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Archive for the ‘injustice’ Category

I usually avoid the obligatory “9/11” post. There are always scores of them and I don’t see the need to add to them. Last year, however, I did post on September 11th due to an article I’d read that I thought was worth mentioning. In light of recent events, I thought it was worth mentioning again this year, and probably even more relevant.

Considering all of the media attention currently being given to “Pastor” Terry Jones in Florida and his moronic pledge to burn a Qu’ran today, as well as the continuing debate regarding an Islamic community center in New York City, I decided to post this again this year.

A few words about these recent stories: First, I think Jones is a clown and a media whore, and I question whether he ever intended to burn anything. I think he’s gotten exactly what he wanted out of this stunt: attention. And as for the so-called “ground zero mosque” (which isn’t a mosque), I think the opposition to it is misguided at best. The heated opposition to other Muslims’ attempts to build new centers of worship around the country tells me this goes well beyond a location in New York. It appears that it has much more to do with a conflation of everyday Muslims (and American Muslims at that) with Al-Qaeda and/or an opposition to the practice of Islam in this country in general.

On The Daily Show recently, correspondent John Oliver said (in jest, of course) that people are right to oppose the center in New York, because “Islam, like every religion, has to be responsible for its biggest assholes”. As a Christian, I don’t want to be held responsible for the idiot extremists who do evil in the name of Christ. Muslims shouldn’t be required to do so, either. But too many Americans see all Muslims as potential terrorists and, therefore, enemies.

He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.
Thomas Paine

In this country, I would hope we can do better than this. Time will tell. Here’s what I wrote a year ago today (with a couple of edits.) It’s not your typical “9/11” remembrance post, but it was on my mind this time last year, and has been on it again in recent weeks, leading up to another anniversary.
 


 
A different perspective
 

I don’t usually post a “September 11” post, but I just read an article and wanted to share it.

The article is from the New York Times, titled Explaining 9/11 to a Muslim Child by Moina Noor. In it she shares her thoughts and feelings, as a Muslim living in the northeastern U.S., on attempting to answer the question her eight-year-old son Bilal asked: “Mom, what happened on 9/11?”

The demonization of Muslims in this country has been astonishing over the last eight years. Noor writes about her attempts to explain to others that “we are just like you” and “Islam is peaceful.” I suspect it often fell on deaf ears. I’ve heard and read plenty from those who see all Muslims painted with the same brush as Osama Bin Laden and the 19 that boarded those planes in 2001. Many of them are Christians who, ironically, would distance themselves from extremists in our own camp such as Fred Phelps, Scott Roeder or Steven Anderson, and would vehemently object to being considered like-minded with these poor examples of Christ-likeness. For all of the talk that the Muslim world is full of hate, I’ve heard plenty of it from our own as well.

She writes about her own fears for her child, living in this country at this time:

Since 9/11, I’ve worried how Bilal would feel about his identity as a Muslim living in America. A survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life appeared in 2007 stating that 35 percent of respondents had an unfavorable opinion about Islam. Could one of those 3 in 10 people be Bilal’s teacher or soccer coach?

Over the past eight years I’ve read about Muslims being deported and pulled off airplanes and mosques being vandalized. My sister, a former middle school teacher in Brooklyn, heard kids taunt a Muslim student on the playground, calling him a terrorist. And even though I fear the possibility of discrimination for Bilal, what I fear most of all is that the din of Islamophobia will rob my son of self-respect and confidence.

I’ve heard many express concern about Muslims living in America. I’ve not often heard them mention feeling any compassion for peaceful Muslims living here who are at least just as concerned about living among non-Muslim Americans. Certainly this is not an easy time to be an American Muslim.

When we moved into our house four years ago, someone visiting our home observed our neighbors, an Indian family, outside in their garden. They jokingly said, “hey, maybe you’re living next to terrorists.” It was a comment I ignored, although I shouldn’t have. Despite the facetious tone of the comment, I know that there was real distrust there. Everyone from “over there” – even if they’re from a country that is eighty percent Hindu, apparently – is to be regarded with suspicion.

