False Oaths And Lifetime Scholarships

Perhaps you saw the story yesterday. Faisal Shahzad, the Muslim terrorist who tried to set off a bomb in Times Square, was sentenced to life in prison. When I read it, I had two concerns.

The judge asked Shahzad about the oath of allegiance to the United States he took when he became an American citizen. Shahzad’s answer, “I did swear, but I did not mean it.”

I suppose this means we now have to hire more INS agents to attend swearing-in ceremonies to ensure immigrants don’t have their fingers crossed behind their back when they take the oath.

The other concern had to do with the sentence: life in prison. Does the irony occur to any other Americans that Shahzad tried to kill you, and now you get to pay $23,000/year for the next 50 years to incarcerate him? He breaks the law and now he’s on scholarship for the rest of his life.

This irony is apparently not lost on God because His solution makes a lot more sense. I’m not referring to capital punishment, although that is a small part of it. Tune in tomorrow and I will explain. GS

3 Clarifications About 9/11

Today there will be much talk about 9/11, its causes and the people involved. Because Truth is a virtue, it is incumbent upon citizens of the kingdom of God to speak accurately about 9/11. With that I offer 3 thoughts with the intent of bringing some clarification to the conversation of 9/11.

1. The Terrorists Were Not Cowards. It has become popular to call the 9/11 terrorists cowards. However, a coward is one who succumbs to fear and self-preservation. The terrorists of 9/11 all voluntarily gave their lives for what they perceived as a higher calling or principal. They were, of course, wrong. There was no higher calling or principal, which makes these men fools, misguided and wicked, but they were not cowards.

2. The Victims Were Not Necessarily Heroes. A hero is someone who sacrifices his/her desires, needs or life for others or a higher calling. Being killed may make one a victim, but not necessarily a hero. There were heroes on 9/11. The firefighters and police who entered burning buildings to save others, as well as the people in the buildings who risked their lives to help those around them, are all heroes. But to call everyone who died in 9/11 a hero is to cheapen the word for those to whom it truly applies. We should honor those who died, but let’s do so honestly. Honest honor is better than false praise.

3. The Opportunity Will Always Be Clearer Than The Cause. We can speculate forever about the causes of 9/11. I’m not talking about the direct causes, i.e. that terrorists flew planes into buildings, but the more fundamental causes, whether they be political or divine. What is clear is the opportunity 9/11 created for the kingdom of God. 9/11 shook a nation out of its secular slumber and opened people to the Gospel. It also incited hatred, which gave Kingdom citizens the opportunity to model the love of Christ to Muslims. In short, it was a tremendous opportunity for the advance of the kingdom of God. Only time will tell how well Christians seized that opportunity.

So, if you find yourself in a conversation regarding 9/11 today, speak Truth, give honor where honor is due and seize the opportunity for the kingdom of God. GS

Lessons From Threatened Book Burning

2010 (c)iStockphoto/wildcat78

Pastor Terry Jones’s 15 minutes of fame has stretched into a reality tv mini-series. If you haven’t heard the latest, Pastor Jones met with an imam who, Jones insists, promised him the planned Islamic center near ground zero would relocate if Jones would call off the book burning. Jones says he agreed and announced he was canceling, but not long after the meeting, the imam claimed he had made no such promise. Jones responded by saying the imam had lied and that the book burning was no longer cancelled but suspended.

I blogged on Jones’s inflammatory intentions recently and suggested he may have had more in common with Islamic terrorists than he realized. I also blogged on the proposed Islamic center near ground zero, contending the most popular arguments against are missing the point. But I think there is something more significant here than either individual incident.

In response to his plan to burn a Quran, Jones claims he and his people have received over 100 death threats, and there is concern around the world of bloody repercussions by Muslims against Christians, and even the American military. So serious were these threats, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called Jones and encouraged him to call off the book burning. And all of because Jones threatened to burn a book.

But I don’t recall hearing of death threats against Muslims in response to plans to build an Islamic center near ground zero. Many Christians disagreed for sure, but they tried to reason and persuade. They didn’t threaten to kill people.

Or look at the response of the Christian community to Jones. Christians from every conceivable denomination called on Jones not to go ahead with the book burning, and they did so publicly. They went on the record to make it clear what Jones proposed to do was not representative of Christianity or its Founder.

But in response to plans to build an Islamic center and mosque near ground zero, Muslim leaders have been silent. I didn’t hear them calling on their fellow Muslims to build at a different place or suggesting love or respect for the feelings of others is required of them by their Islamic beliefs. If they have spoken publicly its been to claim victim status or first amendment rights.

Obviously, there are exceptions on both sides, but my point is there has been a substantive difference between the response of Christendom and Muslims which reveals more about both than the underlying controversies that spawned them.

What do you think? Do you see moral equivalency here or a difference in the responses? GS

Kingdom Politics

I’ve purposively avoided political issues here because I believe them to be unnecessarily divisive and often a distraction from more important issues of the kingdom of God. But on August 26, 2010, I blogged on the proposed Islamic center and mosque near ground zero, and that began a stream of conscious of posts on political issues that ended on September 1, 2010, with a post asking whether an abortion advocate could be a Christian.

If there is a common thread in the my recent posts on political issues it is in the attempt to think through these issues outside the left/right political box, more specifically, from the perspective of seeking first the kingdom of God. Continue reading “Kingdom Politics”

Can An Abortion Advocate Be A Christian?

I believe abortion is the taking of a human life. I’ll spare you all the reasons because you have probably heard them before. If you don’t agree that abortion is the taking of a human life, then I won’t try to persuade you that it is, but I would challenge you to read yesterday’s post because even if you don’t believe abortion is the taking of a human life, I believe logic and the most universal of ethics demand that you be against it.

Having said that, I would like to pose a question to fellow citizens of the kingdom of God: “Can an abortion advocate really be a Christian?” It’s an important question.

I ask the question because I believe there are a fair number of Christians who would answer “No” to the question, and even those who believe it’s possible would have to admit that knowing a person sees nothing wrong with abortion would cause them to doubt that person’s faith.

But if you find yourself in one of those two groups, let me ask you a question: Do you think it’s possible to be a Christian and believe there is nothing wrong with race-based slavery? If you answer “No,” you have just eliminated most of the American South for more than 200 years. I think one has to admit that it was possible to be right about Jesus and wrong about slavery.

If Christians can be blind enough not to see that slavery is wrong, they can be blind enough not to see that abortion is wrong. And, if Christians can be wrong on these matters, I suppose they can also be wrong on issues like the role of the government in our lives and the level of taxation we should endure.

As I said above, I believe abortion is the taking of a human life, in other words, murder. I believe slavey is abhorrent. I believe, as a general rule, the less government and taxes the better. So, my point is not to assert the opposite positions here but to argue against the tendency to make one’s politics a litmus test for whether they are a citizen of the kingdom of God.

The advancement of the kingdom of God is not as dependent upon its citizens being right on political issues as it is on its citizens being righteous.  Politics are are neither all-important nor unimportant.  If we are to seek first the kingdom of God (Matt. 6:33), then we cannot allow something less important, like politics, to separate us from fellow citizens of the kingdom of God who also desire to see it advance in the earth. GS