Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. Ephesians 5:1 NASB
Not surprisingly, I picture my own children when reading this. I have a daughter who is very much a “Daddy’s Girl” and has adopted a lot of my sense of humor (along with some other less desirable traits). I have an 11 year old son who is picking up many of the same interests in hobbies. I have a 7 year old who is probably as frenetic and crazy as I was at his age. And I have an almost-2 year old who lights up with joy every time his mother and I play music. My keyboard is one of his favorite toys.
You don’t have to be a parent to get the picture of the mother duck followed closely by her ducklings. Children naturally watch and then follow the example of their parents.
Growing is something else children naturally do.
I recall holding my daughter as a newborn. She fit between my elbow and my hand. Now she’s almost as tall as me. Try as I might, I haven’t found a way to stop time and keep her or my other children in that seemingly perfect sweet innocent state of childhood.
Healthy children will grow.
12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. – Hebrews 5:12-14 NASB
The writer of Hebrews implies something here. It’s possible for us as Christians and children of God to stop growing, to stay in that infant state. If we do not exercise what God has put in us, if we do not work it out and put it into practice, we’ll remain little children, needing to be fed instead of feeding, needing to be helped instead of helping.
Though the parent in me would love to stop my kids from growing up, I know they must grow. And so must I.
Wherever I am right now, however “tall” I am by God’s measuring stick, I can’t let myself remain there. I want to keep growing, keep reaching for more. I know I don’t want to come back next year and find the mark has not moved higher on the wall.
We all go through hard times and difficulties. No one is immune. Religion and spirituality are no shield from tough circumstances. It’s not even a question of “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Bad things happen to everybody.
But God is unchanging. The God we call worthy when the sun is shining – He’s the same God in dark clouds and driving rain. The God we praise on Sunday is the God of Monday mornings.
We all have our “Even though” moments, when everything seems to go wrong. It’s tempting at that point to yell at God and wonder where He is, but then we miss the point. Whatever your “Even though” may be, God is still God in spite of it.
God is the One who brings me through.
There is often no magic escape to the hard times in life. There’s no ejection handle, no parachute strapped to our back. David writes, “even though I walk through the valley…” not around it. We don’t get to avoid trouble in our lives. Sometimes the trouble is exactly what we need to go through in order to get to where God wants us to be.
God is the One who calms my fears.
When trouble comes, and my eyes get fixed on the storm and the winds and the waves of life, I need something bigger, something stronger, something deeper and lasting to fix my eyes on. Like the lighthouse on the shoreline, God gives us that beacon of His presence in the midst of the storm. Think of Peter, walking on the water. As his gaze turns to the violent weather, he begins to sink. As he realizes the danger of his situation, he cries out to Someone greater.
God is the One who is with me.
The arm of Jesus lifts Peter from the waters “immediately.” God is never distant in the midst of the chaos around us. We may not notice His nearness. We might be distracted by the waves and winds. But God is there, close at hand, close enough to grab us “immediately.” David thinks about this Shepherd-God who stays close by His flock. The shadows and the noises of the valley may put fear in the hearts of the sheep, but they are never forsaken, never abandoned.
God is the One who fights my enemies.
David thinks of the rod and the staff. The rod was like a club the shepherd carried to fight off any threat to the sheep. If you’re being told that the “rod” is how your spiritual leader has a position of authority to discipline the sheep, then I submit that you’re being misled. The shepherd isn’t there to beat the sheep. The rod isn’t meant to strike the flock. The rod is meant to strike anything else that would try to sink its teeth into the sheep. There’s a place for discipline in the church, no doubt. But if you feel beat by your spiritual authority, maybe you don’t have a real shepherd. The rod is a comfort to David, because David knows that his Shepherd is fighting off anything that would try to devour him.
God is the One who pulls me back.
Unlike the rod, the staff is for the sheep. The shepherd’s crook at the end is meant to catch the sheep going astray. I remember learning to swim at the local pool. The lifeguards had a long pole with a green plastic hook they called a shepherd’s crook. If someone is drowning, flailing, or-God forbid-floating in deep water, the crook is there so the lifeguard can reach in and pull them to safety. So it is with God as our Shepherd.
