Tag Archives: religious freedom

WWJD? – Would Jesus Burn a Koran?

Now that the Florida “pastor” has agreed to cancel his Koran burning ceremony this coming weekend, it may seem like old news. But I would like to comment on the idea that many “evangelicals” presented this controversial action as something Jesus just would not do. Although I am not Jesus’ publicist or the official PR spokesperson for God, I am a Christian and do know a thing or two about following Christ. For the record, I claim no divine direction on this matter or supernatural vision. But I would like to take a look at what Scripture recorded that Jesus did to see if burning a Koran is something that Jesus just might do.

Controversy…
Jesus loved to do controversial, almost disturbing things. Jesus was a prophet. And prophets tend to make bold, brash claims that fly in the face of the conventional wisdom. Jesus was no exception. He made divine claims about Himself, forgave sin (something only God was supposed to do according to Judaism), talked about the Temple being destroyed and resurrected in three days, and called the religious leaders of His day “a den of vipers.” Jesus further insulted some of the Jewish religious leaders saying that they were “sons of hell” who followed Satan as their father.

After Jesus’ first sermon in his hometown, the crowd got so angry that they moved to kill Him. And as most people know, Jesus made such a spectacle of things that the religious leaders incited the crowd and Roman authorities to seek Christ’s execution. So far, this is not the picture of man who was afraid to stir up controversy.

Even Jesus’ followers were not immune from criticism, He saved some of his “harshest” comments for His disciples. Remember that Jesus rebuked Peter saying, “Get behind me Satan, you have not the thoughts of God but the thoughts of man.”

Yet, Jesus did not seek to make controversy for controversy sake. He said that everything He did was led by the Holy Spirit to fulfill the will of God the Father. Christ claimed that His words served a higher purpose than self promotion or His own personal agenda.

Spotlight…
Jesus was not a camera hog. After some of His most unforgettable moments, Jesus told His followers to keep it a secret or avoid making a public spectacle out of what He did or said. Quite the opposite from call a press conference, Jesus would sneak away from crowds and avoid publicity. That is one major difference between the recent situation with the Florida pastor and Christ. Jesus didn’t perform for the cameras.

Pick the Right Battles…
Jesus waited for the right time to do everything. The Gospels present Jesus as a man who did everything with purpose – picking the right time and the right battles to fight. Jesus knew when to make a whip and clean out the Temple or stay away from the crowds and seclude from outside pressures. Jesus knew how to avoid confrontation with religious opponents as well as to turn around public arguments.

Jesus Didn’t Focus on the “Bad” Guys…
Jesus did not spend a lot of time talking about the “bad” guys or trying to fight them. Instead, Jesus focused on the message that He had been sent to preach and embody. He only talked about Satan or religious opponents when trying to setup the agenda or explain certain concepts to His followers. Even some of Christ’s most controversial statements came as teaching moments to correct wrongful thinking among His disciples. There may be no greater example of this then when Jesus talked about the Temple being destroyed. Imagine just how scandalous that would have been in Jesus’ day. He was responding to a comment by one of His disciples about the massive size of the stones around the Temple complex. Jesus wanted His disciples to know that God was building a new Temple inside the hearts of the faithful. Their focus should not have been on what was visible in the existing religious establishment.

Comparing Christ’s statement to today’s world, it might seem similar to a prophet touching the side of the U.S. Capitol building and saying it would soon collapse into a pile of rubble. Jesus spoke the truth – a harsh reality to prepare His followers for what was to come.

Wisdom…
Jesus called His followers to be “as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves.” This suggests that Jesus wanted His people to be smart about how they lived. They had to use wisdom. Ask yourself, “Will this accomplish a greater, divine purpose?”

Thinking through all these aspects of Christ’s life, I don’t see Jesus as being a big fan of Koran burning. That would just give too much focus to the wrong place. It would embolden and provide a rallying cry for enemies abroad with no real benefit for the Kingdom of God. Jesus doesn’t need to win an ego contest with false religions.

I think Jesus would instead be like one of the missionaries who recently died for the Christian Gospel in Afghanistan. He would be willing to sacrifice to accomplish a greater good without caring if CNN were there to cover the event. But this doesn’t mean that Jesus’ enemies should think of Him as weak. Scripture is clear that when Jesus returns (whatever that looks like), He will come back as a conquering hero and the King of Kings.

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Mosque/Islam Center Near WTC Site

It isn’t every day that I find myself agreeing with Harry Reid. But I do today based on his recent comments about building an Islamic Center two blocks from the World Trade Center site. Senator Reid called for the building’s organizer to find an alternative location in another part of Manhattan further away from the World Trade Center site. This entire thing has become too political and won’t do much to improve relations between Muslims and the average Americans.

While I agree with President Obama that the organizers have every right to build this facility since they meet all local zoning and other laws, it isn’t wise if the stated aim is to build bridges and allow for healing between Muslims and those of other faith/worldviews. According to the Associated Press, the project is headed by the Cordoba Initiative, whose aim is to improve relations between Islam and the West. This organization wants to host leadership conferences for young American Muslims, organizing programs on Arab-Jewish relations, and empowering Muslim women.

The imam behind the project is Feisal Abdul Rauf who leads a mosque in the nearby Tribeca neighborhood. He has worked with the U.S. government to improve relations with Arab countries around the world. Yet, he is also a contoversial figure for his statements.

In a CBS News interview shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Rauf said, “United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.” In a radio interview this year, he refused to call the radical Islamic group Hamas a terrorist organization, saying “the issue of terrorism is a very complex question.”

You can see why some might not like Feisal building a mosque/Islamic Center in this area. Nobody with any real concern for our religious freedom is seroius about stopping this project by legal means. That is why it is odd that President Obama would focus on the constitutionality of the issue when the real concern is the message it sends.

It seems that this may be the wrong place, the wrong guy, and the wrong time. Any consideration of opening the facility on September 11 is very bad form. And it seems to run contrary to the stated purpose of the organization behind the project.

As a staunch supporter of religous freedom and property rights, I would fight for the right to build this facility even though I think it is a bad idea. If I were a political leader, however, I would have the guts to say both of the above things. I would support the project against any efforts to stop it all the while trying to work with the organizers to find a more suitable location.

True, there are other mosques in the area. True this is far from completely “hallowed ground” since there are fast food restaurants, a strip club, off-track betting parlor, and other small shops in the area. But it wasn’t a Dunkin Donuts delivery guy who flew a plane into the World Trade Center either.

This is all about sensitivity. Just as Muslims expect us to respect them, there should be some concern for how locals in New York City feel. While this is mostly a local issue, it is also a national one since we all felt the weight of the towers come down in some respects.

So how far is far enough away? I don’t know. Maybe 4-6 blocks. Maybe more. That really depends on the people of New York City.

I think finding a location further away from the WTC site would be the best thing to meet their stated goals. This would also really help the healing process. At the same time, I recognize their right to freely meet and do whatever they want to with properly zoned private property.

My primary hope is that Muslims in other countries will start affording the same kind of protections to Christians, Jews and other faiths. My experience so far traveling to both the Middle East and Africa has been that Muslims are not very tolerant of other faiths. This is especially true when they are in the majority and in control of the political system.

May we be better than that in this country.