But I did want to clarify something about my post of yesterday, here. First of all, I appreciate all the expressions of encouragement I've received from many who read the post. In addition to the few comments below, I've also received encouraging and supportive emails from folks. So far, I've received no negative comments about the post. Consider the following words of clarification a sort of spiritual prophylactic for some readers and a bit of explanation for others.
If the piece incites any xenophobic or religious crowing in you, you've missed my point. The same needs to be said to those who think that I myself was engaging in xenophobic or religious crowing; nothing could be further from the truth.
Yes, I do believe that Jesus Christ is "the way, the truth, and the life," as He Himself says and that no one can come to the Father except through Him, as He also says.
But I don't believe that Christians are inherently better than Muslims nor do I think that Christians are less prone to violence or vengeance-seeking than Muslims. Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, and every other member of the human race share several things in common:
- We're all sinners. That is, we're born enemies of God and His call that we love God and love neighbor.
- We're all loved by God. That's why God the Father sent God the Son, Jesus Christ, into the world. All who believe in Christ--that means, in Biblical terms, entrust their lives to Him--will live with God forever.
Not all who call themselves Christians allow Christ to call the shots in their lives. (Most of us struggle in a lifestyle of daily, conscious surrender to Christ to overcome the very human impulse to resist letting Christ call the shots in our lives. I'm one of these strugglers.) The Alabama believers I wrote about yesterday obviously do allow Christ such access to their wills and minds and decisions that they can actually pray for the forgiveness of those who have violated them!
Not all who call themselves Muslims allow the desire for vengeance and violence to overtake them.
My point from yesterday was that while hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Muslims acquiesced to the very human (and evil) impulses for revenge, born in part of a belief that God is present in brick and mortar, those Alabama folks whose places of worship have recently been burned down have reacted more placidly. They did so, I think, for two reasons:
- Jesus' teaching about forgiveness and the way that forgiveness gets enacted in the lives of those who dare to follow Him.
- Their awareness that a church building is only a building. An old Christian hymn, favored in my Lutheran circles, begins, "Built on a rock, the Church shall stand, even when steeples are falling!"