by Charles Redfern, simultaneously published on www.creedible.com
It’ll be a nation-wide movement … No-no. That’s too small. Make it hemispheric … better yet, outright global: a pan-cultural, pan-continental, pan-societal, pan-everything human wave sweeping through North America, South America, Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia, Greenland, and Antarctica. And don’t forget the sailors on ships in all the oceans and seas – and the divers in the coral reefs – and those astronauts in the space station. Everyone and his or her kid brother or sister will join the multi-continental and oceanic love fest. We Christians will take the initiative and proclaim, in no uncertain terms, that we love Muslims. Maybe we can designate a certain month – say, October, or maybe November, or whenever – and call it “Christians Love Muslims Month.”
And to think: It all began because we said no to a hideously revolting plan from the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida. Terry Jones, Dove’s pastor, applied for a permit to burn the Qur’an this September 11. Gainesville Fire Department officials denied the request, but Jones says he’ll go ahead and pay the subsequent fine. The Center has even proclaimed America’s sacred day of mourning as an “International Burn the Koran Day.”
I can see the Al Qaeda recruiters and marketers: They’re huddled in a dark room in a remote Waziristan village, flinching at the hum of a circling drone. “Gotta get replacements,” says one. All look at the ceiling and nod their heads: those unmanned planes have taken their toll. “There’s a problem,” says another, “It’s our sales pitch, the one that says Christians and Americans are at war with Islam. It’s lost its punch. We need something, an incident perhaps: If only an American church would go lunatic and burn our holy book! But no one would ever be so stupid …”
Just to be clear, the Dove World Outreach Center does not remotely represent even a small Christian minority. The National Association of Evangelicals has denounced the proposed act; John Rankin, head of the Theological Education Institute in Hartford, CT, offered to debate Jones and, when he was turned down, launched a petition drive and began blogging against it. Such proclamations, alas, rarely stop the supposedly “open-minded” from re-playing the book-burning videos to prove how all religions bring hatred. Bill Maher, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens must be salivating. Reporters will stick microphones in front of gum-chewing mall shoppers and ask them how they feel. They’ll respond: “Uh, y’know, like, I think, y’know, that if everyone said nice things and, like, y’know … well, the world would be nice, and …”
But Dove’s leaders have positioned themselves to deflect any argument. Its web site declares, “Our Land needs strong churches that understand and fulfill God’s vision of restoration and reformation.” Who can argue? Ergo, they’ll say, anyone who disagrees is weak. Witness their blog: “The denial of the Burn Permit (sic) is the latest in a series of behaviors ‘dictated by fear (terrorism), pacifism when aggressed, rather than resistance, servility because of cowardice and vulnerability.”
In other words, non-book burners are wimps by definition. Talk about a rhetorical set up. All arguments feed their monster and fuel their bonfire – which will be videoed … and played … and re-played … and re-played again for youths in Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Niger, Nigeria, and Malaysia. Dove officials will cry persecution if the Gainesville authorities step in before the fire starts.
So what to do? Organize a Dove boycott? Extremists will flock to their center. Advocate withdrawing donations? Dove will mail out requests and specifically refer to their wimp-enemies. Their bank accounts will bulge.
Enter the “Christians-love-Muslims Month.”
C’mon. This is easy. Almost all Christians agree that God “so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Notice the key words: God so loved the world. Muslims are part of the world; therefore, God loves them – which means Christians of whatever hue should love them as well: Catholics, Protestants, Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, and Eastern Orthodox. We’re on the same page. We’re not saying we agree with Muslims. We don’t. We disagree on vital doctrines. But we also recognize that mature people befriend and love those with whom they have fundamental disagreements. I’m a prim and proper evangelical – which, among other things, means I believe sex should be confined to a heterosexual marriage. Yet I befriend the gay pastor next door and my wife and I sup with those who “live together.” They know where we stand; we know where they stand – and life goes on. We don’t even need a “Christians Love Fornicators Month.”
But it seems we need a “Christians Love Muslims Month” to push the majority report into the limelight. We know the difference between disrespect and disagreement; we know that book burnings conjure images of May 10, 1933, when Nazi’s fed 25,000 supposedly “Un-German” books to the flames; we embrace Christian-Muslim dialogue, a dialogue that acknowledges incongruities while seeking points of contact. We know that dialogue, respect, and debate flow from the river of strength encapsulated in the word, “love” – and love never deliberately inflicts harm (the goal of genuine “tough love” is healing and reconciliation). Apparently, the leaders at the Dove World Outreach Center have forgotten the meaning of “dove,” which symbolizes peace. We have not.
During “Christians Love Muslims Month,” we will offer peace to our Muslim friends.
Let’s do it. Let’s take the initiative. The question is: Which month? I’m open to suggestions.
For Further Reading:
Rankin, John, “Opposing the Burning of the Qur’an,” http://revjohnrankin.blogspot.com/
Religious News Service, “Evangelicals Condemn Planned Qur’an Burning,” http://blog.beliefnet.com/news/2010/08/evangelicals-condemn-planned-q.php#ixzz0xXPpfwiL