I’m concerned about how we in America are increasingly polarized. I saw an interview with Tim Keller recently in which he said several years ago America would elect a President and everyone accepted that person as our President, but now those who voted for the opposition act as though the President’s time is office is illegitimate. It is sad that we, whether on the left or the right, act as though there is nothing praiseworthy or commendable in the other party.

Which is why I’m happy to see several Republican leaders commend and congratulate President Obama in addition to our military and intelligence personnel on the successful removal of Osama Bin Laden. I was also proud of Mr Obama’s address last night that presented the events in Afghanistan and Pakistan as part of a consistent American strategy; that is concurring in President Bush’s actions in those countries. I would love to see more points of agreement and recognition from individuals of either party that disagreement over priorities and goals doesn’t mean that those who disagree with you are stupid, corrupt, or malicious.

This is especially brought to light today as I had lunch with a friend of another Christian denomination who shared some misunderstandings about me as a Presbyterian. He had previously asked me some questions about my beliefs which allowed me to clarify what I believe. I was very grateful for the opportunity to explain my beliefs for myself, rather than have someone make assumptions about me based on caricature and distortion.

There is a strong temptation to only talk to people who we agree with, to read magazines and books written from a perspective we agree with, to get our “news” from stations or blogs that shares our own perspective. It’s easy to segregate ourselves in a little silo that supports how we see reality and cuts off conversation from anyone who sees things differently. Of course all this does is reinforce our own opinions and divides us further from our neighbor.

Wouldn’t it be more interesting to have lunch or a cup of coffee in the next week with someone you really disagree with and try to understand where they’re coming from? I bet it would be more productive than getting together with some folks who think just like you and fussing about what “those” people should do differently.

the Tim Keller interview can be seen here

On the Burning of Old Books

On September 11 the fifty member Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, FL plans on having a Koran burning to commemorate the 9th anniversary of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.  As they explain on their website is “we are burning Korans to raise awareness and warn”.  They go on to give ten reasons why the Koran should be burned and then cite Acts 19:18-20 as Biblical precedence to publicly burn “a book that is demonic”.  The reasoning of the leadership of the Dove World Outreach Centers is faulty, unbiblical and their protest is dangerously misguided.

Some of the reasons they give to burn the Koran are premises most Christians would agree are valid such as that the Koran is not divinely inspired or that it teaches that Jesus was not crucified.  But what is missing is any explanation of why a community that considers itself Christian should make the leap from disagreeing, even disagreeing strongly, with ideas to the symbolic attack of burning a book.  By the logic expressed in their reasons they should also burn any of the other competing texts held sacred by religious communities.  In other words, the reasons they have given for burning the Koran are merely reasons they disagree with the book – but it is a dangerous non sequitur that we burn books we disagree with.

Referencing the Book of Acts in support of book burning completely misunderstands the context of the passage.  The story tells of how some, who had previously practiced magic, converted to Christianity and afterwards brought their books out in an act of confession, “divulging their practices” (v. 18) and burnt them, though they had great monetary value, in an act of repentance.  That is they were publicly destroying their own books as a sign of their own conversion – not as an attack on others who believed differently.

Christianity is a faith that has always spread through rational means joined with works of mercy.  That is we believe in the truth of the Gospel we proclaim and present it clearly to others so that they might consent to truths by agreeing with the evidence and reasons for believing.  Book burning is an inflammatory attack that does nothing to proclaim the truths of scripture, the love of God, or invite Muslims to hear the Gospel we present.  The effect will be to alienate those who hold the Koran sacred.  Moreover, it will present Christianity to those outside the Church as an irrational faith.  Burning books gives the appearance that we are incapable of presenting our reasons for disagreeing with Islam and supporting those points with historical evidence and logic.  Rather than showing that Christianity  invites others to test all things and come to receive truth; those who support this protest reveal a belief system that is based on power, coercion, and force; it is indistinguishable from the images I see in the news of protesters burning American flags and calling the United States “the great Satan”.

I wish the leaders of the Dove World Outreach Center would obey the Bible on which they purport to be based, “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” (I Peter 3:15-16)  By hosting a book burning I believe the Dove World Outreach Center will do more harm to the faith of the Holy Bible than to the Koran.

Morality and Religion Irrational

I was reading a Washington Times piece on Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling overturning California’s homosexual marriage ban.  As the article states, ‘He denied that there is “any rational basis” for distinguishing the marriage of man and woman from same-sex relationships’ and ‘The evidence shows conclusively that moral
and religious views form the only basis for a belief that same-sex
couples are different from opposite-sex couples.’  It is terrifying to think that a federal judge is stating as fact that neither religion, or especially, morality are rational.  If morality is irrational, regardless of one’s belief system, what is it’s basis?

A Way With Words

I noticed this article on a USA Today blog this afternoon.  It reports that “The Southern Baptist Convention has broken its 127-year-old ties with a Fort Worth Baptist church because the SBC views its stand on homosexuality as too lenient”.
What caught my attention was the differences in articles I’ve been reading on the formation of the new Anglican Church in North America that consistently portray the groups that formed the ACNA as conservative schismatics leaving the Episcopal Church (for example here and here).  Nevermind the fact that the Episcopal Church has arrogantly ignored the larger Anglican Communion.
Reports of the inaugural convention fail to mention that some bishops who “left the episcopal church” have been deposed for “abandoning the communion” of the Church.(Here, here, and here)  Nor have they mentioned the priests who have been defrocked for their criticism.
When those who hold traditional views are in the majority they are seen as the agent causing division, when it was the Fort Worth Church that broke away from the clear teaching of the Southern Baptist Association (who, by the way won’t be suing for property or defrocking clergy).  On the other hand when they are in the minority, they are portrayed as “breakaway”, “dissident” and schismatic.

Miami Abortion Clinic Investigation

I saw this story this morning about a woman went to an abortion clinic to have her 23 week-old fetus aborted.  While there she delievered while waiting on the doctor to arrive.  One of the clinic’s owners cut the umblilical chord, put the baby in a bag and threw it out.

The article contains the statement “The case has riled the anti-abortion community, which contends the clinic’s actions constitute murder.”