your turn

So today is an open invitation…  just like all days, you are free to comment, although today, I want to wholeheartedly encourage you.  This is your opportunity to influence and encourage one another.

 

What issues are driving your vote this November?  What concerns you?

 

My desire this day is to have you write the blog.

 

The ground rules are this:

1.  As always, be respectful.  That means no disparaging terms describing any candidate, person, or people group.

2.  Be brief.  In order to have an interactive discussion that informs and challenges, let’s try not to talk too much, but rather, get to the point.  Sometimes we say more with fewer words.

3.  Be factual and specific.  Too many people base their concern (and their vote) on perspectives beginning with “it seems like” or “I feel.”  The oversight with that approach is that individual experience often trumps truth. I would encourage you as much as possible to be factual and objective, remembering that a subjective approach has significant potential to distort reality.

4.  If sharing any external link, utilize an objective source.  Hence, nothing from MSNBC or rushlimbaugh.com, for example, qualifies as objective.  And…

5.  Be witty.  It’s actually not a ground rule.  I just appreciate wit.

 

Ok, friends, comment.  Drive the discussion.  What issues concern you most this coming election?

 

Respectfully,

AR

an imperfect church… imperfect people

I couldn’t stop thinking about one tangent comment from Sunday’s post regarding divisiveness:  It’s “not about how the contemporary American church is obviously often an imperfect reflection of who God is.”

 

I realize that many will quickly quip how we can discern in totality who God is and what he wants from his people.  That’s an excellent question and an even greater pursuit.  It’s also a question that we probably can’t answer in entirety.  Yet the lack of answering in entirety should not dissuade us from attempting to answer.  Often the greatest growth comes simply through the asking.

 

I believe wholeheartedly, no less, that the contemporary American church is often an imperfect reflection.  So are the European churches.  Asian.  African.  Churches and people… we are each imperfect.  And we are incapable of being pure substitutes for divine reality.

 

God is not reflected well by those who embrace terrorism.  For those who believe that the killing of the infidel somehow merits eternal reward, such is inconsistent with the Creator of the world — the Creator, thus, too, of the people being mercilessly destroyed.

 

God is not reflected well by those who have physically or sexually abused others within the church.  For those who have gut-wrenchingly misused the intimacy and respect forded by church authority, especially with young men and women, such is inconsistent with the One who calls us to respect all life.

 

God is not reflected well by those who in the name of God shout hatred…

 

… nor by those who turn a blind eye to one side so they can remain focused on the other…

… nor by those who believe either the Republican or Democrat parties are all good (after all, they, too, were created by imperfect people)…

 

God is not reflected well by those who are arrogant… compassionless… unforgiving… and self-focused.

 

No, this idea that we need to spend so much time focusing on self is not representative of who God is.  My sense is God is much more humble than any of us could ever be.

 

The challenge, therefore, with “all of the above” lies within how we process what we see.  The watching world often forgets that the church is imperfect..  that all of God’s people are imperfect… that you and me are imperfect.  And in that forgetting we still make conclusions as to who God is and what he wants from us because we say, “I don’t want to be like that!”  “I don’t want anything to do with that!”  But yet, those conclusions are based upon imperfection.

 

Nowhere, friends, is it logical to derive conclusive, impassioned opinion based on what’s imperfect — or perhaps better said, based on what may be inaccurate.  Imperfect people — and thus inaccurate representations — are inherently incapable of modeling for us always and consistently who the Creator of the world actually is.

 

So what are we to do?

 

One, we must refrain from defining who God is based on so much emotion and individual experience.  How we feel doesn’t always necessarily line up with what is good and true.

 

Two, we must pursue God.  If there is a God out there who wants something from his creation, then I want to figure that out.  I’m sensing something along the lines of, “If he loves me and created me, then he probably wants me to love him back.”  Seems like a wise place to start.

 

And three, we must keep asking questions… even the tough ones.

 

Often the greatest growth comes simply through the asking.

