Terrorism and Separation of Church and Mosque

I’ve heard the oft repeated meme that Islam is a religion of peace, and that the terror unleashed upon the world is not representative of the vast majority of Muslims.  I’m willing to believe that for the simple reason that were we to have a majority of the over 1 billion people who identify as Muslim committing acts of terror, the things we deal with now would be minor.  If most Muslims were committed to violent jihad there would be no place to hide.  We would be engaged in global guerrilla warfare all day every day.  I must infer from the fact that this isn’t happening that most Muslims are not willing to kill people for the advancement of their religious ideals.  But that is not the same thing as believing most Muslims are committed to peaceful coexistence with anyone who is not Muslim or those who oppose Islamic ideology.  The question is one of utmost importance to the future of the world.  muslims-worship-mosque_b40491f9dd7f912f

I know the secular West has done its best to take the teeth out of religion.  God is dead is a pretty explicit cannon shot in the face of religious ideologies.  But there is also the blurring of any remaining religious systems of thought into a homogenous blob that attempts to domesticate them.  Nietzsche was killing religious thought with nuclear weapons; the radioactive religious leftovers at ground zero decided to tame it.  All roads lead to God.  All religions are basically the same and noble in their effort to bring about unity of mankind; love and peace. But religious ideologies have proven to be remarkably resistant to nukes and to assimilation.  Islam is impervious to Nietzsche and to secularization because it sees itself as it really is; a competing worldview with as much right to its claims of truth as anyone else’s.  Nietzsche proclaimed that all claims about the nature of truth were power plays designed to elevate the group making the claim.  What he seems not to notice is that while he was fiddling with his own brand of jihadist nuclear weapon, he set it off in his own face.  For what greater power play could there be than to claim God is dead?  What great truth claim could anyone make than Nietzsche did?  And so he taught us we should disregard his own claim as a mere attempt to gain power over us.  There is a big bang for you.  And the secularists did no better when lumping all religions into one thing that has no real edges.  The problem with their claim that all religions are the same is the same as Nietzsche; it is a statement about the nature of reality that by its very nature elevates itself above all the other claims.  In other words the secularist attempt to lump all religions together is itself a religion; a set of beliefs that has no foundation better than any of the religions it attempts to dethrone.  Muslims and other people of faith can see the hypocrisy  and the search for power in these claims.  Their truth is able to compete on the field of ideologies along with every other ideology.  If the nukes and the blurring lines didn’t touch them you can be sure that mocking them as a people stuck in the stone age won’t effect them either.

Now to the real question.  Muslims are not going to give up their ideology; is their ideology compatible with peace?  We know that in the history of the world there have been ideologies that were not peaceful and could not coexist within the civilized world.  They had to be defeated.  The case for Islam is very complex. If Islam is going to continue as an ideology it can only go one of two ways.  Either Islam conquers the world or Islam conquers itself.  The first scenario is obvious.  It means that persistent insistent conversion of all people through any means necessary is an Islamic principle, core to the ideology.  There is no negotiating with this Islam.  The second scenario is that Islam rejects any coercive form of conversion and instead decides to depend upon the attractiveness of its core beliefs to bring people into its way of life; to make more Muslims.  This may be possible.  At this moment there are obviously more non-violent Muslims than violent Muslims.  But where is the rejection of the violent means of advancing Islam?  If I am to believe most Muslims are non-violent because there are not more terrorist attacks in the world, I must also believe that a majority of over 1 billion people raising an outcry against the portion of their religion’s people who are violent would be very loud and clear.  Very loud and clear.  If extremist Christians were regularly blowing up abortion clinics all over the world in some wrong headed and perverted version of Christian belief, would Christendom police itself?  Would Christians attempt to uncover their plots and bring these terrorists to justice?  Or would they sit back and allow these bad apples to advance their agenda without implicitly supporting them.  Would they say to themselves that abortion is a very bad ungodly thing and, while they would never blow up a clinic personally, is it really so bad that one less abortion clinic is in the world and one less baby butcher is alive?

