Rev Terry Jones and the Fire of anger.



In the Sojourners article "Burning anger and small minded men" dated 06 Apr 2011, the burning of the Koran by the Rev Terry Jones was much condemned and equated to what it calls the behaviour of the "angry mullahs" in Afganistan who killed at least 12 UN personnel in response. The article concluded how very much Terry Jones and the mullahs were alike.

The hallmark of religious fundamentalism is similar in many faiths, the strict adherance to religious laws, and the lack of concern of the harm that will be caused by our actions even against the innocent. Our "righteous indignation" takes over us as to justify and rationalise our actions.

The burning of the bible is of course overblown and used by others for their aggenda. Many Christians could also be said to "burn" their bibles, by discrediting it in all sorts of manner. The stories in the bible, their historical accuracy, and the reality of the bible events are challenged even the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Yet, we don't crucify them because it is their freedom of religious faith, the same freedom that is absent in Afganistan.

The real reason why Sojourners tried to associate Rev Jones with the Afgan "Mullahs" was because he had cast doubt on the sweeping notion that some religions are religions of love and peace, by triggering the harsh reaction of her followers.  

The name of the faith was not mentioned but replaced by the term "angry mullahs" as an attempt to dissociate with the religion. Yet, the fact that one man (from a fringe Christian group) can instill a mob like behaviour of an entire town to burn down the UN post because of their strong religious beliefs is a negative witness.

As a right of free speech, Rev Jones burned the religious book. He did not kill anyone or cause bodily harm. Whereas, the "Mullahs" killed innocent people who were not related in anyway to the burning of their religious book in the first place nor had anything to do with the Rev. Jones. The UN people were there to protect the town people yet they killed them.

The moral laws of the bible constraints us in our reaction. The notion of "an eye for an eye" limits our demands for retribution. ie if Rev Jones had burned the Koran, they could only in return have a "bible burning" event. They went much beyond the laws of morality by their strong reaction.

We are reminded of Gideon removing the idols of worship of the town. When they tried to kill Gideon, they were reminded that Gideon's sin was against the idol and so if it was so great and mighty, it would be able to defend herself. ie it became a spiritual battle between the God that Gideon was worshipping and the deity behind the idol.

(Mat 5:38 NKJV) "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'

(Mat 5:39 NKJV) "But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.

Similarly, how we react as a people of faith, determines the substance of our faith. Therefore, when Jesus said love thy enemies to the extent that when we are hit on one cheek, to offer the other, it was intended to pour scorn on the negative criticism of one's faith by our detractors.

We are to go beyond being "neutral" but offering the other cheek to show forth that Christianity is not only a religion of peace that will not cause harm nor response harshly but a faith filled with grace and mercy. ie showering our detractors, God's grace. In the case of the bible burning incident, if the "Mullahs" had wanted to show forth the faith, they would have sent a load of new books for Rev Jones to be burned.  

At the end, neither party (Jones or the "Mullahs") cared about the consequences of their actions in the name of religion in their religious self righteousness and hate, just that the Mullahs caused much more harm.

 The  strong response by some Christian of trying to associate the blood on the hands of these Mullahs killing the innocent to Rev Jones shows grave inconsistency. One cannot equate the action of one person, to the extreme reaction of the entire town. Secondly, there was no blood spilled by Rev Jones compared to the brutal reaction of the Mullahs. They have filtered glasses which they hold so tightly as to defend their theological construction that all religions were about love. We all have absolutes whether we deny it or not.

What was so wrong and similar about Gays being persecuted by Christians is that just like the Mullahs, it is an action expressed by the majority of the faith, not just a few individuals. It is such mob like action of the Christian Right through groups such as FOTF, and NOM to persecute the innocent which will impact the testimony of Christianity. Jesus calls the action by the Pharisees having the potential to corrupt and undermine the entire Jewish faith by being the yeast in the bread.

What is your testimony today?  We can be as cunning as Rev Jones trying to use the expected reaction of the "Mullahs" to gain fame for himself, or as equally devious as the President Hamid Karzai of Afganistan who announced the transgression in Afganistan as to show how he was standing up for the religious faith. Yet, they probably would have a lot of explanation to do if they reached heaven.

 Our Christian witness is what we have left at the end of the day - how we love, show mercy and grace, and stand up for justice for the marginalised and oppressed. It is when we have nothing left, nothing to defend that we will not react violently and harshly. At this Easter, we are reminded that Jesus went willingly and silently to the Cross of Calvary, the Cross of suffering and pain. He emptied Himself, so should we, to empty our rights to respond in kind or very harshly or best still not responding.





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