May we stand in joy as we suffer
Attorney General Loretta Lynch made controversial remarks while speaking to a Muslim Advocates Dinner in Arlington, VA on December 3, 2015. She vowed that the United States Justice Department would take aggressive action against anyone who used “anti-Muslim rhetoric” that inspires violence. Her statement indicated that prosecution targets speech.
After a strong backlash from critics, the Attorney General rephrased her statement on Monday, December 6, 2015, to emphasize prosecution would come only against the actions of hate and not the speech of hatred.
The historical justification of aggression in the name of Christian Truth is unquestioned. Violence from Christians toward heretics, pagan faiths, and even toward fellow Christians is part of our history. But in contrast, violence against Christians is also part of Christian History. The blood of Christian martyrs soaks the pages of Christian history. But in our contemporary culture of struggle against the Islamic State [ISIS], the debate over the proper Christian response to the hateful rhetoric and violent action from religious zealots toward Christian faith raises important questions.
The opinion that the Islamic State is an evil presence is universal not only in the West. Evil is to be opposed. And Christians speaking about the errors of Islam are targeted with charges of hate speech. Religious speech is now hated speech in the United States.
The debate against the Islamic State carries over to the century’s long debate about the good or evil intentions of the religion of Islam itself. I wish to take a Christian position that all religious thought and devotion apart from the truth of the Christian gospel is evil regardless of moral agreement. But the Christian response to evil is that all evil is unnatural to the original creation of God who made all things good. The Gospel Truth of the Christian Faith is that all that departs from the divine good is evil and restored only through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Paul clarifies the nature of God and all that he creates as good in his first letter to Timothy.
“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” [1 Timothy 4:5, ESV]
Human sin embraced evil over God’s holiness and goodness. The redemption made possible by Jesus Christ is the only truth. Any other religious or secular attempts at redemption are false and oppose God’s goodness making them evil. God does not bless Islam since it is not true redemption. God’s word does not make holy what rejects His word. Prayer to Allah is not a prayer to the one true God of Christianity.
But to compare this Christian truth to false religion is deemed hate speech. Language begins as ideas and to term religious speech as hateful rhetoric equates hate with ideas. Freedom of ideas is foundational to the U.S. Constitution.
Jesus Christ command Christians in Matthew 5:38-48 to love their enemies. In speaking truth, we express love to those who hate us. John Piper has a compelling video on his Desiring God website about this very subject. There is a distinction between loving and trusting. To love, we must forgive. Christians must forgive the Islamic State terrorists for their hatred toward us and the many egregious acts of death toward Christians.
To trust the Islamic State Terrorists is another issue altogether. One must earn the trust of others through actions. I do not trust an Islamic Terrorist. Nor do I trust a follower of Islam to speak the truth of redemption and grace. Only Jesus Christ speaks this truth, and thus I trust him.
To love a person of the Islamic faith is part of Jesus’ command. Christians hate no one. But we do hate the sin of the misguided religious attempts to make good what is tainted evil.
Christian speech in the United States is clearly under assault. Our love for people of Islam will include challenging language confronting the sinful ideas of the religion. Christian faith is a religion that must speak the truth. This speech requires harsh truth.
But when Loretta Lynch promises to prosecute Christian speech because a false religion is offended, Christians must stand up and smile. Jesus promised in Matthew 10:25 that we will have enemies as disciples. The Apostle Peter calls Christians to rejoice in suffering [1 Peter 4:12-19].
So Christians, let us hate Islam since Islam is a false attempt to restore God’s holiness and goodness in our world. Let us love the Muslim people who seek the truth but embrace a misguided philosophy. Let us speak truthfully about the saving grace through Jesus Christ. But let us not retreat when accused of speaking hate.
Let us not, “suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.” [1 Peter 4:14-15]. Too often misguided Christians speak with emotion rather than reason.
May we stand in joy as we suffer for speaking the loving truth while the enemies of God hear only hate.
Are we ever truly alone? James V. Schall asks this question in his essay, The Metaphysics of Walking. Theologians and social scientists have wrestled with the question of an over-busy society for longer than a man can imagine. Although our contemporary Western culture overflows with activity, man has always found things to occupy his time. The struggle for survival alone can make one’s occupation overwhelming in trying to provide the basics of life. But as the modern society in the West has continued to grow, so has the demands on our time. The twentieth century saw a radical shift in the modern age away from times of contemplation to a fast-paced information saturated culture. In a time of history when information and answers are at the click of a keyboard, it would appear that more leisure time would be easily accessible. But with all modern conveniences it seems like the importance of leisure in the priority of the day has become less and less a priority.