September 11th will always have a prominent place in American history. It will always be a day of remembrance, as well it should, and the thoughts of those tragic events and the people involved will be with us forever. Hopefully, someday soon, the fear and cynicism with respect to our neighbors will not. All Christians are not the same. Neither are all Muslims.

I did try and answer Bilal’s question. I relayed the day’s events in broad cartoonish strokes: bad guys attack, buildings collapse. Don’t worry, I assured him, we’ll get the bad guys so they won’t do it again. As I looked at Bilal in the rear view mirror, I explained that good and bad exists in every group, even your own. I think he understands.

As should we all.

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In his song “I Remember (It’s Happening Again)”, Griffin House sings about war, including the tragedy and suffering it causes. In the song’s final verse, he sings of a friend who is “fighting for our country” in the middle East, and near the end says, “I need a reason why.”

Everyone has felt that way at some point, and not just about matters of war and it’s justification. Injustice and suffering exist in abundance in our world. We see it every day in the news or in our lives. And “why” is often the question on our minds, if not on our lips.

A couple of years ago, I read Bart Ehrman’s book “God’s Problem: How The Bible Fails To Answer Our Most Important Question – Why We Suffer.” Part of Ehrman’s disillusionment with the Christian faith he once held to (he now considers himself agnostic) was his inability to find a satisfactory answer to that question: why do we suffer?

Many of the questions Ehrman asks in his book are questions I have as well. And many of the biblical answers he rejects are likewise difficult for me to swallow. Like Ehrman, I want to know why, and for some reason, the older I get, the more difficult I find it to accept the standard answers.

Just last week, another event not too far from my home brought these questions back to my mind yet again. Flash floods killed 20 people who were camping in western Arkansas, leaving families without loved ones for no apparent reason other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Two families camping together lost six members between them.

Candace Smith lost her husband Anthony Smith, 30, 5-year-old son Joey and 2-year-old daughter Katelynn. They were from Gloster, Louisiana.

Kerri Basinger lost her husband Shane 34, daughters Kinsley 6, and Jadyn 8. Jadyn was the 20th victim found Monday. They are from Shreveport, Louisiana.

I’ve seen report after report on both local and national news over the last several days, and it’s so difficult to watch. Why did it happen? There is no answer. Some would say that’s fine, that we don’t and won’t understand everything now. For me, that does nothing to subdue the questions. I need a reason why.

We used to sing a hymn in the church I grew up in that includes the line, “we’ll understand it all by and by.” I’m not certain we’ve been promised that to begin with, but it is beyond my ability to comprehend how senseless death and suffering can be explained adequately. If eternity has all of the answers, why can’t it share them with us now?

Perhaps my frustration with this lack of explanation (or, at the least, a perceived lack) and my struggle with doubt clouds my vision. Philip Yancey has always been one of my favorite Christian writers. Just this morning, a post on his Facebook page quoted from one of his books:

Doubt is the skeleton in the closet of faith and I know no better way to treat a skeleton than to bring it into the open and expose it for what it is: not something to hide or fear, but a hard structure on which living tissue may grow.

Doubt was never exactly looked upon favorably as I grew up in the church. I don’t really recall hearing much about it, and if I did, it was clear that it was not a good thing. But for me, it has grown significantly since my youth. I always thought faith would be easier as I grew older. Instead, it seems the opposite is more often the norm.

God is supposed to be in control, but when flood waters wash children away from their parents and husbands away from their wives, it’s hard to have faith that this is true. Whatever it is that we’re supposed to find out “by and by” might be helpful about now, because in the present, it sucks to be in the dark about why these things happen.

Yet I have hope that Yancey’s quote is accurate. Perhaps good can come from the doubt and the anger as well, and perhaps someday the answers to the question will seem more acceptable, or at least not as necessary. Maybe faith will be enough.

Until then, the question remains.

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Just a few of the things I’ve been reading online this past week…
jesusflag
Jesus delivers the constitution?

