Enjoy re-reading Fr. John's weekly bulletin letters for the past year.
Recently I have watched Rev. Franklin Graham (son of Rev. Billy Graham) interviewed several times on News shows about the slaughter of Arab Christians by ISIS. Each time he began his answer he started with: "First let me say that God loves all people. And to the terrorist who torture and murder, God will forgive you if you open you heart to Jesus Christ and accept his forgiveness." Rev. Graham always finds a way to proclaim the Gospel. How refreshing.
Yet as he sneaks in his proclamation of God's love for all people, the TV host is polite but doesn't quite know what to do about it. Instead they move right along and ask him about political solutions to the problem. Therein lies the challenge: while politics is part of the solution it is not the whole solution. We are engaged in a theological battle over the true nature of God and yet we don't know how to talk about it or even take on the challenge. We hide behind secularism and act as though we are embarrassed by our religious history. We act as though if standing up for the biblical values upon which Western civilization was built is a grave offense against Islamic terrorists. The God of the Bible clearly rejected murder and slavery and violence. The answer lies in whether the Islamic world will permanently reject violence, slavery and theocracy in the name of God or not.
After 9/11 there was a precipitous rise in atheism. Why? Because if there is one thing that will turn people away from God it is using God as a justification for violence and evil. That is exactly what the terrorists did and still do. This is precisely what is underneath the commandment: Do not take the name of the Lord your God in vain (better translated: Do not misuse the name of God). There is no surer way to turn people off to God than to use God for perpetrating evil. Violating this commandment constitutes the worst of all sins. In fact it carries with it a caveat: "For the Lord will not leave unpunished (or will not hold guiltless) the one who takes His name in vain". This is the essence of what Jesus referred to as the "sin against the Holy Spirit" or the unforgivable sin. When believers willfully call evil good or deny the obvious in this regard they in effect "kill" God because they do such damage to his name.
I think this was the point our President tried to make when he told us "not to get on our high horse" because in our past there were the Crusades and the Inquisition. That however is a very specious moral equivalency. And for this reason: unlike the Quran, the Bible gives no support for murder, slavery, adultery or any other violence (other than self-defense) in its texts. None of these actions are normative for Jews and Christians, when committed they are violations of the basic tenets of faith. I am not sure the same can be said for the Islam based on the texts of the Quran. If theocracy, slavery, polygamy, violence against innocents and non-believers is not normative in Islam then Muslims themselves will have to demonstrate that.
That is why it is so irksome that our government, especially the President and current Secretary of State seem to think that the whole mess is either an aberration of Islam or a result of Western hostility to Islam and Muslims. It seems to me this is why the President and his surrogates are constantly reminding us that it is not Islam that is the problem but people who use Islam for their evil purposes. I wonder if they would say the same about guns: it is not guns that kill people rather those who misuse guns that kill people. Probably not.
It seems as if the leaders in the West are paranoid that Westerners will rise up and start lynching Muslims. That has not happened. It did not happen after 9/11 and the few incidents of anti-Muslim violence were proven to be provocations. Yet we are constantly being chastised about our Islamophobia. The truth is that Americans are more sophisticated than that and our President seems to have a low opinion of his fellow countrymen. We can differentiate between those who choose to live in peace among us and those who would insist on overturning our basic values by doing us harm.
Defending our values and making the case for them will be what keeps the terrorists from winning in the end. Based on what we are witnessing coming from the terrorists we have a real conflict of basic values. We had better start defending ours less we forget why we have them in the first place.
Fr. John B.