 

Respectfully,

AR

division

Some things never compare to childhood learnings.

 

I was perhaps barely a teenager… in that age when you’re growing up, observing adults, aware of when things just aren’t pure and good, but also not quite certain how to process the lack of purity and goodness.

 

My family attended a small midwestern church.  It was a special place to my family; but during this particular time, we had a pastor who seemed to be struggling.  It was obvious from my teenage perspective that his leadership was questionable.  Some seemed to revere him; others, well, were seemingly unoffensive with their words, but yet, I knew something was off.  Even at a young age, I discerned that our pastor’s authority was questioned by a significant many.  His leadership was not entirely effective; in fact, it seemed only effective with somewhere near half the congregation.

 

Sometime thereafter, I remember our pastor making several emphatic, controversial statements from the pulpit.  Again, something seemed off.  Then through a series of events that were somehow hidden from an observant teen’s eyes, the pastor did something that to me — simply put, even in my elementary understanding — felt wrong.  In order to continue his professional tenure — knowing his leadership was significantly questioned and arguably effective with only, at most half the body, he articulated a refusal to resign.  Granted, as a kid, I’m not sure it was necessary he resigned; he was an honorable man.  But what happened next was also not necessary…

 

He asked us to vote.  To vote on whether he should stay… or he should go.

 

Friends, that vote served one purpose and one purpose only; it divided the people.

 

This post is not about my childhood pastor.  It’s also not about how the contemporary American church is obviously often an imperfect reflection of who God is.  This post is about how and why sometimes our leaders intentionally employ division.  Just like my childhood pastor, he chose to divide the people in order to survive.  I wonder if that is happening again now.

 

As Pres. Obama said recently on “60 Minutes, “I’m the first one to confess that the spirit that I brought to Washington, that I wanted to see instituted, where we weren’t constantly in a political slugfest… I haven’t fully accomplished that.  Haven’t even come close in some cases…  My biggest disappointment is that we haven’t changed the tone in Washington as much as I would have liked.”

 

Some days I wonder if Pres. Obama has increased the division.  I must thus also wonder, just like my old pastor, if the division has been intentional.  A few observations…

 

One, Pres. Obama’s 2008 campaign rhetoric regarding unifying our country was so inflated, it has been impossible to obtain…  “There is not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America — there is the United States of America”…  “I’m in this race not just to hold an office, but to gather with you to transform a nation”…  “We will remember that we are not as divided as our politics suggests; that we are one people; we are one nation and together, we will begin the next great chapter in the American story with three words that will ring from coast to coast, from sea to shining sea:  yes, we can.”

 

And yet, it is no secret that at times the President has pointed out what divides us…  Black vs. White… Republican vs. Democrat… Wealthy vs. All Other Classes.  He also has pursued divisive policy.  For example, as he prioritized health care reform even when our economy was flailing, he did so behind closed doors on a partisan basis with no majority, public support.  Unity was irrelevant.  Hence, from my limited perspective, division has often been encouraged in the past four years, especially nearing elections.  I thus ask why.

 

Truthfully, I can’t answer that question.  When Obama came to office with a contagious message of hope and change, I was impressed.  I wanted the tone to change.  I wanted us to change our spending patterns; and I wanted to change the divisiveness that has existed in the USA ever since lobbyist restrictions were eased during the Carter administration.  I looked forward to greater unification, lesser partisanship, and decreased government intrusion.  But that’s not what hope and change have evolved to be.

 

I can only surmise that just like my childhood pastor, the President believes the division is somehow necessary to maintain his current professional tenure.  Knowing his leadership is significantly questioned and arguably effective with only, at most half the nation, something must be done to spark his supporters’ passion — even if that means intentionally dividing the United States of America.

 

The Intramuralist will always be seriously disappointed — regardless of party — in any who utilizes a strategy that intentionally divides in order to propel one’s own election… as some things never compare to childhood learnings.

