Consider Own Deeds Before Asking Muslims to Condemn Terrorism
From the Tennessean
Christians of all stripes and varieties have expressed dismay over the failure of some Muslim clerics to decry and condemn terrorism.
From the World Trade Center to the bombings in Delhi to suicide bombings in multiple locations, there are extremists associated with Islam who cause some people to fear all Muslims. That is unfair to Muslims. But outsiders to Islam have wanted to hear its leaders speak clearly about the fanatics.
Muslims have a similar reasonable expectation of Christians. They have the right to listen expectantly for us to decry and condemn bigoted extremists who claim to represent Christianity. When the pastor of the World Dove Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., burned a Quran recently, he was both morally wrong and spiritually misguided. His action sparked days of deadly rioting in Afghanistan and gave credibility to the anti-Christian rhetoric of Muslim terrorists.
Have you noticed how many people dismiss Jesus, curse Christianity, and resent churches? Ever wonder why? The answer lies in the behavior of pedophile priests, huckster televangelists, Fred Phelps’ protests at the funerals of U.S. soldiers, and Terry Jones’ repulsive Quran-burning.
The issue here isn’t the compatibility of Christianity and Islam. They are quite distinctive in their views of Trinity, the deity of Jesus, human redemption, and what to regard as Sacred Literature. Although cousins because of Abraham, the two religions are notable for their differences. As a Christian, I affirm the unique and exclusive role of Jesus as Savior. But I also affirm the obligation of his followers to treat Muslims, Buddhists or atheists with respect.
Jesus made the right-wing religionists of his era unhappy because his heart was big enough to reach not only to Jews of other parties but to Samaritans and Gentiles. He was smarter than some of his followers. He knew he could not even talk with those he wanted to win over by insulting them and demeaning the things they held sacred.
Christian Scripture says: “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone” (2 Timothy 2:24). “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15-16).
People who think they are honoring God by burning the Quran — thereby confirming the worst of prejudices toward Christians, closing the door to fruitful dialogue, and precipitating riots — only make Christianity look hateful, bigoted, and boorish. Don’t talk about motive here. Think instead of obvious outcomes.
Jesus’ would-be representatives are making him look bad again.
Rubel Shelly holds a doctorate in philosophy from Vanderbilt University and is a former minister at Woodmont Hills Church in Nashville. He is president of Rochester College in Rochester Hills, Mich.