I’ll be honest with you, I am struggling this morning. I was out of touch on vacation this weekend, so I was catching up on news this morning and came across this story. (Here comes the rage…) Apparently some idiot pastor in Florida has decided that his church will mark the anniversary of the September 11th attacks by staging an “International Burn a Koran Day”.
Ironically, the name of the church is Dove World Outreach Church. The dove is traditionally a symbol of peace. Outreach usually (and most effectively) involves loving others and seeking to understand where they are so that we can effectively communicate the Gospel.
So, in order to stop myself from spewing venom onto my blog here (there’s enough of that already coming from this guy in Florida), let’s take this as an opportunity to talk about Jesus, love, the gospel, and culture wars.
The reality is that many people see themselves as being engaged in a culture war of some sort or another – Left v. Right, Conservative v. Liberal, Republican v. Democrat, Gay v. Straight, Christian v. Muslim, and on and on. There are two huge problems with this. For one, people oftentimes play the religion trump card, which is fine except for the fact that when we do this our religion becomes whatever we believe politically. In this way Left v. Right becomes Left v. God’s Truth, for instance. Or Gay v. God’s Truth, Abortion v. God’s Truth, etc. (I’m speaking specifically to conservative, Republican Christians right now because, let’s be honest, we tend to think of liberals and Democrats as Godless heathens – possibly because they don’t play the religion trump card as much as we do). What we have in essence done is to create a situation where our personal political beliefs always win in our minds because we marry them to our religious beliefs. And I think this is a problem.
The other major problem with the culture war mentality is that, when you declare war on someone, you really limit your options. At that point, you pretty much “have to either handcuff them or kill them – that’s the only way to win”, to borrow a phrase from Donald Miller.* To say it another way, when you declare war on someone, in order to win you have to either complete subjugate and dominate the person, or you have to destroy them. And the real problem here is that, in scripture, we never see Jesus do either one of these things. It seems like Jesus was a lot more interested in loving people and addressing their needs, both physical and spiritual. Jesus never “declared war” on the Pharisees, the group he probably had the most reason to declare war on. He never “declared war” against drunkenness or prostitution or tax collection – he just loved on drunks, prostitutes, and tax collectors. Jesus didn’t even “declare war” on sin, at least not in the way that we usually think about it. Jesus just loved sinners and got to know them. And as he did so, as these sinners got to know Him, their lives were changed. It wasn’t about knowing or understanding or believing certain things in order to be saved – it was just about knowing Jesus.
So back to what I said originally… I’m struggling this morning because part of me wants to have unity in love and in the faith with a fellow believer in Christ. Another part of me wants to yell and scream because this fellow believer is so horribly misrepresenting Jesus to the world (and by ‘yell and scream’, I mean ‘swear and throw things’). I want all my readers (both of you!) to understand the gospel of Jesus in a way that this pastor in Florida obviously doesn’t. It’s about love and grace, not judgement and death.
Peace. …and I mean peace. Stop thinking about life as a culture war against something. The body count is too high already…
*the Donald Miller quote comes from his book, Searching for God Knows What. Excellent book!