 

Respectfully,

AR

a price tag on integrity

Some days I wonder… can you place a price tag on integrity?  Is there something for which integrity will be sacrificed?

 

I caution you not to answer too quickly.  My keen sense is that far too many of us actually — but subtly — perhaps even unknowingly — allow a price tag to be placed.  The tag seems to slip so easily on.

 

We observe, in fact, the small things, the actions and words that may seem minute, but are yet, fairly reflective.  My wonder thus centers around how even the “little things” chip away at one’s character… at seemingly good people… at even you and me…

 

For example, in the most recent Monday Night Football game — also known as an incredibly poor display of accurate officiating — with all due respect to the replacement refs, who truly aren’t experienced in this area (but are finally done, thank God!) — the Seahawks won the game on a last second ‘Hail, Mary’ heave.  The disgrace is that all replays showed a Packer in possession of the ball.

 

I am struck by the reaction from the Seattle Seahawk faithful… specifically from coach Pete Carroll…

 

Carroll said as he viewed the play, the Packer defensive back had the advantage in the air, but “when we finished the catch we had the ball, and they had the ball too, so it’s simultaneous…  They called it and the league backed it up, and game over, we win.”

 

Carroll is obviously loyal to his team.  Well done, coach.  Yet to act as if he saw something that few outside of suburban Seattle saw is disingenuous.  It discredits him.  “Little” as his comments may be, the skewed perspective sacrifices his integrity.

 

But why?  Why would someone allow a price tag to be put on integrity?

 

Friends, this blog is not about sports nor about Pete Carroll.  Carroll has led several teams well.  My question is why Carroll would act as if he knew something the rest of the watching world did not… that only he knew the complete truth?  Would he even, possibly, lie?  Perhaps he considers the skewed perspective only a “little lie,” yet such only serves as a dart in his integrity.  The bottom line:  why would one sacrifice something so meaningful — and so difficult to get back?

 

Carroll obviously had something to gain.

 

Skewed perspective is rampant — almost so frequent that we oft fail to notice…

 

Another example… each month Pres. Obama announces his “jobs created” numbers.  Now granted, regardless of who’s in the Oval Office, the Intramuralist is not one who believes government is the creator of jobs.  My strong economic sense is that it’s a far more accurate explanation to say that government makes the conditions “ripe” or “less ripe” for jobs to be created, with the private sector providing the majority of employment opportunity.

 

Nonetheless, each month the administration announces the jobs government has “created” under their leadership.  The inherent, arguably disingenuous challenge is that also each month, jobs have been “lost,” as a specific amount of jobs must be new each month solely to keep pace with the birth and immigration rates.  Thus, to announce what’s created as opposed to the net gain or net loss serves as an inaccurate picture of the economy.  Why would any announce only the “created jobs”?  Why would they not acknowledge that half of the employment picture is omitted from that perspective?  … a half that changes the perception of what is actually true.

 

I return to 3 predominant questions — questions not just for candidates and coaches, but also, for each of us…

 

Would we ever sacrifice our integrity — even with the “little lies” or omissions?

Is there a point at which a price tag can be placed upon our character?

And are we most tempted when we have something to gain?

 

Yes… yes… great questions…  even more challenging to answer.

 

Respectfully,

AR

silenced

Perhaps you’ve noticed…  If you’re a fall football fan (and please don’t quit reading if you’re not — as I promise this message is not about sports), there’s been an unusual development that supposedly we’re not allowed to talk about… or at least those closer to the source have been silenced.  For example…

 

Two timeouts were given to the San Francisco 49ers, who had no timeouts.

 

A 20 yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was given to the Washington Redskins, even though such behavior only merits 15 yards.

 

An Oakland Raider was hit in the head, helmet to helmet, which is illegal contact; the player was carted off the field and subsequently hospitalized; no penalty was called.

 

And last night the Seahawks beat the Packers on one of the most ambiguous, controversial, shakiest touchdowns ever called.

