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

A Different Approach To The Issue Of Abortion


With health care at the forefront of the public debate, the issue of abortion is back in the news again.  I realize this is a very controversial and emotional issue, and my intent is not to polarize people further. I even debated whether to publish this post, but I decided to do so because I believe there is a rational path toward resolution on this issue.

The problem with the issue of abortion is both sides start from opposing presuppositions.  Pro-lifers presuppose a fetus is a human life.  Abortion-advocates presuppose a fetus is not a human life, or that it is not until it becomes viable, or they are agnostic and believe a woman’s choice trumps all.  Because both sides start from opposing presuppositions they will never reach the same conclusion.  Any resolution is dependent on one or both sides starting from a different place.

I propose both start from a more humble and honest place: the place of uncertainty.  The great jurist, Learned Hand said, “The spirit of liberty is the spirit that is not sure it is right.”  That is a great place to start.

I think there is great evidence, both scientific and Biblical, that a fetus is a human life, but I am willing to set that aside and state that I might be wrong.  If you are on the other side of the issue you will surely admit you cannot know for certain that a fetus is not a life.  It may be. It may not be.  You may have an opinion, but you cannot honestly say you know for certain.  Now that we are at the same place–the place of uncertainty–we have something to talk about.

Suppose we were out hunting and you saw something moving in the thicket in the distance you thought was a deer, but you were not sure.  It might be a deer, but it might also be a man. You are uncertain.  Would you pull the trigger?  Would anyone? Would you take the chance of killing a human being? Of course not.  The issue of abortion is no different.  If you cannot be certain a fetus is not a human life you cannot advocate abortion; and the truth is you cannot be certain.

What happens is people allow expediency or the mother’s preferences and desires to trump their uncertainty.  But this is not rational, nor in the face of uncertainty can it be ethical.  It’s just expedient.  It’s no different than slave owners deciding African-Americans were not fully human because slave owners didn’t want to give up their cotton and tobacco profits.  I’ve never had to deal with an unwanted pregnancy and while I can guess, I cannot say I fully understand what a mother of an unwanted pregnancy feels in the moment of decision.  But I don’t need to know because we are trying to arrive a rational, ethical decision, not an emotional one.

Anyway, that’s how I see it, but I may be wrong.  GS


Why It Matters If You Think President Obama Is Muslim

I trust if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I don’t think Republicans or Democrats have cornered the market on Truth. I blogged once on the basis for justice in the kingdom of God as a an example of how humanistic both political parties are. I say this as a preface to what I want to say in this post, so you’ll understand my goal here is not to be an apologist for President Obama.

Yet, I continue to read with surprise polls showing nearly 30% of white Evangelicals in the United States believe President Obama is a Muslim. As a Christian, whose desire is to see the kingdom of God advance in the earth, I’m concerned so many Christians have embraced this belief.

If you want clarity on the matter, read Stephen Mansfield’s book, The Faith of Barack Obama. I’ve met Stephen Mansfield. I spent an afternoon last summer touring Washington D.C. with him, and I discussed the book with him (which I had previously read). He’s a New York Times best-selling author and a born-again, Bible-believing Christian. If you have any doubts about his motives, I suggest you read his New York Times bestseller, The Faith of George W. Bush.

To put it bluntly, he’s one of us, and his book shows President Obama is clearly not a Muslim. This conclusion is not based on Stephen Mansfield’s opinion but on a reading of the undisputed facts of President Obama’s life. I won’t repeat those facts here because that’s not the purpose of this post. I’m more concerned here with the effect of this widespread misconception because there are two things that can result from it, and both are bad.

First, by continuing to proclaim President Obama is a Muslim in the face of facts clearly showing he is not, Christians lose credibility in the eyes of the world. It’s ok if the world thinks Christians are foolish for believing in Jesus, His crucifixion and resurrection. It’s not ok for them to think we are foolish because we believe the world is flat. It’s not ok because it’s the destiny of Christians to lead the world, and the world will not follow people who don’t know up from down.

Second, continuing to proclaim President Obama is a Muslim can only have the effect of alienating him from the Evangelical world. Do you think President Obama will want to hear anything from Christians who say he is lying about being a Christian?

It’s something to think about. GS