(reprinted from Street Prophets)
The first time I heard about Pastor Terry Jones and his venomous Crusade against the Saracens, I wrote the following diary about it. In retrospect, I think I was too kind to Jones, and cut him more slack than he deserved. The years have made him only more toxic. Still, in the wake of this past week's hate video and it's repercussions, I think it's worthwhile to take a look at what Jones and his disciples are really doing:
A mother is preparing her child for school. “Do you love me?” she asks as she tucks in his shirt.
“Do you love Almighty God?” she asks as she ties his shoe.
“And You always try to do what God wants you to?” she asks as she tapes twelve sticks of dynamite to his shirt.
She pulls a hoodie over the explosives and kisses her child on the forehead. “Then go and take out as many unbelievers as you can!”
What kind of a parent would do that? What kind of a parent would turn a child into a living weapon who would destroy himself in the process of harming others? Must be one of those Muslim fanatics, one of those Islamic terrorists you read about. No Christian parent in America could do such a thing, right?
Last week my wife brought an article to my attention about a north Florida school where a handful of students were sent home for wearing t-shirts reading “Islam is of the Devil”. A representative of the school district said that the shirts were potentially disruptive and offensive and that they violated the district’s school policy. Apparently they got these shirts from their church, the Dove World Outreach Center. The pastor of that church, Terry Jones (Not the Python), defended the shirts saying that spreading the church’s message is more important than education.
To which my gut reaction is, “And how does this build the Body of Christ?”
What is the purpose of such a shirt, anyway? If it’s to proclaim the Love of God and the Gospel of Christ, I’m not seeing it. As I’ve always understood it, that is what the Church’s message is supposed to be; and yet the shirt says nothing about Redemption, nothing about Forgiveness; nothing about God’s unfailing love. Now I’m not a big fan of Bumper Sticker Theology, of boiling religious doctrine down to pithy cracks brief enough to fit between the “I (Heart) My (Dog Head)” and the “My Other Car’s a Velocipede” stickers: but this message doesn’t even go that far.
If it’s to persuade Muslims of the falseness of their beliefs, then they’re doing a crappy job of it. I think that Islam is mistaken about a number of theological points that I believe are important; the Divinity of Christ is a biggie; but then, I’m a Lutheran and we disagree with everybody’s theology. I can’t brand all of Islam as satanic because I disagree with their teachings any more than I can brand Baptists as satanic for rejecting the practice of Infant Baptism or the Catholics for their belief in Purgatory. For one thing, I believe that elements of God’s Truth can be found even in religions I differ with; and for another, I’m sure that Satan is crafty enough to work even with Good LCMS Lutherans. The beliefs and practices seen in the Muslim world that American Christians find most diabolical are not accepted universally by all Islam. What’s more, as a Christian, I know that our own hands are not exactly clean when it comes to deeds of wickedness.
More to the point, you don’t persuade anybody by calling them evil. Saint Paul knew that. When he preached to the Athenians on the Areopagus, he did not accuse them of being pagan idolaters in the grip of Satan; he started off by saying, “I see that in every way you are very religious.” (Acts 17:22). And then he told about the Gospel by connecting it to the teachings of their own poets and philosophers.
The cynic in me says that these shirts were never intended to persuade anybody of anything, but merely to create controversy; that the church expected the school to reject those shirts so that that the church could then make a big deal over how them Evil Secularists were Persecuting the People of God.
Of course, that’s just the cynic in me. I have no evidence that’s what this church intended, and I hope my cynic is wrong. There’s a passage in 1 Peter that says: If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” But it goes on to say, “If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or a thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler." (1 Peter 4:14-15). The King James Version renders that last bit as “busybodies in other men’s affairs.” In other words, you are indeed blessed if the World hates you for your belief in Christ; but if people hate you because you’re being a troll, you get no brownie points.
So what then is the real message of these t-shirts? What do they convey that is so important that Pastor Jones says he must obey the commands of God rather than the dress codes of Man? The only thing I can figure is the message of the t-shirt, “Islam is of the Devil”, is intended solely to instill and to foment hatred against Muslims. And what does Scripture tell us about hatred? “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.” (1 John 3:15)
That’s what these parents are putting on their children, with the best of intentions and with their pastor’s blessing: a bomb attached to their chests; a bomb of hatred which, like more conventional explosives, destroys the bomber even as it harms his targets.
So again I have to ask, what kind of a parent would do that? What kind of mother would inflict that upon her daughter? What kind of a father would shape his son into a bludgeon to the cost of the child’s own bones? What kind of parents would want their child to become a murderer?