 

Pass interference has been constantly questionable.  Officiating has been completely inconsistent.  Incomplete passes have somehow evolved into fumbles.  In other words, far more than footballs have been fumbled.

 

As those of you who are sports fans are well aware, the NFL referees are on strike, having been locked out by the league.  Replacement refs are currently officiating games.  Note:  since most large conference college refs are bound to their conference, the replacement crews were recruited from smaller college divisions, the United Football League, Arena Football League, and — yes — even the Lingerie Football League.  These referees do not necessarily have the skill nor experience to do what we’re asking them to do.

 

We are asking them to officiate… to be in charge… to preside over an event in which large sums of money are involved… to lead.  But yet, they just don’t seem totally qualified.

 

Question:  what are we to do when leaders aren’t quite qualified to do what they’ve been called to do?

 

… to manage people?

… to oversee all operations?

… to comprehend the financial aspects?

 

Are we able to acknowledge weakness, especially when our leaders may or may not be qualified?

 

After week 2, with the replacement refs’ errors becoming more frequent and glaring, the NFL decided to step in, responding to the escalating complaints.  How did the National Football League respond?

 

Senior league officials called the owners, general managers, and coaches from all 32 teams, telling them that they expect better treatment for the referees; they will no longer permit the perceived disrespect.  NFL executive vice president Ray Anderson said, “We’re not going to tolerate it,” affirming that flags, fines, and suspensions are possible for coaches and players who violate this instruction.

 

Coaches and players cannot be disrespectful… even with questionable, inconsistent, and fumbling officiating.

 

At the onset of this post, I claimed this message would not be about sports; it’s not.  This is about how we react to ineffective — or unqualified — leaders.

 

In no sense would the Intramuralist advocate intentional disrespect; however, what strikes me in the NFL’s response is not so much the disrespect, but rather, the perception that the referees cannot be significantly questioned or disagreed with; their lack of qualification is not a permitted topic.

 

Such causes me to think of one of the more glaring challenges in leadership today, for leading has become more about rhetorical promise than actual capability.  We aren’t good about saying, “Here’s what I’m gifted at; here’s what I’m not.”  We aren’t good at accepting significant, challenging questions.  We love to speak of strength — but we rarely acknowledge individual weakness.  We don’t like to admit that one we believe in may not be thoroughly qualified.

 

That includes those that should or shouldn’t be in government — and those that should or shouldn’t be a referee… even in the lingerie league… especially at last night’s Packers/Seahawks game.

 

Respectfully,

AR

sensitivity or respect

It began approximately 35 years ago…

 

A unique, fairly sensational photograph was a winner of the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art’s “Awards in the Visual Arts” competition.  The 1987 photo focuses on  a small cross… with Jesus Christ nailed to the boards.  Christ and the cross are then submerged in the “artist’s” urine.

 

One more detail…  The competition was sponsored in part by American tax dollars, as the National Endowment for the Arts was involved in the funding.

 

Having been since damaged after being exhibited in multiple international museums, the artwork — entitled “Piss Christ” — is returning to Manhattan this coming Thursday.

 

Interesting.

 

Meanwhile, across the globe, Muslim extremists are fighting and protesting and engaging in anti-American, violent behavior.  In Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Lebanon, Libya, Kashmir, Malaysia, Indonesia, Germany, Jordan, Yemen, Sudan… tens of thousands of protestors are burning American flags and effigies of President Obama.  There’s startling video of children in Pakistan, out on the streets, shouting “Death to America!”  The outrage — and extent of the outrage — is troubling indeed.  Some days the possibility of world peace seems so incredibly unattainable and far away.

 

The American government’s response has been fascinating.  They continue to focus on a brief video made by one American.  They have denounced the video that some purported to have spontaneously fueled the protestors’ passion; however, most intelligence now acknowledges that the initial 9/11 Islamic attacks were intentional, planned, and possibly coordinated; the video was not the primary instigator.

