I was living in Evansville when the original 9/11 attack took place in New York and Washington. I remember being horrified as I watched the smoke pour out of the Towers and the fear as both buildings fell, killing thousands of people. I was outraged that terrorists would commit such an atrocious act, giving up their own lives to cause so many people harm. Regardless of their religious pretense, these men did not operate out of anything remotely resembling God's love.
Even more disturbing to me was the next day, when local media announced that some Evansville resident tried to to drive his pick up truck into a mosque in the city. He was unsuccessful in his attempt to reach the mosque, but did some damage to the grounds around the building. At our church we reached out to the Muslim community and offered a public forum for the community to help them understand the difference between the Islamic faith and the radical version of those terrorists who carried out these acts. At that meeting, I remember one of those leaders translating the word, "Islam" explaining that it means "peace."
Recently there has been a lot of coverage over a proposed Islamic interfaith center that would be a few blocks from the Ground Zero. It has been billed as the Ground Zero Mosque (which is incorrect, as its not at Ground Zero nor is it a mosque) and Americans have called its proposal insensitive. I do not understand how a proposal for understanding is insensitive.
And then there is the pastor who wants to burn copies of the Qu'ran. I am beginning to wonder if this is not some media ploy, as he seems to received responses from the Roman Catholic Church and the President of the United States. What does this man hope to accomplish by this event? Is this an act of love?
The good news about God's intervention in the world was a message of pure unbounded love. At a point in human history where creation stood condemned by sin, God provided a solution to the issue of sin through Jesus. In his earthly life, Jesus carried out miraculous healing, reached out to the lost and the dispossessed, turned the social order upside down by talking to prostitutes, lepers, and other sinners, and called people to a radical form of love (Love your neighbor as yourself). His death on the cross was a sacrifice that allowed for an ultimate restoration between God and creation.
Regardless of how we feel about the Islamic faith: whether it challenges the Christian faith and Bible, or whether our roots speak of serving the same God, I find it deplorable that Christians on both sides of this issue would evoke such hatred, fear, and suspicion. It runs contrary to the example that Jesus set for us. In our worship services we have been studying the 10 Commandments to discover that these words from God are not so much about rigid obedience as they are gifts from God on how to live as God's Holy Chosen people. These commandments are a gift from God, a pathway and invitation to live righteously. To be a zealous follower of Jesus Christ is to practice radical love.
It is my hope that as a people of God, those who worship at Crooked Creek (and those who might read this) would use these events as a focus to re-affirm our commitment to Christ Jesus and the love expressed through his life, death, and resurrection. We have been given a new, transformed life inundated with the power of God's love through the Holy Spirit. May we live this new life that we have been given!