Fearing Muslims?

Last Friday I began to see a link being passed around from an opinion piece on Charisma Magazine’s site. I didn’t have time to read it, but the reactions from it today are so strong, I went back to read it. The piece is no longer on Charisma’s site, but links can be found to cached sites and the “author’s” original site.

Rod Thomas and Brian Zahnd had strong responses and their posts have the links to the original piece as well.

Two things (among many) stood out to me reading the original piece:

1. Whatever happened to loving our “enemy”? We’ve sunk to an “eye for an eye” and forgot the words of Jesus himself.

2. The “author” uses the twist that is dangerous. He starts with the word “Islamist” then quickly switches to Muslim and equates all Muslims with radical groups like ISIS. All Muslims hate Americans. All Muslims are sworn enemies of God (meaning Christians).

This is horrifying at every level. And it is not Christ. My dearest Muslim friends abhor ISIS and it is clear ISIS doesn’t represent them any more than Westboro Baptist Church represents me and my love for Jesus.

We are not like this world. We are not following the spirit of this age. We will not meet violence with violence. Not in this irrational way. The Kingdom of God is far more powerful than visceral responses like Charisma dared to post. Let us live with transformed minds.

The silence is deafening

I just watched a statement from President Obama regarding the murder of journalist James Foley. With great care the president condemned ISIL for its horrendous act… and with great care once again he failed to mention ISIL’s systematic slaughter of Christians. 

I don’t want to dissect the president’s thinking. I want to voice my intense disappointment. Not just from him. It’s making the news… but barely. If the news was hundreds of thousands of Jews, maybe that would warrant something more. But when it is Christians… the silence is deafening. 

Ironically, it is a Jewish leader who is calling out the media:

WHY is the world silent while Christians are being slaughtered in the Middle East and Africa? In Europe and in the United States, we have witnessed demonstrations over the tragic deaths of Palestinians who have been used as human shields by Hamas, the terrorist organization that controls Gaza. The United Nations has held inquiries and focuses its anger on Israel for defending itself against that same terrorist organization. But the barbarous slaughter of thousands upon thousands of Christians is met with relative indifference.

We keep avoiding the obvious… and it’s getting incredibly obvious as to WHY. 

We are called to take heart… to keep our eyes on Jesus… and understand that the world hated him and he was clear on this: they would also hate his followers. 

It doesn’t take away all the disappointment I feel right now, though. 

 

Why I love heroes

I don’t have as much an affinity for fantasy heroes as real life heroes. Real people. Real problems. Real faith. Heroes of faith are vital to my own faith. They remind me of Hebrews:

So then let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter. He endured the cross, ignoring the shame, for the sake of the joy that was laid out in front of him, and sat down at the right side of God’s throne. (Heb. 12:1-2)

There are faithful men and women of God who have gone before. They have finished their race and are cheering each of us on. They fixed their eyes on Jesus and reached their prize. They call on us to do the same.

One faithful hero I never met influenced me through his daughter. She was a “Mother in Zion” to me. She was like having a spiritual grandmother around for years. I met her dad through her stories. Her dad was a pastor in the early days of the Assemblies of God. Many of his years were spent in small western Kansas towns faithfully pastoring. He pastored the church I grew up in near Kansas City as well.

The story was told of Brother Shelton believing God for his provision. Offerings in small churches were… well… small. There often wasn’t enough to pay all the bills and the pastor. Brother Shelton was an incredible man of faith and there were times he would open up his empty wallet and shout, “HALLELUJAH!” into it. He would then close it up and put it back in his pocket. God would provide. The present circumstance didn’t bother him.

I heard another story about Brother Shelton and his faith concerning another minister who would become a district leader in Kansas. When the district leader was a baby and his family lived on a farm in western Kansas, Brother Shelton was the pastor of their church. The baby contracted a fever and there wasn’t a close hospital. The parents called Brother Shelton, who came over and began praying for that baby. He scooped the baby up in his arms and took him outside. All night long Brother Shelton paced that farm yard. From the house to the barn and back. Back and forth, calling out on God, rebuking the fever, claiming healing for the baby boy. By morning the fever broke and the baby was healed.

Those are the heroes I love. They don’t make the news. They don’t get reality shows. Hardly anyone knows them. I am so grateful I got to hear the stories. They are stories of faithfulness. Stories we would do well to pay attention to in our own lives. Brother Shelton is in that great cloud of witnesses cheering me on. Calling on me to not give up. Calling on me to press on!

Looting, Rioting, Black, White… etc.