 

Our government, no less, has denounced this video.  Pres. Obama and Sec. of State Clinton have even appeared on Pakistani television — paying for commercials that publicly share their stern denouncement; they do not approve.

 

The truth is, the Intramuralist doesn’t care for the video either.  While I will always advocate for a factual analysis of faith — noting what’s inherent in any religion that prompts such erratic, brutal behavior — I will also advocate for a respect for all religions.  Let me be clear; respect is not the same as acceptance as equally good and true.

 

The challenge for me today then is this…

 

Our government has clearly denounced any disrespect for Islam.  Since his early days in office, Pres. Obama has been very supportive and consistent in reaching out to the Islamic world.  America is not at war against Islam.  We are not.  We are at war against terrorism — which in this instance, has been initiated by Islamic fundamentalists.  Pres. Obama has attempted to mend many of the misconceptions within those efforts.

 

Yet in what seems to be a very intentional approach, I remain fascinated…

 

We denounce the video that seemingly disrespects Muslims.  And yet… we are quiet about something labeled as “art,” that defiles the Jewish Messiah in Manhattan.

 

Our government is quiet.

 

I don’t totally get this, truthfully.  I mean, I know there are partisan faithful who talk so loudly on radio and TV that they try to influence the rest of us in this area.  I get kind of tired of hearing them.  (Yes, I often fast.)  But it seems to me there is some sort of added sensitivity of the Muslim world and faith that our government does not freely nor generously extend to other religions…  I don’t understand how our government called the shooting in Ft. Hood by the Muslim man “workplace violence,” but the Sikh temple shooting in Milwaukee by the caucasian man was instantly referred to as “terrorism.”  Aren’t they both terrorism?  Can’t we call them that?

 

What are we afraid of?  Are we afraid of how the extremists will respond?  Are we trying to ignore the violent extremists — and attempting to promote Islam as always peaceful?  And if the government is wrestling with how to truly separate church and state, shouldn’t they be supporting both the Muslim video and the defiling of Jesus Christ in the name of free speech?  … or denouncing both?  Why one and not the other?

 

I don’t understand.  I don’t understand whether this is actually respect or hyper-sensitivity.  I’ve simply observed that the treatment is not the same.

 

Respectfully,

AR

media fast

In a society where subjectivity is masked as objectivity…

 

… where opinion is offered as news…

… where persuasive rhetoric is free-flowing…

… the following story disturbs me…

 

Dozens of emails have been uncovered between the Department of Justice and Media Matters.  Public Affairs Director Tracy Schnakler and Media Matters staffers planned and discussed how to attack reporters who covered potential improprieties in which the department’s reputation was in question, such as the Black Panther voter suppression case and the “Fast and Furious” gun operation scandal.

 

Here’s the problem:

 

Media Matters is a subjective, partisan advocacy group.  It started with millions in donations from liberal philanthropists connected to the Democratic party.

 

The Department of Justice is to be an unbiased branch of government, funded by our tax dollars.  There is no ethical reason for an objective government entity to coordinate efforts with a liberal advocacy group.

 

Hence, with less than 50 days prior to the election, the Intramuralist must again encourage you (if you dare pay attention) to receive your news from a “newsworthy” site.  If your primary news comes from The Huffington Post, you are being seduced by liberal rhetoric.  If your primary news comes from The Drudge Report, you are being enticed by a conservative slant.  Opinions that come from these sites do not qualify as news; we cannot fool ourselves by thinking otherwise.  I often find their sensational headlines to be embarrassing, especially if thought to be equated with good, responsible journalism.

 

As said here previously, we encourage being as “least skewed” as possible, as paying attention to “skewed” sites does not make any of us an informed voter; it only makes us a manipulated one.  We thus recommend 2 sites for nonpartisan information:

 

www.realclearpolitics.com

 

www.rasmussenreports.com

 

Both of the above sites offer extensive liberal and conservative opinion, and no slanted opinion is manipulated to appear as if it is something it is not…  unlike The Huffington Post and The Drudge Report.

