06 September 2010

A Question and a Response

The artist known as UP sent me this article this morning from regarding a Christian congregation in Florida which plans to commemorate September 11 by burning copies of the Koran.

The question he posed along with the article: What do you say to someone who acts this way "in the name of God"?


At first, I thought that I could simply dismiss the congregation in Florida as "crazy people," who had so thoroughly mangled and twisted the Christian message that their "church" had ceased to be worthy of the name.  I wanted to come out guns blazing, proving to myself and to all others around me how enlightened I was and to show how simply modern, forward-thinking and darn reasonable a Catholic could be when confronted with something that smacks of jingoism and hatred.  

But, you know what?  I can't dismiss what is going on.  I can't simply call these folks in Florida fools and leave it at that.  

I think there are several things going on here that require closer examination.

1) The destruction of the prophetic voice: This community in Florida obviously believes that it is acting in the name of God.  They believe that they are exercising the prophetic function that is present throughout the history of religion of all stripes.  And quite frankly, they are able to do so, because most Christians, Catholics specifically, have abrogated their baptismal responsibility to be prophets of God's Word.  This sort of protest gets the attention of the media because the Christian confessions have largely stopped being prophets.  The vacuum is being filled.  

2) Christian education is a mess: There seems to be a lacuna between what Christians believe and what they practice.  Surely, this is a problem as old as the earliest churches.  We are all sinners and all fall short of the model of Christ.  And yet, there seem to be more and more situations in which we simply have no idea to what model we should be aspiring.  The real tragedy of our modern age is not those who pick and choose the moral teachings of the Church as it suits them.  I think the real tragedy is that we've replaced the total person of Jesus the Christ with thin slices of this particular Gospel or this particular letter of Paul.  When one does this, trouble is found rather quickly.  Particular examples of this include those who take a social justice Jesus as the only manifestation of the Son of Man, overemphasis on the historical Jesus and those who use particular sayings of Christ as total endorsements of their particular and peculiar religious practices.  The old saying of lex orandi, lex credendi comes to mind.  That is, as we pray, so we believe.  And I think in many cases, we've stopped truly praying.

3) People are scared and angry: The ultimate questions of the Christian are still valid.  Such questions do not rest upon the intricacies of admission to the sacrament of Orders and others like these.  Don't misunderstand, these questions are extremely important.  However, the questions of redemption, salvation, sin, forgiveness and prayer are as relevant now as they ever have been.  Christianity not only has the answers to these questions, I believe, but also the means and vocabulary to lead humanity as a whole to the answers.  Humanity, and Americans in particular at this juncture, are scared and angry.  All that we've been taught to hold as sacred have been deconstructed, mocked, analogized and run through a post-modernist wringer that has no rules but the triumph of the self.  Christianity must provide answers to these questions; the Koran-burning is the response of one small portion of Christianity to these questions.    Most would find it distasteful, but where are the prophets who would speak in favor of Christ, not just against someone else's narrow and violent view of Him?

So, what do I say to those who burn Korans in the name of God?  

I don't say anything to them in particular; I'd be more curious to ask them about the stance which they take to be prophetic and then challenge them with a prophetic stance of my own.  I'd ask about their education in the faith and find out their point of departure.  Perhaps most importantly, I'd attempt to get at the anger and fear that seems to be implicit in their violent response to Islam.  

1 comment:

UP said...

I was a little late getting back to you about this, but I am very impressed with your thoughtful response to the Koran burning. You raised some points that I'd not considered. Which is why I posed the question to you in the first place. Well said, my brother.