It is going to take active rejection of evil for Islam to prove that it is peaceful.  Just as I would expect Christian churches to separate themselves from anyone doing evil in the name of Christianity, I believe mosques must do the same.  There must be a movement to seek out and stop Islamic terrorists by people who follow Islam.  It must be worldwide and it must be soon.  I’m afraid the silence of the mass is already too deafening and ominous and may mean that either Muslims are not sure about what their religion demands of them or know that it demands extreme and violent activity that they themselves are not willing to carry out, but they are glad to have someone else do in the name of their god.  The non-Muslim world should not accommodate Islamic coercion.  No threat ever led to a valid conversion to any ideology.  We should encourage Muslims who see this and accept this point to speak up loud and clear.  This generation will not pass away before we find out what Islam really is.

 

 

 

5 Hints that You’re Getting Ready to Do Something Shabby

Here are 5 things that should clue you in that what you are about to do (or are doing) is shabby.

1. You feel the urgency to do something quickly more than the urgency to get it done correctly. This can include texting something that ought to be done with a phone call, saying something in a phone call that ought to be said in person, and saying something in person  at a time or place that leaves the other person no chance to think or respond to the full weight of what you are saying.

2. You purposely avoid asking anyone for advice who might disagree with you.  This includes people who have special knowledge about you and any particular subject that impacts the action you’re about to take.worn-out-shoes_001

3. You think of ways to keep people from knowing what you are about to do (doing).  Creating an alias that no one knows is you, figuring out how to delete text and email threads and web search history, looking into security measures to guard your actions from scrutiny are all in this category, especially if you’ve never considered them before.

4. You have to pump yourself up with self-righteousness before you act.  Listing reasons you are right and someone else is wrong or deserves something to happen is a tell tale sign of shabbiness.

5.  You think about an exit strategy to get away from the scene.  This is true if you’re robbing a bank or ditching on a friend.

If you are planning to take an action and any of these things are part of the run up to it, I suggest you take a step back and reconsider.  You’re not a shabby person and you don’t want to treat other people in dishonoring ways.  It makes the world a sucky place to live in.  And just in case it occurs to you that someone writing an article like this must know a lot about doing shabby things…yeah.  I’ve done all of them and none of them have left me with a lift in my spirit and most have produced bad results.

 

 

 

 

Bill and Hillary and Joe Gibbs

I was born into a Redskins family.  For the most part that means I’ve suffered through every football season of my life.  There was the rising hope of the George Allen Super Bowl year that crashed against the ’72 Dolphins, and, of course the glory years of Joe Gibbs in the 80’s with playoff runs and Super Bowl wins.  That was amazing to watch.  Gibbs had his own style of play that changed the face of pro football.  In a league moving toward speed and downfield passing, Gibbs won with huge linemen, a slow-as-molasses running back, and a quarterback with questionable arm strength.  He was the master of half time adjustments to game plans, exploiting whatever weaknesses he sensed in the opposing team during the first half of play.  He had a feel for the game that was superior to almost every coach he faced.  Even though he was young and could have gone on coaching for many years, he retired in the early 90’s to spend more time with his family and to run his NASCAR team.  About 10 years later, after suffering through more bad coaching and frustration, the Redskins lured Gibbs back to the NFL.  It was going to be great.  It was going to be a return to glory.  Only it wasn’t.  Even though they made the playoffs two times in four years, watching them play was painful.  When they won it was more like luck than skill.  They won ugly and they lost uglier.  The thing that stood out to me most about watching Gibbs try to coach after 11 years on the bench was how the pace of the game seemed to bewilder him.  He couldn’t manage the clock.  Things happening on the field were always ahead of him and his staff.  They were always reacting and never acting.  They were imposed upon by their opponents, the clock, the penalties, and every other circumstance of the game.  They were behind and bewildered, playing catch up in a blood sport that had no mercy on them.  After four seasons back, Gibbs retired again, cutting his loses and retreating from a game that had obviously passed him by.