I saw this picture from a friend on Facebook and just couldn’t resist putting it up and talking about it:

Wall Streeting Looting

The issues of Ferguson, MO, and race are, like so many issues slapping us around today, far more complicated than the bumper sticker answers we usually have. They are even far more complicated that the meme I just posted. 

What is needed is a conversation. 

Just as I tried to post something earlier about mental health for discussion, the reactions were mixed. I loved hearing from people who actually read my post, but then there were some who didn’t read it and then saw a reaction I gave on Facebook to another post and instantly they didn’t care to look up what I said before. We did NOT have a conversation. 

When it comes to race, I am fairly sure we STILL won’t have a conversation, but I will keep on posting. 

The high school in my community is incredibly and wonderfully diverse. There are only pluralities of nationalities and ethnic demographics. There is a long list of what our school district does right, which I will reserve to pull out later when someone gets on here and gives me some comment that bashes diversity. ;)

A few years ago our high school basketball team made it to the state tournament for the first time in decades. We made the finals. Against an all white team. Our corner of the arena was packed with all kinds of ethnic representation and we were loud… all… the … time. It drove the proper white folk mad in the other corner. The things I read on comment pages later (like the sports pages online) were atrocious. The description of our behavior made one think it was a visit to the zoo. 

What was completely ironic was the other team’s supporters felt they had the moral high ground. They cheered at “appropriate” times, apparently. And when they didn’t like a ref’s call, they chanted “BULLSH*T! BULLSH*T!” in perfect four part harmony. 

There was a “proper” way to cheer a team… and an “animal” way to cheer a team. By the way, the “proper” team won… as they “should.” 

What we too often get upset about is reaction. How we react ethnically, regionally, etc., is just DIFFERENT. 

It is at this point you are ready to quit and head to the comment section and talk about it’s never appropriate to riot. So… just stop. I promise if that is what you head out to do I WILL delete that comment! In the love of Jesus, of course. ;)

I am not talking about rioting. I am not talking about looting. 

I AM talking about those very key moments that lead up to those explosive moments. 

AND I am talking about what is “proper” in white contexts and what is “not” and how often we just simply MISS IT. 

Thus the picture at the top of this post. Smashing in a store window and grabbing Kit Kats and beer is wrong. Raiding a company’s assets and then letting the stock crash is “BUSINESS.” 

It’s context. One is “proper” and one is “not.” (Don’t you DARE start in on that “looting is wrong” comment… hear me out!)

The fact is this: BOTH are wrong. We just don’t call it that way. Why? Because one had a black guy with his pants halfway down his rear and one had a white man in a suit. 

Okay… NOW go rant and beat on me.

The cheering in the basketball arena was RIGHT. BOTH were RIGHT. Well… they were “okay.” I’m not in favor of yelling “BULLSH*T” at a ref, no matter how bad the call was. 

Looting in a neighborhood grocery or on Wall Street are both EVIL. 

So, let me ask you this: Which one will go to jail? 

THIS is what we don’t want to talk about. The incredible unevenness of a system. As whites, we don’t like some of the “corrections,” like affirmative action. 

But we just holler about that and don’t THINK about the consequences of things we have set up. The New Jim Crow is a book that radically changed my thinking. I paid attention to the long statistical data. I don’t agree with some of the solutions… but the data disturbs me. It disturbs me as a white man. Not a wealthy white man. I struggle, but those are my issues. 

Some may not even look at that book because a black woman wrote it. I am not trying to be a white man ridden with guilt. I am trying to be a Christian who longs to understand justice. 

And I am also trying desperately to understand cultural reactions and how a few key moments and some THINKING could really defuse a situation and things like Ferguson, MO, just don’t need to happen. 

For me, things go back to the steps of my junior high. I had a kid who just decided he didn’t like me. It’s easy not to like me, but I hadn’t heard his reasons and he didn’t care to tell me. He had been taunting me for weeks, trying to draw me into a fight. He would taunt me and laugh in front of his friends trying to get me mad at something, and I just wasn’t responding. 

One morning he decided to notch it up and really draw me into a fight. I was starting to walk up the steps to the front entrance and out of nowhere came a foot. He gave me a high leg kick and his foot landed square on my chest. It knocked the wind out of me and I have no idea how I stayed standing up. 

As soon as he kicked, he stepped out in front of me, fists raised. It was like it was out of a TV show. The crowd backed up, made a circle, and watched. I was a nerd. There was no way I was going to make it out of that fight. 

As he stood there ready to spring into action, somehow I got enough breath back to look at him and say, “Do you feel better now?” and I walked past him and went up the stairs. He said something that mocked me and laughed, then walked away. I was so glad he didn’t just jump me and beat the crap out of me. 

