by Mark “The Howard” Hinderliter
If you happen to read this, know that it is being written through insomnia. Not that I’m incoherent but, occasionally something just takes up so much space in the head that sleep won’t come, TV won’t help and there’s no compelling novel waiting to lull me. Just an engineering textbook. The textbook could actually work as an insomnia cure on another night, but not tonight.
Let me say first that I’m not a political liberal. I think our country’s founders were pretty smart guys who enacted the best system of government they could given their study of history and the political and societal realities of their time. And this system has withstood the test of time: self-centered politicians, elitists and those who believe they are entitled to something that belongs to another.
Having said that, I am deeply bothered by the church in Florida whose pastor wants to burn a Quran to commemorate 9-11. Apparently, this man is disturbed by the proposed Mosque planned near the site of the World Trade Center in New York City and what he sees as the world’s cowering to fanatic Muslim extremists. Burning a copy or copies of the Quran on 9-11 is his and his congregation’s response to these current events.
When I first heard a news report of this planned burning, it was in the context of General David Petraeus warning that it could fan the flames of hatred and endanger our troops in Afghanistan. And I have to admit, I was not swayed by the General’s argument. My first reaction was, “Tough, what goes around comes around. Burn our flag and the Christian Bible, we’ll retaliate.”
I am frequently a very conflicted man on these sorts of things.
Left to my own devices I’d probably join the pastor. Left to my own devices I’d promote the death penalty for murderers and rapists. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve said out loud when hearing the report of a homicide or a rape, “bullet in the head will put a stop to that.”
But I have to admit something. I’ve read the words of Christ. I’ve read the words of the Lord spoken through the prophets of old. Sometimes they confuse me and seem to conflict. But when I think about the actions of Jesus on earth and I ponder what he would do in a given situation, I don’t reach the conclusion that he would act hatefully or act in retaliation.
Now there were certainly things that irritated him. Turn his Father’s house into a goat market? Serious irritation. The hypocrisy of religious leaders, those who should know better? Their behavior earned a tongue lashing that may not be over yet! But burn someone else’s religious book? I can’t see it. Jesus was and is a walking endorsement of the love of a Creator God who would do anything for any of us. Including radical Muslim haters. Because if they took the time to know Him their behavior would change. Children of the King learn to act like the King. If they seek Him over self.
I don’t know anything about this preacher in Florida other than he wants to burn a book. But I can look at history and see that when people follow a charismatic leader rather than the King, hatred and destruction usually follow. Waco, Guyana…but from Waco came Oklahoma City. And Jonesy didn’t go alone.
Those who would call themselves Christian are called to love their enemies and pray for them. Vengeance is for the Lord. If a Koresh or a Jones claims to be the Lord’s instrument of vengeance or retaliation, run away. Leave them to their own destruction. Do not join them until you have read the red letters for yourself. That one chooses to be tolerant of another’s beliefs does not mean he condones them. He chooses to love that person until the light of the Kingdom shines through.
Maybe I can sleep now. If not, the text book awaits me.