Watching Bill and Hillary Clinton in this political season reminds me of Joe Gibbs.  They owned the 90’s.  They rewrote the rules and changed the face of American politics.  They perfected the use of imagery and they out maneuvered their opponents in such a way as to be almost comical.  Losing the House of Representatives, Special Prosecutors and being impeached didn’t stop them.  Making adjustments to match the state of play was their bailiwick.  Things that drove Nixon from office made them stronger politically; they became the beleaguered hero and heroine fighting the vast right wing conspiracy.  The halftime adjustments in response to each situation were masterful.  Bill could look into a camera, bite his lip and make people believe anything.  Hillary could go to a congressional inquiry and, under intense scrutiny about her record keeping, say “I don’t recall” for as many times as it took to wear out her questioners.  They had their own style and they imposed it on anyone who got in their way.  They won.  Even when they lost they won.

But now…But now they are back in the big leagues after ten years on the bench.  Hillary was never charismatic and the natural politician Bill is, so no one expected her to be able to play the game the way he did.  But they both are looking pretty bewildered these days.  Neither of them appears to be able to keep up.  It isn’t just their age to blame either.  On the left an old man is running them ragged and on the right an old man is doing the same thing.  They are not imposing their will upon anyone, they are on the defensive.  Granted, they have been their own worst enemies in much of this, but there’s nothing new about that.  Most of the crises they faced in the 90’s they created through their own actions.  This week should have been a time of Clinton performance par excellence; a blow out Super Bowl win with their particular brand of political power on display.  Instead their opponents on the left and on the right ran circles around them and left them looking tired and old and unimposing.  Politics has always been a blood sport and it is without mercy.  The pace of play in the arena today is not forgiving and leaves no room to catch up once you fall behind.  Complaining that we’ve reduced political discourse to 140 characters would be the same as Joe Gibbs complaining about the 45 second play clock.  It is what it is.  Everyone on the field has to deal with the clock and the style of play.  If you can’t keep up you will get run over, and there won’t be anyone to pity you.  Gibbs quit after he barely made it to the playoffs in the 4th year of a 5 year contract.  He saw the handwriting on the scoreboard and cut his losses.  Bill and Hillary?  They have at least one more game to play, and it isn’t going to be played at a pedestrian pace.

 

Radicalized Christians v. Radicalized Muslims

The latest incident of Islamic terrorism is only unique in the location.  San Bernardino California is not where you expect it to happen.  Neither is Paris.  But it should not come as a surprise that Islamic terrorism occurs wherever Muslims settle.  This is a controversial statement coming from an average western white guy who isn’t a Muslim, I know, so how about a different perspective?  How about a Middle Eastern born Muslim man?  How about a man whose father is a highly respected Imam?  How about a man who worked for Hamas?  Hear him:

Islamic life is like a ladder, with prayer and praising Allah as the bottom rung.  The higher rungs represent helping the poor and needy, establishing schools, and supporting charities.  The highest rung is jihad.  The ladder is tall.  Few look up to see what is at the top.  And progress is usually gradual, almost imperceptible- like a barn cat stalking a swallow.  Traditional Muslims stand at the foot of the ladder, living in guilt for not really practicing Islam.  At the top are fundamentalists, the ones you see in the news killing women and children for the glory of the god of the Qur’an.  Moderates are somewhere in between.  A moderate Muslim is actually more dangerous than a fundamentalist, however, because he appears to be harmless and you can never tell when he has taken that next step toward the top.  Most suicide bombers began as moderates.

