I know a lot of Christian blogs have already commented on the fiasco of the Qu'ran burning church in Florida. Yesterday I received a call from the Pocono Record and was asked my opinion on the events. In the discussion I was asked something like 'How hard is it to follow the rules of the country from the rules of the church.'
A thorough answer would take us into a distinction between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of man. I didn't get into it but I made some general comments about how in America most times country and church are not in tension. Of course, if our culture wants to act a certain way that is contrary to the Bible, then of course we have to follow God not man and nonviolently resist evil.
Here's the article. I am quoted in this excerpt:
The Rev. Tim Bertolet of the Pocono Mountain Bible Fellowship Church in Mount Pocono said it could cause unnecessary trouble for Christians in Muslim-dominated countries.
"In addition to putting our military folks at risk, people assume in some of these countries that (the Quran burning) represents what all Christians think about Islam," Bertolet said.
Some local religious leaders compared the Quran burning to the proposed mosque at ground zero in New York City, near the former site of the Twin Towers.
For all the American people who said, "How could Muslims do that?" there are just as many Muslim people asking the same thing about Americans.
"It's certainly in their rights to build it," Melman said. "But it's needlessly provocative. If the point is to reach out and build bridges, that doesn't give the right message. It's the same situation in Florida. (Jones) is certainly legally within his constitutional rights to do it, but it's needlessly provocative."
Bertolet said he heard a Christian Internet broadcast Wednesday trying to instill tolerance instead of immediately denouncing an entire religion.
I honestly don't remember if tolerance was quite the word I used. Too often it has connotations I am uncomfortable with such as treating all religions as true. I do believe however Christian should have love for all people because all humanity is made in the image of God. Christ died to save people from every tongue, tribe and peoples.
I believe that burning the Qu'ran is a stunt. Certainly Christians should be opposed to evil wherever it exists--but lets face it, too many Christians get their kicks from tearing down sinners in much the same way the Pharisees did. Yes of course, Jesus was not 'tolerant' by modern standards of political correctness, Jesus was not wimpy and weak on sin. But he was also gracious and merciful.
Citizens of the kingdom of God are to be peacemakers, bringing people to the God of peace (who will crush Satan) but also bringing humans together in peace where possible. Paul tells us as much as possible to live at peace with all people. I fail to see the peacemaking ability of burning to Qu'ran.
On the Pocono Record's blog, one comment from a 'Point-Blank' was directed specifically at my quote:
"The message was that instead of burning the Quran, we should be picking it up and reading and trying to understand it," he said. "Then, in a loving way, have a dialogue about it."
.. Are you kidding me? In a loving way? Would that be before the fanatic pulls out a knife or gun and threatens you for even questioning the word of allah? Again I say, are you kidding me? Who believes any of this nonsense, keep your religious beliefs to yourself..
To the extent where my quote could be misapplied to assume I am a loosy-goosy theological 'liberal' or universalist, I would reject it. However this would be my followup, which I posted online:
Since I was the one quoted in this article let me expand my thought and perhaps further incriminate myself as one who believes this nonsense, as you so delicately put it. I was not asked my views of just war or personal self-defense, all topics the Bible has much to say about. Instead I was asked as a pastor how a Christian responds to this Qu'ran burning event.
First, Christianity is about truth. The heart of Christianity is the message that it calls ‘the gospel’ which simply means good news. At the heart of this message is the Lord Jesus Christ who in the face of insults, mockery and abuse laid down his life not merely as an example to us but also bear the punishment for sins.
Christianity centers on a person. The person is proclaimed in a message. As such Christianity believes in the power of words.
Hopefully all of us have enough sense and logic in us to honestly admit that when it comes to Christianity and Islam they cannot both be truth. One or the other can be true, or they can both be false. If we want to say that they both have elements of the truth in them, then by extension neither would be entirely true or the truth. But if something is true, as I believe the gospel is, it should be commended to all.
There are two ways that Christians commend their message: (1) They should be always willing to give an answer for their hope. Paul himself went into the Athens and stood on the Areopagus, quoted pagan poets (and this is important:) whom he had read and was familar with, and then proclaimed the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. I am sure Paul looked more than a little silly since Greek philosophy and religion had long since rejected bodily resurrections. Nevertheless, he knew what others believed and he proclaimed the truth with words.
A Christian has nothing to fear by actually reading the Qu’ran so that he might intelligently respond to it and give a reason for the hope that he has.
(2) The message of Christianity is to be followed by a life of love. Jesus said the greatest command after loving God was to love our neighbor. When asked who is our neighbor, Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan--and Jews had about as much love for Samaritans as Americans have for Osama Bin Laden. As Christians our message is best commended when it is followed by care and love. Right or wrong we all have seen people call Christians hypocrites for their failures to show true love.
But I think the real travesty here is that we see Islam and Muslims as evil and wicked but not ourselves. In the Bible Christianity teaches that evil resides in each one of us, at present we are not ‘all basically good.’ The apostle Paul--arguably the greatest and most loyal follower of Jesus ever--said ‘here is a trustworthy saying Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst.’