The intrepid blogger returns…..with a note about Quran burning

The summer is coming to an end, my holidays are over, and so is my blogging break.  I’m back, whether you like it or not, after a four week rest – and am glad to say that I have loads of things to write about – plenty to keep me going into the autumn as the nights draw in to shorter days.

One thing I couldn’t avoid during my time away was the fun and games over in Gainesville, Florida where Pastor Terry Jones and his 50-member congregation church threatening to spark global conflict between Islam and the West by his ‘Burn a Quran Day’ event, which, thankfully, didn’t take place as planned last Saturday.  Instead, so it seems, Pastor Jones found a more peaceful and conciliatory way to respectfully commemorate the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre nine years ago.

But the whole ‘Quran burning’ debacle has raised some serious questions that need to be answered, one of which is why the World leaders who have been so quick to speak out in condemnation of the actions of Pastor Jones don’t condemn with equal force the continuous and unabated persecution of, and injustice shown towards, Christian believers across the Islamic world, frequently as a result of much less provocation than the burning of a copy of the Quran?

Don’t get me wrong on this – I, along with the large majority of Christian believers, do not, and would never, support the malicious burning of the Quran by Pastor Jones or anyone else.  How such a blatantly controversial act can be squared up with the Christian message of love, grace, mercy, forgiveness and dignity is beyond me – and only seems to be fuelled by hatred and fear, which, as I understand it at least, are alien characteristics to a true understanding of the Kingdom of God. 

Islamaphobia is alive and well, and to a large degree I understand why this is the case – but the fact that it is being preached and practiced by people who claim faith in God’s eternal saving grace in Jesus truly saddens me.

Why?  Because in Jesus we have nothing to fear from anything this world can throw at us.

As Dallas Willard explains in his book The Divine Conspiracy:

….this is a God-bathed and God-permeated world. It is a world filled with a glorious reality, where every component is within the range of God’s direct knowledge and control – though he obviously permits some of it, for good reasons, to be for a while otherwise than as he wishes.  It is a world that is inconceivably beautiful and good because of God and because God is always in it.  It is a world in which God is continually at play and over which he constantly rejoices.  Until our thoughts of God have found every visible thing and event glorious with his presence, the word of Jesus has not yet fully seized us.”

We have no reason to react to anything with hatred and fear, because, as Willard continues later in the book:

“With this magnificent God positioned among us, Jesus brings the assurance that our universe is a perfectly safe place for us to be”

A perfectly safe place for us to be. 

Think about that for a while.

Whether our situation is good or bad, hard or easy, the world is still a perfectly safe place to be because it is God-bathed and God-permeated.  We might not understand the purposes of God, but that doesn’t mean he is not in control!

So, as good Christians, does ‘turning the other cheek’ mean we have to ‘humbly’ stand aside and allow evil and injustice to reign unopposed?  No, not at all!  The exact opposite in fact.  We stand against evil and injustice because our experience of the love and justice of God constrains us to do so, but with grace and mercy rather than hate and fear.

Am I a pacifist – no.  Do I believe there is such a thing as a just war – yes.

The responsibilities of government before God are many – but as I understand it from the Bible, my individual response to the love and forgiveness I have received in Jesus is to love the Lord my God with all my heart, with all my soul and with all my strength and with all my mind, and to love my neighbour as myself.

No mention of Quran burning anywhere…..

 

8 thoughts on “The intrepid blogger returns…..with a note about Quran burning

  1. Jez Parton

    As I see it, the reason the burning was condemned was entirely down to the entirely predictable reaction of certain groups of Muslims and nothing to do with the different way Christians and Muslims are treated.Burning the book would have put westerners at risk and so stopping it stopped western soldiers and others dying. No religious reason really.And the American Pastor is a coward. Talking about standing up to the muslim extremists rings hollow when he isn’t the one on the front line.Not so sure about a just war in the light of Jesus’ teaching to turn the other cheek 70 x 7 times? Jesus stand against evil and injustice lead to him dying. He didn’t take up arms to stop it so why should anyone else?

