Enough of this eye-for-an-eye stuff!
Faith and Culture:
“Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone… Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” – St. Paul to Christ-followers at Rome (12:18, 21).
One of the reasons I have minimal tolerance for the curious hybrid between matters of faith and matters political that is so increasingly evident in our world is because the former usually loses out to the interests of the latter.
Put another way, as various historians have pointed out over the years and with apologies to the Roman emperor Constantine, whenever the church has formed an alliance with the state, the church and issues of faith have usually come out the worse for wear.
I’ve been reminded of the uneasy mix of religion and politics as I’ve read and listened to reports of renewed hostilities in the Middle East allegedly sparked, at least in part, by a low-budget American-made movie that purportedly insults Mohammed, the revered Prophet of Muslims.
Acknowledging that it is likely impossible to ascertain the exact degree to which the film actually contributed to the death of several Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, I did make time to watch a video-clip of 15 minutes of The Innocence of Muslims. What I saw partly informs what I am about to say.
For starters, perhaps those of us in the West need to be reminded that we do not live in or represent a theocracy, nor do we claim to be interested in advancing a theocratic agenda with respect to our international profile. That being said, it is nevertheless true that a broadly-defined notion of the Christian ethic is reflected in those values we hold dear.
Arguably, this last statement may be more evident in the national life of our American neighbours than it is here in Canada, a reality that many of us in Canada immediately recognize. Indeed, many of us north of the 49th parallel are thankful that Canadians have a more finely nuanced understanding of the integration of faith and politics than do many of our American friends, who make minimal distinction between wrapping themselves in the Stars and Stripes and kneeling at the cross of Christ.
In any event, it is perhaps necessary to remind those of us in the West who are interested in going beyond a mere appreciation for the Christ of history to embrace discipleship to the Christ of the cross that we do not obtain our directives for how we are to conduct ourselves from our national identify or from the behaviour of those who pursue other schools of thought.
In other words, we do not resort to the tactics of terrorism or scorning the hallowed figures of other faiths simply because that is how they treat us. Making fun of the Prophet Muhammed, although rightly permissible in a society that elevates freedom-of-speech as a cardinal doctrine, is frankly both childish and ill-advised. As indicated by the Scriptures quoted above, there is nothing in the teaching of Jesus or his original followers that justifies such myopic immaturity.
Jesus taught other than an-eye-for-an-eye. It’s a simple reality that too many of us in the West have apparently yet to truly grasp.
Tim Callaway is pastor of Faith Community Baptist Church. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org