 

Let me therefore respectfully challenge all Intramuralist participants — acknowledging that in the next 2 months, partisan faithful will be charging after us, caring not if they distort the truth; their goal is only to obtain our vote.  Truth is lesser in importance.

 

My challenge, therefore, again comes comparable to fasting…

 

Those who embrace fasting as a personal discipline speak of its many benefits.  Most prominent among them are good health, minimization of toxins, and a strong renewal of a pure mind, thereby allowing their bodies and brains to function more effectively.   Persons who regularly fast attest to thinking more clearly and feeling better about themselves.

 

If we were to “fast” from skewed news sources for the next 50 some days, I wonder…  would it minimize the “toxins” from our brains?  Would omitting the hereby identified propaganda and persuasive rhetoric assist us in thinking more clearly?  That is, what would happen if we agreed to eliminate the employed rhetoric which allows us to mythically believe we are receiving accurate news?  … which emboldens us into thinking we are informed voters?  … and which allows us to think our passions and perspectives are potentially, possibly, self-righteously pure?

 

I prefer functioning effectively.  I prefer minimizing the toxins… minimizing the Huff Posts, Drudge’s, and opinionated journalists on TV.  They are not news.  Thus, I’m becoming a new fan of fasting… starting now… for at least the next 50 days.

 

Respectfully,

AR

heavy, heady, hard…

Greetings, friends…

 

Typical Intramuralist pattern is to go from one topic to the next.  We keep current with what’s current, making sure that we’re paying attention to what deserves it — and alas, not paying attention to what does not.

 

In the past 2 weeks, my sober sense believes there have been 2 topics that are too weighty to simply glance over in a few days.  After all, isn’t that what we’re already prone to do?

 

When a topic is too heavy, we tend to say, “Well, that can wait for another day.  It’s too much to think about.  It hurts too much”… or perhaps most common, “I’d prefer not to dwell on that.”  It’s easier to let the truth go.

 

When a topic is too heady, we tend to say, ”Well, that can also wait for another day.  It’s too hard to figure out — above my pay grade.”  We’d also prefer not to dwell on that.  It, too, is easier to let go.

 

Our challenge is that it’s always easier to let go; it’s easier to ignore the truth than to wrestle with it — and deeper still, to acknowledge any individual impact.

 

Frankly, I think that’s one of the reasons so many of us (and perhaps a larger percentage of non-Intramuralist readers) avoid the news; it’s too hard to pay attention to…

 

… it’s hard to turn on the news each night and see the fighting.

 

… it’s hard to witness the millions of persons who go to bed hungry each night.

 

… it’s hard to see the depth of despair, the perils of poverty, the foolishness, salaciousness, selfishness, impurity, and evil that are evident on this planet on a daily basis.

 

It’s hard.

 

And so when the Intramuralist, for example, initiates conversation on the core beliefs of Islam, I understand that’s hard.  Within the Qur’an, there is specific encouragement to fight against those who are unbelievers solely because they do not believe.  I realize that is not convenient nor easy to comprehend — and it would feel far better to believe something else — but that’s not what the Qur’an says; there is a definite distinction in the way Muslims are exhorted to treat believers and unbelievers.

 

That’s hard.  That’s heavy.

 

Perhaps too heady was our conversation 2 weeks ago entitled “16 trillion dollars.”  16 trillion dollars!

 

The outstanding public debt of the United States of America now surpasses $16,000,000,000,000.  In fact, out debt currently increases at a average, nominal rate of approximately $3.88 billion per day.  Another way to assess that massive amount is that with an estimated U.S. population of 313,521,685, each citizen’s share of this debt is $51,225.60.  In other words, your children’s and grandchildren’s share will be far higher if we do not work to pay this back now.

 

But… “I like all the entitlements… I like the free healthcare, contraception, retirement, and individual household candy bar machines!”  (… ok, so I’m kidding about the candy bars… they’d have fruit instead).  Liking the entitlements often prompts us to ignore the reality.  Why?