I came across this painting online late last week. (Actually, I saw the version with humorous captions first.) I didn’t use the image in this post since it states on the site that it is copyrighted, so you’ll have to click the link to view it. It’s a ridiculous conflation of Christianity and American nationalism which is offensive in many ways. I considered commenting on it then but didn’t have time. Instead, I will direct you to a post by Greg Boyd, who pretty much nails it (and said it better than I would have anyway):

There are many other loathsome aspects of this idolatrous work that could be mentioned, especially regarding the people present in “Satan’s corner” (on the lower right corner), but enough has been said. The bottom line is that someday, people from every tribe and every nation will gather around Jesus (Rev. 7:9-10) and I assure you he won’t be holding a particular nation’s Constitution! The chief business of the church is to model this beautiful unity-amidst-diversity in the present. We are to manifest a Kingdom in which there is no male or female, Jew or Greek, rich or poor, American or British, and in which there is no violence.

This painting is a perfect illustration of the sort of primitive tribalism and diabolic nationalism that keeps Christians from doing this. It must, I believe, be renounced in the strongest possible terms.

Read Boyd’s full post Painted Idolatry: “One Nation Under God.”

To be a Christian…

The war between Christianity and science that some believers find it necessary to wage is often sad enough, but far worse when it manifests itself in such a way as to drive someone away from Christianity altogether. Internet Monk tells the story of “Niki”, a Japanese student visiting the United States. Niki came and left an atheist, and prior to leaving, explained why she could not be a Christian to a teacher of hers:

“I am an atheist because I believe in evolution. When people here explained to me what they must believe as Christians, I always ask them about evolution, and they say “You cannot be a Christian and believe in evolution.” So I cannot be a Christian, because I believe that evolution is true.”

I cannot personally buy into the idea that science is simply a “vast conspiracy” to destroy Christianity, as some seem to believe. Science seeks to explain the way the world works and sometimes that may contradict some interpretations of scripture. (Few people still believe the world is flat, after all.) Hopefully, we can learn from stories like Niki and not allow rigid beliefs regarding how God accomplished certain things (when he has not specifically revealed it) hinder others from believing in him. It’s not necessary to dismiss modern science in order to believe. Faith in God and faith in science can coexist.

You can read the full post here: Niki Made Her Choice and, Apparently, So Did We.

A love story

I’ve seen a couple of Michael Moore’s films (Bowling for Columbine, Sicko) and enjoyed them. While there are always valid arguments against some of the things he says or does through his films, I thought that both of the films I’ve seen raised important questions and created dialogue about the topics they covered. And that, in part, is what Moore is shooting for, I believe.

I’ve never known anything about with what kind of religious/spiritual beliefs Moore has, if any. (Turns out he is Catholic.) With his new film Capitalism: A Love Story just being released, I read this letter from Moore regarding the film and the question he asks: “Is capitalism a sin?” I thought it was worth the read, and look forward to seeing this film as well. You can read the letter here: Michael Moore: “Would Jesus be a capitalist?”

WM3

Just this morning I read this article posted at The New York Times site: Torn by 3 Lost Boys and 3 Convicted Youths. It concerns the case of the “West Memphis Three” and their ongoing attempts to get a new trial. Shortly after reading it, another article appeared in my reader from the WM3 blog titled “New Eyewitnesses: 3 Boys Last Seen Alive With Terry Hobbs”. Apparently, one of the boys’ step-dad (Hobbs), who was never interviewed, was the last person seen with the boys. Also, as was discovered two years ago, Hobbs’ DNA was found on one of the bodies. While much remains to be seen, it seems there’s one more bit of evidence pointing towards someone besides the WM3.

I’ve posted before on the WM3 case and have made plain my feelings about the case. Parents of two of the murdered children (including Hobbs’ ex-wife, the biological mother of one of the victims) now believe in the innocence of the WM3. Likewise, I continue to believe that the true perpetrator of this crime was never caught, three innocent men continue to sit in prison 16 years later, and hope that justice will be served one day soon.

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