full emersion baptism.

I can at least hold you in my esteem to a degree (even if you are wrong) when you know what you believe and why. As stated in the email above…how can you possibly make it to adulthood and still not understand your spiritual positions? Even if you have not figured everything out, there needs to be some attempt on your part to research your beliefs and seek truth. I personally do not claim to know it all. There is always something God is trying to reveal to me and there are always things to learn. However, I have taken drastic steps in my search to get where I am and I can honestly say…I have found truth! God promises in scripture, “Seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened for you.”

Challenge God on that one and see what He does for you. If you earnestly and sincerely prepare yourself for the answers you get, regardless of personal desires, He will make himself known. The hardest thing for me when I was going through this transition was having the ability to accept God on His terms. I was always trying to shape and form Him into my idea of who He should be.

I bid you well on your journey.