A new kind of slavery has entered Western work environments in that the cubicle has replaced the cage. Laborers remain at the desk for endless hours with minimal movement or exercise. Even though many large corporations provide exercise rooms, the responsibilities and expectations of the workday rarely allow for the use of these facilities. The office worker will find it easier not to move the body to strengthen the mind. Reports on Google’s innovative work culture is the envy of most American office workers. If what is seen and reported is true at Google, then it is not surprising that the creativity that comes from there is so high.
Social interaction is important for the nourishing of ideas. The weekly Google hangouts in the Great Books Honors College at Faulkner University model the importance of this interaction. The encouragement and motivation in these discussions provide ideas that could have never been contemplated alone. But for these discussions to be productive participants must find time to consider before the meeting so that ideas can take shape. However, with many family and work responsibilities one finds it difficult to carve out the significant alone time necessary for great thinking.
Sitting at a desk does allow for the focus of reading the works and taking notes. But most will often find that if the mind becomes stale and the eyes and body tired, a unique thing to do is to get up, go outside, and go for a walk. Something as simple as changing scenery provides a new fuel for the mind. The combination of physical movement with contemplation is always the best formula for philosophy. If then this is an important priority, a schedule must shift for the philosopher and anyone serious about great thoughts.
If the problem of obtaining leisure is that busy-ness gets in the way, the easy response would be to find simply less to do. For this to occur a mere word must become part of one’s vocabulary. This word is no. This is not to say to reject all responsibility, but rather to prioritize requirements on time. In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus is reported as prioritizing his time amongst the huge demand for his ministry. It is recorded that many people gathered often simply to catch a glimpse of the Master. Matthew 4:18 records a time where Jesus was walking. On this stroll by the Sea of Galilee, he calls his first disciples. Matthew 4:23 indicates that while teaching in synagogues and proclaiming the gospel, Jesus’ fame spread throughout the region. The gospel of Luke records, “But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.”
It is important to acknowledge when walking in times of solitude one is never truly in isolation. When the priority of discovery takes precedence over the busy-ness of drudgery, one’s mind is never fully alone. The irony is that when one is alone on a walk many more faults and realities occupy the intellect. It seems that to be most productive one must find times that seem the least productive. Perception is not always reality, so when one is seen walking alone, he or she is never truly alone. Writing on Cicero, Schall said that, “he was never less idle than when he was by himself.”
The revelation of a walk comes in that one realizes the importance of just being. With no other demands on the time and intellect a much grander, more accurate, perception of reality occurs. Schall writes,
“Metaphysics is the science of being qua being, of the first things and their causes. We are astonished that something, including ourselves, stands outside of nothingness. Even to meditate on nothing, we must begin with something not ourselves.”
Perhaps this is the value of a walk. Physically moving from one space to another physically shows man’s place in the world. The reality is simply not what we make it be. Reality is much bigger than ourselves and to understand that, we must experience the greater reality by taking our self outside of ourselves and interacting with that outside.
Mars Hill audio tackles this same concept in the discussion of the decline of reading among Western culture. Most notably among young adults. Learning for a small child seems to be an exciting time. Their minds are shaped by imagination and fantasy and are eager for stories. But as that child grows and develops into adolescence, impending adulthood looms over them. Struggles with identity replace the creative imagination of childhood as changes come physically and mentally for the adolescent.
It is easy for someone who is no longer an adolescent to proclaim solutions to this problem of declining reading among our teenagers. But is it not the responsibility of those adults to shape and guide these young adults as they become mature? Although there are significant demands on the intellect and mind of teenagers, it is the parents who determine what is allowed in the home. Multitasking for the millennial generation is normal but not necessarily beneficial. It is the ease of multitasking that distracts one from the importance of solitude. Physical walking outside of urban areas, or even in a city park, is important even for the adolescent. The structures of the academic day for a young person must include times of walking in silence. No matter how difficult it is for the teenager, these young people do follow a schedule structured by others.
There is a problem. It’s called busy-ness. With all the technological conveniences of our day, it seems that we are never settled. What is the answer? Personal responsibility and acknowledgment that priorities are missing amongst the multitasking must occur. Whether it be the individual taking responsibility him or herself, or academic administration reshaping the schedule of the school calendar, priorities must shift away from busy-ness to leisure. Open spaces are abundant where people may go and just experience the world outside of themselves. However, it is far too common that the spaces are not discovered unless a crisis occurs forcing one to seek out these places of solitude. The burden of multitasking and busy-ness in our culture will weigh down so heavily on the shoulders and minds of our citizens, I am afraid a crisis must occur for one to see the damage happening. Perhaps a breakdown in a place of solitude is the only way for some, not all, to realize the truth.