Friday, December 03, 2010

In The Shadow of the Christmas Tree Bomber

Except this bomber is a "devout Christian".

As a Christian, I find holding both of these events in my mind together to be a very helpful and healthy exercise. It helps me get into the shoes of Muslims and Somali's who share strong associations to the Pioneer Square bomber.

If not terrorism, God knows Christians are guilty of a good many other wrongs. I delve deeper into the exercise by asking the following question: If someone attended my church and went on to commit a great wrong, how would I feel if someone committed arson against my church?

Yes, terrorism and religious extremism needs to be discussed, but even more important is how we talk about them.

As I skimmed Facebook in the days that followed, amidst all of the frustrated and occasionally hateful clamoring, I was struck by one small voice that took a stand:
"We should pray for him."
I love how this frames the event.

In prayer we are humbled at the foot of the cross by our own brokenness, reminded by God's grace that met us, equipping us to turn and do the same. Hatred is replaced by heartbreak.

How I talk about events like this can either be destructive for our communities and destroy my credibility as an ambassador of Christ or by acting out of humility, compassion, and grace the dialog can be fruitful and glorifying to my King.

To assist in putting on the shoes of our Muslim neighbors I recommend reading this article about the perspective of local Muslims in response to the event.

It scares me to think how easy it would be to pick and choose condemning verses out of the Bible. How would I respond if someone did this to me? How much more productive would the conversation be if we asked them to explain the Quaran instead of foolishly pulling verses out of context and telling them what it means. And what a great start to a deeper relationship.

Listen first. Seek understanding. Be humble.

Another invaluable exercise I have found in the last 5 years of my life is to carefully listen to my internal dialog. This is not the opinions you voice about events, sometimes it is conscious thought, but most often it is simply how events make you feel. These feelings are not out of your control and they should be evaluated. They grow out of your belief system which is constantly evolving, sometimes core values conflicting with minor values, and is never above reproach.

In my own past on multiple occasions I have witnessed evil acts fueled by hate towards a group that is framed as an "enemy" to a group I am affiliated with (whether it be cultural, social, political, national, economic, or religious). While I would never partake in the act, or even voice approval of it, I feel a sense of satisfaction, sometimes joy, knowing the "enemy" has been hurt.

It can be scary to notice these internal dialogues. But challenging them has been a source of significant growth in my life.

For further reading I recommend Donald Millers response. He has an interesting vantage point as he was standing 25 ft from where the would be bomb was. I love his take on extremism, particularly his succinct conclusion on Christian extremism.

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