(A note about programming: I had originally hoped to--out of my love for soccer--have finished a 9/11 commemorative "then-and-now" post centered around the US men's national soccer team, as they played a game on 9/11 this week in Columbus, Ohio, and were abroad in South America for a game when 9/11 occurred in 2001. That game, scheduled for September 12, 2001, was held, and I wanted to juxtapose the words of the players then and now. For a variety of reasons--lateness in picking up all of the desired quotes, ministry-related emergencies, and personal exhaustion--I did not have that post completed in time and did not want to run it half-baked for 9/11, so I posted I had finished instead. I'm hoping to complete my 9/11 entry by next Tuesday and have it up for you then. But for now, we talk together a bit about North Africa. -E.A.)
On some level, this is what democracy often looks like.
Democracy is born out of violence.
Democracies in the United States, France, Spain, and Germany only came about after widespread violence--revolutions in the case of the US and France, a civil war in the case of Spain, and two world wars with Germany.
And so when we turn to Egypt, and to Libya, both of whom unshackled themselves from unscrupulous dictators only last year, and we see violence break out and ask why they cannot protect our interests there, part of me wants to ask, "Was our violent revolution more justified than their's?"
Of course, ours happened over 230 years ago. Our collective humanity and commitment to life has evolved since then. Presumably, you would think, we would have found a more civilized way to give a voice to the voiceless.
But that is precisely the problem--rights are seldom given. They must often be demanded. African-Americans in the United States had to demand for years and years the right to vote, to attend the same schools, to sit in the front of the bus. Do we truly think the ruling white politicians of the day would have simply handed over those things of their own accord?
Nonviolence worked in that case. Mob violence often does not.
And I do not, do not, do not condone violence. At all. Nobody has the right to inflict pain upon another person.
But by God, Muslims have every right to feel offended by the half-assed, painfully bigoted "Innocence of Muslims" film. I made it through all of about the first five minutes of the thing before I had to stop.
If you're a Christian, imagine a film that depicts Jesus Christ as a leery, womanizing, violent, thieving brute of a person. With the production value of, I don't know, your average family reunion home video.
What moved me the most, though, is that after the violence that was raised in response to the offensive nature of that film, Muslims came together to gather and hold signs saying, in effect, "This is not representative of Islam." A group of Americans were responsible for the original offense, and those who were offended are apologizing to us.
Probably more than any other major religion, Islam faces serious prejudice in the West.
I cannot imagine any currently urgent need for Christians to apologize for their extremist elements--I sort of take it for granted that y'all won't lump me in with the Fred Phelpses and Terry Joneses of the world. Maybe I shouldn't. But if I'm being honest, I have to admit that I do.
And I found it heart-wrenching that rank-and-file Muslims might even feel the need to apologize for a religion that has made them better, more fulfilled people.
Nobody should have to shoulder that burden. It is a degrading, humiliating burden to bear.
But...I have to admit, I feel it as well. Because there are fringe elements of Christianity responsible for promoting "Innocence of Muslims."
For this, I can only say two things.
One is...I am sorry. So, so sorry that Christianity might even be tangentially responsible for this offense. That Muslims still feel the need to explain to us that their's is a tradition of love, not of hate (seriously, we went through the same thing after 9/11, after the Underwear Bomber...come on) when we can't see that reality past the madness of the religious extremists. And that the film's makers attempted to scapegoat Judaism and Israel by falsely claiming that the film was made by an "Israeli Jew."
The other is...in circumstances like these, God is not neutral.
Just because God loves all of His children does not make Him neutral.
When God came to earth, He spoke for the poor. He spoke for the outcast. He spoke for the weak, and the meek, and the shunned. He spoke for those who thought against the grain, who were outside the mainstream of their contemporaries.
I have always hoped and prayed that when a Christian is persecuted in, say, North Korea or China, that God will speak. That He will speak for the Christian. Or when Jews have been persecuted by the Romans, by the Church, by the Nazis, that God will speak for Judaism.
And that means that when a Christian or a Jew casts out the Muslim, I have faith that God will speak, and that He will speak for the Muslim.
For God is not neutral. God, through Jesus Christ, sided with the oppressed with His birth, His life and ministry, His death and resurrection, and His eternal message.
Pity the fools who violate that divine legacy with their prejudices and bigotry.
In memory of the countless lives lost in religious violence over the course of human history.
Yours in Christ,
Update: Word is now out that the offensive references to Islam in the film were all dubbed during post-production and the cast and crew were misled by the film's producers in the casting call and original script, which opens up a whole new dimension of how the producers were busy breaking the "don't bear false witness" commandment.