Where were we? Oh yes, how do we respond to terrorism or angry Muslim retaliation to something we’ve done. The burning of Bibles or the killing of Americans. I’ve previously suggested that we need to recognize that our questions can be answered from three different perspectives: political, social/cultural or theological.
My first blog about this gave the theological answer. Frankly it should be our first reaction every time. To ask ourselves the question: how does God see this situation and what would he want me to do. I recommended focusing on the log in our own eyes. Not a very satisfying answer when we want retribution. Justice. Fairness. But Jesus clearly calls us to love our enemies, leave judgment to Him and take the tree trunks out of our angry eyes.
But there is also a social or cultural way to look at something like what’s happening now in Afghanistan or Iran.
I often hear things like, “Listen, if we can’t have churches in Saudi Arabia, then let’s not let them have mosques in America.” Or, “Why can they burn our Bible but if we accidentally burn one Quran they go crazy.”
Believe me, there’s a part of me (a pretty significant part) that says “Yeah. Good point. What’s up with that?”
I try not to think that because its not very productive and there is a better answer. One of the biggest issues in the world today is that we are living with nations who have progressed through modernity and on to post-modernity, while at the same time, other countries have never even witnessed modernity. And because the world is so flat (we all hear and see what the others are doing instantly through TV, radio and the Internet) we aren’t able to discern, or we forget, the huge difference between these various societies. We figure that if we can see them and how they act, and we interpret that through our post-modern lenses, then surely they are doing the same with us.
I often ask groups that I speak to, this question: What do you think Ali who lives in southern Iran thinks of America or the West in general? He has never left his region. Only speaks Arabic. Is Shi’ite. Has two wives, 8 kids. Makes $200 a month and watches satellite TV. He sees the West through the eyes of his TV. Gang violence. Shootings in schools. Everyone getting divorced and sleeping around. Kids not respecting their parents. A seemingly godless society.
Ali prays five times a day. Loves his children. His parents live with him and his wives take turns caring for his parents and theirs (both sets of theirs live on the same street).
He can’t figure out why a “Christian” nation like America acts this way. He knows the Quran teaches him to love, respect and honor Christians, but, frankly, they all seem a little crazy to him. And he can’t understand why they invaded Iraq. Sure, no one liked Saddam. Definitely not any of his Shiite friends or relatives. But to invade and occupy a country? Why would this Christian nation do this? Is it a new Crusade? He’s read about the crusades in school and how terrifying these western Christians were. Could that be it? And on the other side of his country, America is there as well. Why? The Taliban? Yes, they’re crazy, but why does America care? What do they really want with this region? Oil? The minerals of Afghanistan or the Opium? Or maybe they want to make us all Christians? Like the crusaders. It’s confusing for Ali.
Ali realizes its probably just good old fashioned retribution. He understands that language. Retribution for 9/11. Fair enough, he thinks. Fight them. They fight us. He gets it now. He understands. Justice will prevail. Who started it? No one knows, but we know who can outlast the other, he thinks to himself.
Put the burning of the Qurans in this light. By the way, Muslims think very differently about their physical holy book then we do about ours. The book itself is highly sacred. They would never let it touch the floor. You would never find one in a bathroom. You don’t write in one. And it should sit higher than any other book in a room. We don’t think that way about our Bibles. Most bathrooms have one – for reading while you’re sitting. We have them piled on the floor under the recent Time magazine. We have spiritualized Gods word – fair enough, I’d say. But not Muslims. The book itself is holy. It’s incarnated. It is the closest physical thing that a Muslim ever gets to seeing or touching God.
And our soldiers burned them. On accident? Do you think anyone in Afghanistan thinks that was an accident?
It may have been a genuine mistake. I’d actually guess that it was. But it was a HUGE mistake. And we will pay. Retribution. Justice. An eye for an eye. Most of the world still lives by this principle. And it seems we do as well….