Posts Tagged ‘Seen and Not Heard’

Seen and not heard
Seen and not heard
Sometimes God’s children should be seen and not heard.
Too much Talk
Not enough walk
Sometimes God’s children should be seen and not heard.

(Petra, 1990)

It truly makes me wonder when people make knee-jerk statements about current events that are more about their own personal agendas than they are about solving the actual problem; especially when they do it in the name of God.

I am a Christian, a fairly devote one at the risk of sounding arrogant, but I really wish those who claim to speak for God would think a little before they spout off to the media or on the Internet. Would I like to see prayer allowed in the schools? Yes. Do I think it should be part of the daily curriculum? Not really; no one should be forced to endure the rubrics of any faith not their own, however prevalent said faith may be among the general populous. Freedom of religion should mean if a child or teacher or group within a school wants to pray they should be allowed to in a manner or at a time that is not disruptive. Mandating it for everyone is beyond reasonable.

That said, however I might lament the removal of the freedom to pray from schools across the continent I most certainly do not think that removing prayer from the schools is why 61 different school shootings have taken place in North America over the last 30 years. It is just too superficial a response.

The secular drum beaters are no better.

Does America need better gun control? Certainly it does, but allowing people to own a handgun is not the issue.  Many Canadians own handguns, but they do not kill 10,000+ people a year. Many more Canadians own rifles, but again they don’t go around killing people as a form of anger management. But the alleged gunman Adam Lanza didn’t use handguns; he used fully automatic, military grade rifles that fire 100+ rounds a minute. I have no issue with properly vetted civilians with clean criminal records having a rifle or a handgun, but I can’t make a case for any civilian having that kind of military grade fire power.

But even America’s lax gun laws aren’t the most important issue. Even if he had no guns whatsoever, in all likelihood Adam Lanza would have killed his mother and others by some means; just not nearly as many. And that’s the issue – Why did Adam Lanza feel he needed to kill?

The real question that needs an answer is not why can’t we pray in schools, or why do we need guns. The real question that must be addressed is why do so many young people come to the conclusion that the only way out of the life situation they find themselves in is to kill themselves and others?

The din of the noise being made by the religious right and the various pro and anti gun lobbies is so great the cry of the primary victim is rarely heard. And when someone does bring it up the cacophony of the lobbyists just gets louder and more vicious. It’s hard to think of the 28 children and teachers as corollary damage in these situations, but in some respects that’s what they are. And saying that doesn’t mean the loss of life is meaningless; it isn’t.

But before the shooting starts there is another victim. The primary victim is the shooter. This person was so messed up by something, somewhere, somehow, that they felt killing was the only solution. But no, it’s far easier to dismiss the killer as a crazy and focus simply on reducing the body count.

But the body count is only a symptom; the disease that lies at the heart of the issue infects the one holding the gun. They are the ones who need healing.

What kind of society is it that so disenfranchises their youth, that suicide is seen by far too many as the only way out? What kind of society creates such despair in a young person’s heart and mind that killing children and teachers is seen as the only solution? Until the gun lobbyist and the prayer lobbyists shut up for a minute and let the real issue come to the forefront, nothing will ever get solved.

I’m not saying prayer in the schools and stiffer guns laws will do no good. Changing policy regarding spiritual and moral instruction in our schools and changing the gun culture will have definite benefits. But simply decreasing the body count is not enough. The heart of the issue, the real solution lies in finding and helping the Adam Lanzas of this world before the despair they feel drives them to such extremes.

Then America and indeed the entire world will truly start to see a difference.

 

Back in January I suggested that ‘Some of God’s Children should be Seen and Not Heard‘ in response to some outrageous suggestions made by Pat Robertson. Well unfortunately, I find the old Petra song running through my head once again. Here’s the part I keep thinking about…

Too many black sheep in the family
Too many stones from a house of glass
They’ve heard the story, they’ve heard the lines
But talk is too cheap to change their minds
They want to see some vital signs

Convictions – in the way we live
Convictions – not a narrative
Actions speak a little louder than words

Unfortunately in the case of Florida minister Terry Jones, he intends to back up his words with actions and frankly, his plans aren’t going to do much good, either for the memory of 9/11, for the state of international relations, or for the church of Jesus Christ.

If I remember correctly (I haven’t been to a Petra concert in nearly two decades) when Bob Hartman wrote the above lyrics the “vital signs” he was referring to are of the ilk refered to in Matthew 5:16. I seem to remember the band mentioning this passage when they sang the song.

In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Somehow, I can’t quite picture burning the Quran as being in the list of ‘good deeds’ Jesus had in mind. Jesus made it clear that he wanted to raise the bar on what it means to live by faith. He was very specific on how his followers would be recognized. What exactly did Jesus say would be the symbol of those who followed him? Does this sound familiar?

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35

Now I’m sure that the members of the Dove World Outreach Centre — now there’s irony for you! As my friend Ebby put it on my Facebook page, “Dove, World and Outreach in the church’s name might, to a naive person such as myself, actually imply an intention to reach out with their message to the world with a dove-like attitude of peace. Silly me.”  Well put Ebby! – But I digress.