 

Because the reality is hard.  It’s also heady.

 

In order to be a wise people, we have to be able to wrestle with the truth… no matter what it is… how heavy… and how heady…

 

… also, no matter how it makes us feel.

 

Respectfully,

AR

mideast violence

Violence has erupted in the Arab states.  The violence has come from Muslims and is motivated by their angst against America and Americans.  Friends, let’s be honest; this is tough to talk about.  Muslims — both here in America and abroad — are highly suspicious of America’s intentions in the world, and some Americans see every Muslim as a potential terrorist. There are obviously reasons behind both of these perceptions, but this only means that we must work harder at communicating clearly and not allowing perspective to be blinded by passion.  As is Intramuralist principle, we will distinguish between fact vs. fiction and what we know for sure.  Why are the Islamists protesting?

 

Initially some made mention of the Muslims being motivated by a YouTube video.  Noting that the violent behavior began on 911 in multiple places — and that the 13 minute trailer was first posted on July 1st — the notion that the mayhem is solely about the movie minimizes the reality.  A summer of 2012 Pew Research poll found that fewer than 1-in-5 Egyptians, Jordanians, Pakistanis, and Turks possess a favorable view of the United States.  Many Muslims dislike America.  Some call it hate.  Why?

 

Since each of the above governments have significant Islamic leaders — and noting that Muslims have little familiarity with the concept of separation between church and state — we must evaluate the core of Islamic beliefs.  Note that this analysis is similar to the Intramuralist’s previous analysis of Scientology, and it will also be evident in our future dissection of Mormonism (as requested by popular demand).

 

Often argued is that radical Muslims are no different than radical believers of any religion.  With embassy attacks now in multiple Islamic countries, many confidently proclaim that the problem is not Islam, but the religious belief of any type when taken too seriously.  That claim leads us to the question:  is there something inherent in Islam that makes it more likely to resort to violence than other world religions like Christianity or Buddhism?

 

While it’s important to admit that all religions have adherents that are willing to use violence to achieve what they believe are justified ends, it doesn’t follow that all religions teach equally the legitimacy of violent means.  People have committed horrible atrocities in the name of Jesus Christ, from the inquisitions to the slaying of abortionists. However, these actions can’t be justified from the actual teachings of Christ.  Nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus teach that one should kill for the sake of the Gospel, the Kingdom of God, or to defend the honor of Jesus himself.

 

What about Islam and the actual teachings of Muhammad?  According to The Oxford History of Islam, from the beginning, Muslims “saw their mission as jihad, or militant effort to combat evil and to spread Muhammad’s message of monotheism and righteousness far and wide.”  Although many argue that jihad primarily refers to a struggle or striving for personal righteousness, a significant number of others proclaim that jihad is an armed struggle against “infidels” — the term utilized for unbelievers.

 

Numerous passages in the Qur’an refer to this violence.  A surah titled “The Spoils of War” states, “O Prophet! Rouse the Believers to the fight. If there are twenty amongst you… they will vanquish two hundred: if a hundred, they will vanquish a thousand of the Unbelievers: for these are a people without understanding.”  Another says, “O ye who believe!  When ye meet the Unbelievers in hostile array, never turn your backs to them…”  It adds that those who do will find themselves in hell, a significant incentive to fight on.

 

So do all Muslims see jihad in the light of conquest and warfare?  My sense is a strong ‘no,’ although many have been seemingly slow to denounce the current violence.  Similar to others professing faith in varied religions, we at times alter our interpretation of the proclaimed holy words for various motives — perhaps because we deeply disagree or it’s incomprehensible or simply because it’s inconvenient.  Truthfully, sometimes my heart hurts for those who do view Islam as a call for peace — especially for American-born Muslims.  I wonder how they must feel with the deep tension between 2 people groups with which they identify.  I wonder how they feel when they are stared at, scorned upon, or treated poorly in this country.  That is also tough to comprehend.