That quote is from the book Son of Hamas, by Mosab Hassan Yousef.  He is the son of the leader of Hamas.  The whole book is worth reading to gain a perspective few westerners could get on their own, and as Yousef himself is an insider of an organization associated with radical terror activities in the name of Islam, he is himself a radical.  But something happened on the way to the jihad.  Yousef climbed the ladder, but just as he got to the top, he got arrested and jailed by the Israeli Defense Force who tortured him and kept him confined without a trial.  The end of this story would be easy to write, right?  A radicalized Muslim arrested and tortured by the forces of the number one enemy of all Islamic people will become even more radical and even more determined to carry out jihad.  But that isn’t what happened to Yousef.  Imprisoned by his enemy and treated unjustly he soon became aware of the way one set of Muslims in prison treated other sets of Muslims and how the more religious Muslims treated the less religious Muslims.  The less faithful were subject to beatings at the hands of the more faithful.  The Muslim Brotherhood hated and distrusted Hamas.  Yousef discovered as much injustice meted out by Muslims to Muslims as they were enduring at the hands of the IDF.  Instead of more radical, prison made him more confused.  Islam was supposed to be the way but it seemed to lead no where but more violence and unfairness.

But then Yousef did something really radical and much more dangerous than any of the things that got him arrested.  Yousef met Jesus and became His follower.  This destroyed his future with Hamas.  He was no longer the Prince awaiting the day when his father would step down and he would reign over the organization.  His family disowned him.  His countrymen wanted him dead.  But he couldn’t do anything about it.  He couldn’t deny what he came to know:  Jesus is the Christ, and Jesus is alive, and if those things are true the only way must be Jesus’s way.  He found in Jesus a God who suffered injustice in order to restore justice.  He found in Jesus a God who not only climbed the ladder to God and pleased God with every rung he climbed, but a God who accomplished the holy war at the cost of his own innocent life, not at the cost of of the lives of men, women and children who are victims of the one true enemy, Satan.

Mosab Yousef became a radicalized Christian.  When Christians become radicalized it is the exact opposite of what happens when a Muslim does.  The Christian may start out at the foot of a ladder thinking they are going to climb up and please God with their actions; they may pray and do good deeds and attend religious meetings and ceremonies.  They may follow the customs of their land, their neighbors and their families.  They may even see themselves at war with the things that are arrayed against the ways of Christ.  But a Christian doesn’t become a Christian until somewhere on the ladder they run into the Jesus who climbed it first.  Meeting Jesus isn’t just an encouragement to climb harder and faster, or an example to follow up the rungs.  Meeting Jesus is at first discouraging.  Christians realize just how hard it is to climb the ladder he climbed.  Christians do look up and they come to understand the ladder is infinitely high and there is no hope of getting to the top.  And right at the point where the Muslim sees the only way to the top as the violent overthrow of the forces of evil at the cost of their own lives and they grasp the ladder with the last of their living strength – right at that point – the Christian releases their grip on the ladder.  Actually the Christian is not a Christian until this happens; the hopeless hopeful; the falling to grace from the height of self effort.

It is not useful for us to ignore or deny what Yousef tells us about Muslims.  He knows what he is talking about.  We will not know when any particular practicing Muslim reaches the rung of jihad.  No fly lists and monitoring Muslims will not protect anyone.  Islam is a way; it is a path that leads somewhere.  Jesus said he is The way.  These are not the same things at all and can never be reconciled.  Either Jesus is telling us the truth or not.  If Jesus is who he claimed to be and did what he said he would do in conquering death, then he has proven beyond doubt he is the way.  The answer for our times is to be the people of Jesus who pray and work for the whole world to discover him as their Way.  We will not win spiritual struggles with political weapons.  We will not usher in otherworldly peace with weapons made for war in this world.  Pray for Muslims to let go of the ladder to jihad.  Pray for Muslims to meet Jesus personally and profoundly.  Pray.  This is the frontline of the war on terror and you can join it right now in your praying place.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s the Little Things

