By George Elerick
In Gainesville, Florida a church is encouraging their members to burn the Quran in remembrance of the victims of 9/11. Their hopes are to rally as many people together from 6pm to 9pm on the day and burn the holy book from a religion they deem is “from the devil.”
The church sells coffee mugs and church that loudly proclaims, “Islam is of the Devil.” When a church uses social media, clothing and kitchen accessories to spark violent division between religions, this isn’t supporting the ethos of Jesus, this is indoctrination, pure and simple.
The idea behind indoctrination is the assumption that whatever a follower believes becomes the deity rather than the Deity. The beliefs they sign on to become more important than any other thing. We are in an incredibly aware society in our day and age and that is becoming even more conscious as time progresses.
This tells me that messages like this can no longer be accepted as the ‘norm’. that messages like this support an old way of doing things. when we aggressively attack another for their beliefs, what we are essentially doing is making our religion the god with which to measure another’s belief system.
When we do this, we demonstrate to society that religion has nothing positive to add to the global family. This is not true. This is why we must respond to such things, not with similar anger, but with love. Or as a first-century writer once wrote, “Overcome evil with good.”
Doing things like this isn’t that far from being much like the evil stepmother in the story of Cinderella. Remember the story? Cinderella is the unassuming girl who is forced into labor. Poor, despondent and powerless. When the Stepmother enters the scene, Cinderella is forced into a certain role that isn’t who she truly is.
One of the many points of this narrative is about power and influence and using it to oppress others. This story has much to teach us about the present divisive behaviour demonstrated by this church in Florida. This church has assumed the objective role of stepmother and has forced the Islamic community into the role of Cinderella.
This isn’t to say that the Islamic community is powerless, poor or despondent. I don’t believe that for one-minute. I have many influential friends who are doing great things for Islam. But, from the perspective of the church there is a manipulative power struggle going on. They are assuming the role of one who is much like the stepmother, the objective rubric for what is acceptable and what isn’t acceptable in terms of religion expression. This should not be so.
My understanding of the message of Jesus leads me to believe that I should be informed by love rather than aggression. That I should be willing to sit at the table of another and learn from them. The word evangelism is used quite a bit in certain circles of Christian faith expression. One of the main verses in the Bible for evangelistic inspiration comes from Matthew 28:19-20.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (NIV)
When Jesus uses the word teach at the root word of the Hebrew is the phrase to learn. I wonder if we might have gotten it wrong? I don’t want to get down on Christianity or evangelism within it, but maybe we’ve missed the point about what it means to teach. If we are able to teach, it means at one time we were able to be taught.
I think the danger is when we approach truth in terms of utilizing it as a measurement for another in such a way that we abuse the other we are called to love. To teach is to truly be taught. To learn is to truly have learned. I think if we can come to a place where we can humbly stand together rather than apart, I think we might arrive closer to the central teachings of our faith. When we spend time arguing and violently asserting one faith over another, we then create the antithesis to what our faith stands for.
We all have the image of the Divine within. When we expend ourselves in ways that create division rather than peace, we unknowingly deny that image within us. I pray we all can learn to “love one another as we love ourselves.” I believe we can, don’t you?
George loves the outdoors, singing in the shower and doing underwater, synchronized pilates. He is currently working on a book entitled Jesus Bootlegged: Recapturing the Stolen Message of Jesus for The World. You can read more about him at his blog: The Love Revolution.