 

Friends, this analysis is by no means complete.  There are aspects and tangents that many will pounce upon to passionately prove their perspective.  Many will still shout that “Islam is a religion of peace!”  I would only respectfully add that such an argument is also incomplete.

 

Hence, I leave you with this…  Nearly every major religion in the world teaches a variation of the Golden Rule:  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  Islam does not include this.  Instead, it makes very definite distinctions in the way Muslims are to treat believers and unbelievers.  That fact should not cause us to stare at, scorn upon, nor treat poorly any who are different.  It should instead humble us, teaching us to communicate truth more clearly — and not be blinded by passions that are easier to embrace.

 

Respectfully… always,

AR

free speech… or sensitive?

Is free speech a right?  Can we say whatever we want whenever we want wherever we want?  While some may impulsively answer affirmatively, allow me to suggest we first pause for a moment.  For example, according to the popular paraphrase of the infamous 1919 Supreme Court decision, “shouting fire in a crowded theatre” is illegal, assuming the claim is dangerous and false.

 

But I’m wondering if in this seemingly polarizing, digressing day and age, if the right of free speech whenever and wherever we want is based more on the substance of the speech — and the “speaker of the speech” — as opposed to the purported individual liberty.

 

I think of the desire to squelch some speech — a desire with which I must transparently acknowledge that at times, the Intramuralist will also wrestle…

 

… such as in Sunday’s post, acknowledging that there are those who passionately wish to silence the name and praise and mere mention of God.  Does free speech exist if it includes reference or — dare I suggest — submission to an omniscient deity?  Certainly not in schools.  In government?  In the prayers before Congress each day?  In the Pledge?  I’m wondering, too, about taking God’s name publicly in vain.  Is that free speech — even in school?

 

… I think of the Westboro Baptist Church, a little group of loud people hailing from Topeka, Kansas.  Perhaps you’ve heard of them; they like to protest at military funerals and other sensitive places with very strong, disrespectful anti-gay rhetoric; they’ve continued protesting this week.  Now I’ve met many I respect who sensitively believe that homosexuality is inconsistent with God’s ideal, but I’ve met no one who supports the approach and messaging of this cruel, seemingly merciless church.

 

But back to the dilemma of free speech… is it our right?  … does a cruel, merciless church have the right to say whatever they want, marching outside the memorial of a fallen soldier in front of his or her grief-stricken family?

 

Truthfully, I have a hard time with that one.  So much of me wells up inside, saying, “How dare they!”  The quandary is what speech do we believe should be free.  Insensitivity has thus far not been a prohibitor of the practice.

 

… What about 911? … another date that is deeply emotional for all Americans?  Do people have a right to say whatever they want wherever they want on that day?

 

On Tuesday, in both Egypt and Libya, Islamist groups violently attacked the U.S. embassies.  There are currently unconfirmed reports that the violence was coordinated and intentional.  In Cairo, several scaled the walls, tearing down the American flag, proclaiming “no God but Allah” and alliance with Osama Bin Laden.  In Libya, the American ambassador to the country was tragically killed.

 

The reported reason for the violence was the Muslims’ anger at a single video being produced in the United States that they feel insults the prophet Mohammed.  So question:  why the protest on that particular day?  Were the protestors somehow unaware that it was the anniversary of the Twin Towers fall?

 

Nonetheless, very quickly, before an awareness of injury or death, the American embassy in Egypt actually released this statement in regard to the video:

 

“The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”  [emphasis mine]

 

The U.S. embassy was speaking of the Americans’ abuse of free speech via the video-making, as opposed to addressing the riotous conduct of the protestors.  So again I ask the question:  do we have the right to say whatever we want whenever we want wherever we want?  … and let me add, however we want?

 

It seems each of our support and sensitivity depends most on the subject… and on who’s speaking.

 

Respectfully,

AR