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Monday, July 4, 2011

Islam in the church...and consumerism, too, I guess

Islam is sometimes mentioned in worship and Bible classes. I'm probably going to seem overly critical, but I'm just trying to sort out what's right- how should I react, what does the Bible say, should I go along with the majority? It's more of an inward criticism or conflict. Or maybe I am hypersensitive on this or maybe it's just one of those things that for me provokes thought endlessly given the political atmosphere and times. There was a lighthearted joke- not a big deal- but it made me think about the way we talk about other religions, etc. It also made me think of some less lighthearted things about Islam I've heard from people I would otherwise consider strong in the faith, as this situation always does.

I also found the strong agreement when radical Islam and suicide bombing was mentioned interesting. That made me think about buzzwords and hot topics that are often mentioned when politics and religion cross over now and then. When certain things are mentioned like abortion, gay marriage, the way culture is going down the tubes because a certain party in in the White House, and I think we can add radical Islam to the list (which is weird since it has very little to do with Islam and nothing to do with Christians), it can really animate and light a fire under a congregation. I use the conservative example here, because this is what situation I am in, but it is the same for the other side as well, I'm sure- same reaction to different buzzwords.

I mean why look at Islam so closely? Aside from the political focus, because I guess that's the real reason. Why poke fun at their beliefs- or things we think are beliefs but are really myths? I see it done with denominations occasionally, but we normally catch ourselves and say we shouldn't be doing that. Not so with Islam. It can be sort of a of a free for all. Maybe it's because when we're poking fun at denominations, we get uncomfortable when we think of a good friend who is involved with one of these groups; whereas many of us don't have this handy check and balance for Islam (I'm just guessing here).

Instead of the jokes, though, I wonder why we don't approach Islam (not just personally, but teach it), or more specifically, radical Islam (since I think this is the focus of the concern), a little more like Paul or Stephen. They both just kept on preaching the truth (wisely- in their case they had the Spirit to lead them to various cities- in our case, we have the Bible that tells us not to provoke, to be be kind, live as we are called) and Stephen even pleaded for their souls as they stoned him to death. I don't recall them spreading rumors about or laughing at their detractors as part of their teaching. They were in more immediate danger than we are from "radical Islam" and yet they were far more sensible about the whole thing (I guess that makes sense, now, doesn't it?). I don't think that they weren't afraid- not at all- but they certainly handled it well and we can and should learn volumes from that. They may have made certain arrangements in their meetings for safety, but I can't really see the superior attitude in the New Testament that I hear sometimes today.

They seemed to have a good understanding of this verse we seem to often forget:

Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

And also:
Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

I have been seeing this focus on Islam in/by the church since the Iraq invasion or since 9/11/2001. There have been lessons, even lectureships, and of course many a post on a message board (breeding ground for sensational email forwards). Why? Maybe this is becoming one of those issues like abortion and gay marriage for which you must preach zero tolerance and draconian measures in order to be a true Republican and in some cases a true Christian? Is it a reflection of the Republican Party's obsession (see post on Muslim Hearings)?

I wonder why we have to be so concerned? It's not really such a safety issue. Yes, there are those who don't like our policies and want to kill for that. True. But nothing like Rome and Christianity back in the day- not by any means.

I do understand that we are to do this:
Ephesians 5:11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.

On the other hand, there are other issues (I believe) that we should be thinking more closely about than Islam or the smaller minority of radicals. Consumerism. Why do we "need" so much stuff? I'm talking about myself as much as anyone. Having been to the 3rd world, made that vow to do with less, violated said vow so quickly and easily upon return, I  reflect on it some. I think we could do with a lot less, but then in a world of excess, you'd look like you were unnecessarily depriving yourself or worse, your kids. It seems much more in style to decry Islam, abortion, or gay marriage than declaring a war on stuff. I don't think it's a sin to want that Kindle or iPad or splurge on shoes, but at some point you do cross that line. Where is the line? And I think a lot of times that line is closer than we are assuming and saying it is. We are quick to say rich people can and do enter heaven when the verses about the rich young ruler or the camel and the eye of the needle come up. Maybe for good reason. Though it might be hard, it is possible. The problem with it is that I don't hear as much in these types of discussions is how little can we do with? What can I do without? I have too much. I'm talking about myself, here, too, no question. I wonder if we should talk more about giving and buying and having less than clarifying various parables that say it's hard to get to heaven if you're rich?

Wow. This kind of ended up in a different place than I expected. And so ends another post I was going to delete, but will go ahead and post. If I deleted as many posts as I wanted to, I'd only have a handful up here! :)

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