As I was saying, I’m sure that the members of the Dove World Outreach Centre would respond by declaring that the radical Muslims they are sending a message to are not the ‘one another’ Jesus is talking about. They will tell you, and with some small measure of validity, that these people are the enemies of the church and should be treated as such.  The problem is I remember Jesus also being very specific on how to treat the enemies of the church…

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. 33And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. 34And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. 35But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. – Luke 6:27-36

I am always astounded at how quickly Christians totally ignore this command and get all Old-Testament-on-your-ass whenever someone says two words that don’t line up with their personal dogma. And I’m not just talking Islam here, nor am I just calling out the book burners. I’m talking about what seems to be the default response far too many ‘believers’ take when these alleged “attacks” on the church take place.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a mosque at Ground Zero (which isn’t by the way), a movie based on a book by an atheist, or the mathematical musings of a world-renowned physicist, Christians have this really bad habit of  responding not with love and good deeds, but hate, death threats, and right-wing repartee.[1]

Why do we have such a hard time realizing that Jesus calls us to respond differently from the world around us? Of course radical Muslims are going to call a jihad against those they perceive as disrespecting Mohammed; but where does it say that Christ is calling us to respond in kind? What part of ‘love your enemies and do good’ can we not comprehend? When Paul said that doing good to our enemy would “heap coals of fire on his head” (Rom. 12:20) I don’t think he meant the coals left over from burning the Koran.

Jesus calls his disciples to rise above the knee-jerk reactions of the Pharisees and their ilk. Any child can lash out blindly when life doesn’t go their way. But we have been called to put aside our childish responses and in true spiritual maturity set a higher example. There is a better way, shown to us by the one who forgave even those who whipped, beat and ultimately murdered Him.

If you want a truly effective way of dealing with the so-called “threat of Islam”, then may I suggest you can the rhetoric and show the love of Christ to your Muslim neighbour.

Till next time – Shalom.

—-

Notes:

[1]  If you followed the “right-wing repartee” link let me say I agree with Mike re: the lame responses to Hawking. “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.” doesn’t really settle anything. On the Articulate Apologetics Assessment List it’s really little more than a theological raspberry. But that’s just me digressing again.

It never ceases to amaze me that in times of amazing human suffering somebody says something that can be so utterly stupid.

Such was the response of White House spokesman Robert Gibbs to the declaration by ‘700 Club ‘ and ‘CBN’ founder Pat Robertson that the earthquake in Haiti was another in a long line of natural disasters brought on by a “pact with the devil” Haitians made some two centuries ago.  The White House Press Secretary is absolutely right, but what bothers me is how often that something “so utterly stupid” is said by a minister of God.

There’s no denying that many times in the Old Testament God used a variety of ‘natural disasters’ to chastise one nation or another; so it is certainly understandable that many would question if God is still working that way today.  What I question however; is anyone’s ability to accurately discern which events are God in action and which are the natural consequence of a world that no longer works according to the original design? And even if you have reason to believe that a given event may, in fact, be the consequences of spiritual decisions made centuries ago, how can you possibly think saying so at a time when emotions are obviously running high can be of any help, either to the victims or to the cause of Christ?

It is just this kind of spiritual thoughtlessness that casts Christians and the gospel in a light not as a message of love and redemption, but rather one of judgment and condemnation. Daily Show host Jon Stewart actually hit the nail on the head during last night’s program. After reading a number of quotes from the Bible that spoke of the love and comfort of God, eg. “Turn to me and I will comfort you” Stewart looks straight into the camera and says to Robertson,

Out of all the things that you could draw on from your religion to bring comfort to a devastated people and region, you decided to go with, ‘Tough kitties, devil folk!’

Now I’m sure that this was not the spirit in which Robertson made the statements he made; the problem is that’s how it almost always comes across.  And while Robertson seems to have a substantial track record in this regard, he is not alone. All too often we as Christians think we have to expound on everything the scriptures have to say on any given situation we encounter, and more often than not all that’s needed is a simple, “Don’t be afraid. God Loves You!”

Throughout all of Scripture, God’s messengers most frequently begin their message to the people with these simple words, “Do not be afraid!” Do not be afraid, God will deliver you.  Do not be afraid, God will bless you.  Even while telling his disciples of the terrible things that were to come (including earthquakes) Jesus told them not to be afraid.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  – John 16:33 NIV

Now I know some of you are wondering, “Okay, but Haiti gets hit a lot. What if Robertson is right?” Well I’m wondering, does it really matter? Does why the earthquake hit let us off the hook for being compassionate? Are we called to help and encourage only those whose ancestors had their act together? I don’t think so.

I do think the Bible calls us to be the presence of Christ in this world.  And I do think that means to feed the hungry, heal the sick and mend the brokenhearted regardless of how they got into their situation. And I also think that if the children of God can’t do this without saying things that make them sound spiritually knowledgeable, but end up doing more harm than good, then maybe God’s children should be seen and not heard!