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I want to find huge shark teeth when I go shark tooth hunting.  I’m not out there searching for teeth so small I could fit ten of them on top of a Quarter.  I want to find a Mako or a Great White that fills up the palm of my hand and has weight to it.  People who say finding tiny little shark teeth is just as satisfying as finding big ones may not be lying, but I don’t think they’re saying the whole truth.  If they walked up on a Megalodon you’d hear them singing a different song.  But they (we) do get satisfaction from finding tiny shark teeth.  It is a different feeling.  When I comb the beach walking at my normal pace and letting my eyes search almost on autopilot, finding shark teeth that are teeny tiny makes me feel like I am the master of this beach.  It makes me feel like if there is any shark tooth on this beach it can’t elude me.  I will find it.  How can I doubt this when I walked along at full stride and picked a shark tooth barely bigger than 20 grains of sand out of moving water?  It is magical.  I’m not even sure how I do it.  It must be Spidey-sense.  Spidey shark tooth sense.  Whatever it is, picking that tooth out of the surf is satisfying because I’m sure I haven’t missed anything big.  If my methods work to find this tooth then I’m not missing other things.

Usually the tiny teeth end up at the bottom of a jar, not in a display case, but there’s no doubt in my mind there are plenty of days I would have quit hunting before finding a display case tooth if I hadn’t found one of these little things and renewed my belief that I could find another tooth.  It’s the little things that matter.  It’s the little things we do that accumulate in our hearts that add up to confidence to go on when nothing significant seems to be happening.  The tiny hints of the presence of the Holy are just as full in their ways as the monumental Red Sea splitting displays of power.  I want to walk my life pathway with the expectation of finding Jesus in the moving water.

Gospel and the Art of Shark Tooth Hunting

There was a book someone told me to read.  It was cool they said.  Enlightening.  Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  I read it.  I don’t remember it.  I guess it didn’t enlighten me.  That is probably more a statement about me than the book.  Lots of people read it and found it helpful.  I couldn’t relate.  The journey of the book interested me, but the Zen and the motorcycles didn’t.  I use technology that I don’t understand.  And I don’t want to understand it.  I want it to work.  I don’t want to think about how this computer is capturing these key strokes and saving my thoughts in bits and bytes.  And the Zen feels the same to me.  Too much thinking in little bits and bytes that run down rabbit trails and at the end seem so breathtakingly insignificant or worse, unintelligible.  The Zen felt inaccessible to me, like the carburetor on the motorcycle laid out in tiny pieces that only the initiated can see and put together.

I am a Christian and a pastor.  I like thinking but I’ve found Saint Paul’s warning that “knowledge puffs up” to be an occupational hazard and a cultural epidemic.  Pirsig was writing in a time when technology seemed to be overtaking us, endangering us with becoming functions, pieces of machinery in a godless mechanical universe grinding along with an unseeing merciless drumbeat.  My time is overtaken with information.  We are in danger of becoming receptacles of pieces of information.  Our drumbeat is godless and merciless too.  We are googled and googling. We are becoming what we eat, and we eat information.  We are can’t be disconnected from the the pipeline of knowledge or we might cease to exist.  We are social media.  Incoming and outgoing.  The puffing up chokes out life.  Saint Paul contrasted knowledge with love.  “Knowledge puffs up but love builds up.”  Living is love.  Love is living.

I noticed how much the puffing up was killing me.  Reducing me to posts and likes and comments and followers.  I noticed how loveless it felt.  I deleted my Facebook account FullSizeRender (3)without telling anyone.  No fanfare.  No goodbye sweet world.  Just deleted it.  My real world loving living friends asked me where I went.  None of the thousand friends outside of them has tried to find me.  I’m gone and they don’t notice it.  Why should they?  We don’t love each other.  We don’t live together.  We don’t miss each other.  I feel good.  I feel better.  Not smug or superior, just better.

I am loving the people in my real world more now.  I am practicing the gospel which is not knowledge but flesh and spirit.  I am practicing sabbath which is the art of giving up being God and affirming I can disconnect and not shrivel up and die.  And I’m hunting shark teeth which is pursuing something of value because I love it and not because I gain anything from it.  By these acts I am becoming myself and this is what God promises to make me.