We all have choices in incredibly tense situations. A gentle answer does NOT always turn away wrath… but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have the discipline to at least attempt it. 

There are conversations to be had… even if it elevates to yelling at times… 

I don’t always like loud reactions… but I can’t let it deter me from trying to listen. I myself give LOUD reactions… and I appreciate people who will get past my yelling and begin to listen. 

We can all do better that what has happened to Ferguson, MO. We DO have to give effort, though. 

Please help me in that effort. 

Happy Meetings

There are days where supposed “delays” turn into delightful events. 

A breakfast meeting got started late, but led into a great conversation. This put me late getting back to my house to drop off the van to my wife, which then gave me a couple of choices on getting back to the church. I chose to walk over to the bus stop and getting on the bus found one of my favorite people in Columbia Heights, who is one of the most gifted classical pianists/organists I’ve ever heard. We had such a wonderful conversation.

It is wonderful to know that “delays” do not need to be points of frustration, but can often be gateways into DELIGHT. 

 

Why it’s hard to “care” about world events

Over the past few days I have relentlessly posted links and thoughts about the persecution of Christians and other minority groups in Iraq and other places. 

That’s hard enough to get attention, but then (for Christians) it’s hard to also pay attention to stories out of the Middle East that don’t have “Christians” in them. 

Such as the civil war in Syria

First of all, it DOES have a “Christian angle” to it. That is always under-reported. 

Secondly, because we’ve been conditioned to hate Muslims, Iraq, etc., we just don’t care, quite frankly, if Muslims are blowing each other up. 

Hopefully that was a crude enough statement to at least jolt a few people. 

The trouble is we just often don’t know HOW to “care” about news because if it doesn’t have some personal connection, we just often don’t know what to do with it. 

Then we can complain that the “media” doesn’t cover it enough. Or, when they do, it’s the “wrong” media. For instance, the above link goes to a Fox News story. Some of you may have clicked on that link, saw it was a Fox News story and already were pre-disposed to not pay attention because it was Fox News. Others were ready to read every word because it was Fox News. Some of you who haven’t clicked on that link will now NEVER click on that link because I already told you it was Fox News.

I hope THAT was crude enough to jolt a few more people. 

Here is a primer for how to “care” about what is going on in the world. 

1. Knowing what is going on is vital. Caring is another issue. Long to KNOW first, then “caring” can follow. KNOWING is vital. We’ve ignored the Muslim civil war that is sweeping the world and NOW we are reaping a whirlwind. 

2. Quit thinking in terms of “What should the U.S. do to respond?” We aren’t always the “calvary” to ride in. Sometimes the very best thing is to read and TO PRAY. Honest. 

3. READ. 

4. Read widely. Quit using your favorite sites alone. Learn how to read other sites you disagree with. Learn to put down your political lenses and just READ. Sometimes the story IS from Fox. Sometimes it’s from Slate. It could be the BBC or NPR. When we don’t read widely, we fail to understand that something IS being reported… just not from our normally “reliable” sources. 

5. Get to know a missionary or two. I know a lot of missionaries in just about every part of the world. They give whole new perspectives that take out the politics and put in people. 

6. When you get more “news” or “information,” realize it could be the time to pray. Not call for more troops. Pray. It is prayer that can stir our hearts to pay attention and seek God more. 

It’s not that we should “care” about world events, or we don’t “care” because we don’t know what to do. We need to read more because it can lead us to prayer, and THAT gets us into the flow of the Kingdom of God. 

Our Silence is Deafening

It is amazing how much the news is consumed with conflicts in the Middle East when it comes to Jews/Muslims or even Muslims/Muslims, but when it comes to Christians…

The tragedy of Mosul is finally getting some coverage. More and more Christians are showing some solidarity (finally) by showing the Arabic sign for “Nazarene” on their profile pics.

It’s honestly not a matter of trying to make the media more aware or any government more aware. The question really is: “Why is the CHURCH silent?”

We are so much more up in arms about Hobby Lobby and millionaire rednecks than we are concerned about whole Christian groups being wiped out in the Middle East.

We fight our “left wing” and “right wing” fights over where we’re going to eat a chicken sandwich, but we can’t somehow post prayers for our brothers and sisters in Iraq?

Shame on me. Just. Shame. On. Me.

Do with it what YOU want… but my heart is really starting to break. They cry out for justice… for prayer… and we’re silent because we’re too busy fighting each other over here about whatever the political hot button of the moment happens to be.

Please. Let us pray! WITH each other… for once…

Arabic N