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  2. Martin Luff

    Good points, Jez, all well worth further thought and discussion.However, when Jesus talks about not resisting evil and turning the other cheek in Matthew 5:39 I think he is talking specifically about the response of the individual towards an unjust action of another against them ie don’t take the law into your own hands, don’t take personal vengeance against someone who hurts you but forgive and keep on forgiving.Similarly, the call of Jesus to forgive your brother if he sins against you – seventy times seven – in Matthew 18 is the call to exercise grace and mercy in our day to day relationships with others.But does that mean that the unjust act of one on another should go unpunished?It might not be the responsibility of the individual to resist evil, but does that mean that there is no justice? No! The government of a nation is responsible before God to ensure that evil is dealt with within its boundaries and that justice is provided for its people.Governments also have the responsibility to resist evil nations that come in war against them – that is the basis of a just war – national self-defence in order to resist an unprovoked attack from outside. In the case of such a war, the individual soldier is not acting in vengeance, nor is he taking the law into his own hands, but acting on the decision of government.Obviously, the argument is a lot deeper and more complicated – but take World War II as an example. Should the UK have resisted or appeased Germany in 1939? Christian opinion was divided – some Christians supported going to war but some didn’t, some fought and some became conscientous objectors – I don’t think the argument is cut and dried either way.My own personal position is that I am not a pacifist and would have fought during WWII if I had been called to do so by the government of the day. I do believe that in certain specific situations that war is just and justified – and necessary – but also that I should turn the other cheek and not resist evil on an individual, day-to-day basis – I don’t see any contradiction between the two positions.But that also raises the question – would I honestly not resist someone who attacked my family? Could I in all good conscience ‘turn the other cheek’ if my resistance would stop them being hurt?Now that would not be an easy decision – but unfortunately it is one that Christians around the world are being forced to make on a daily basis because their governments are not fulfilling their responsibility before God to provide justice on their behalf.

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  3. Martin Luff

    As Christians we are called to be peacemakers not war-mongers – and therefore pacifism would always be my default position – but I am not a pacifist! I don’t think Jesus is a pacifist either – read Revelation and tell me that Jesus is a pacifist. However, to answer Jez’s point about Jesus more fully, I agree that his stand against evil and injustice lead him to die on the cross – but there was a bigger reason for his sacrifice ie the salvation of creation. When he returns he won’t be coming meekly and in silence but with power and authority as the conquering King claiming his Kingdom – I don’t think Armageddon will be decided through a game of Scrabble – real blood will be spilled.

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  4. Martin Luff

    Thanks for the link to Shane Claiborne’s comment on Sojourners, Ann – it is a really gracious and balanced response – and I agree, we should now support and commend Pastor Jones for his decision to humbly change is mind.

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  5. Martin Luff

    Good stuff, Ann – I would subscribe to the views given in both of the links you have given above.My only comment about Walter Wink’s exposition would be that he has focussed, as so often is the case, at the personal Christian level and has not considered fully (in my view) the responsibility of government before God – and the Christian’s responsibility to obey their national government. How do you square organised civil disobedience with Romans 13:1-2? It doesn’t say be subject to governing authorities unless you don’t agree with them……and yet organised civil disobedience and resistance has been used to great effect to bring pressure against governments in order to make them change unjust national laws.In addition – when thinking on any subject we need to take the whole Bible into consideration not just the New Testament – God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. It’s a bit of a cop-out to point to Jesus’ teaching but ignore the revelation of God as shown in the Old Testament – ultimately a balanced theology is one that harmonises our view of God across the whole of scripture – which includes coming to terms with Israel as a nation at war…..It is certainly not an easy subject – but I am not sure Walter Wink’s third way is completely right (in my view) – but it’s a good starting point for further study and thought.

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