God is the One whose oversight comforts me.
Everyone sooner or later has a boss that drives them nuts. Maybe it’s a personality clash, but more often than not, it’s an issue of management style. Again, I’ll point to those so-called shepherds who think they carry a rod in order to beat the sheep. Note in all these verses the servant-leadership of the Shepherd David is thinking about. This Shepherd doesn’t treat the sheep like they exist to serve Him, even if that really is the case. “The good shepherd cares for the sheep.” The Shepherd gives up His time and energy to provide for the needs and the comfort of the sheep in His care.
It seems backwards to think of a King who stoops down to help the beggar and the needy, a Lord who takes the towel from the servant and washes the dirty feet of His subjects. The God of the Universe should be worthy of our devotion and attention, our service and worship. And yet He took the form of a man, made Himself of no reputation, and let Himself be put to death on a cross like a criminal.
Even though He did nothing wrong, Jesus submitted to our whims, because He was submitted to the Father’s will. The Son of God was forsaken and abandoned by His Father, left in the valley of the shadow of death, beaten with the rod of wrath that our sins deserved, so that we could be caught up in the Shepherd’s crook of mercy and grace, and comforted in the presence of God.
God is the One who comforts me, pulls me back, protects me, stays with me, and calms my fears in the midst of everything I go through, no matter what.
Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ-the Message-have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives-words, actions, whatever-be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way. (Colossians 3:15-17 MSG)
Fellowship is one of the key components of worship – both the things we do to express God’s worth, and the times of singing praise as a congregation.
Individual times of worship and devotion are important, of course. We spend time with God in a relationship. Like any relationship, there should be some intimacy, some “you and me” time. We see Jesus as our example in this: if He took time away from other people to get alone with God, then certainly we might benefit from doing the same.
But Paul points out that our worship of God is something we do together with others. Paul did not write just to individuals, like Timothy or Titus. He wrote to churches. He wrote to congregations. He wrote to groups of people and said “This is how we all do this together.”
This is part of why I love a good Bible study group. When I say “a good group” I mean a place where a bunch of different people can discuss the Scriptures and how they apply to our lives. Good groups have a strong facilitator who can allow discussion and multiple viewpoints without getting off track or derailed by a vocal opinion.
Some groups are hand-fed and led by a teacher who lectures. I’ve been in groups where the only time anyone other than the leader is allowed to speak is to read a particular verse and not one word more. I suppose that ensures that only the accepted teaching gets brought to light, but I didn’t come for a sermon. To each their own; that’s not my cup of tea.
I scream, you scream, we all scream for theology! Wait, what?
But when a Bible study is facilitated well, you get to experience a Baskin-Robbins of theology. It’s all good ice cream, but you get a variety of flavors, some you like and some that aren’t your favorite. You test it, hold to what’s good, ignore the bad (or maybe discuss it if someone is saying something opposed to Scripture). Everyone has something to offer, and you hear perspectives you’d never expect – some of which might speak profoundly to your heart as you look at a Scripture in a new way.
And you get to build relationships with others.
The relationship we have with God is great, and we affirm that every time we sing a song about how “You are all I need.” But that’s not entirely true, nor is it biblical. We read in 2nd Peter the following statement about “all we need.”
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3 NIV)
The relationship we have with others in light of our common faith is essential. God did not make us loner Christians. He relates to us individually, but He also relates to us and calls us to relate to each other in a church Body. We all have something to offer, some part to play in the story God is telling in our local church. (See 1 Cor 12 about parts of the Body fitted together.)
Worship alone, yes. Worship together, definitely. See God and others from a different set of eyes. Discover a new perspective. Hear something new from God, through the voice of your brother or sister in Christ. Sing a song that ministers to your heart, and let it touch the need of another. Share the comfort God has given you in past times of distress with someone who is hurting right now. We were made for God, and we were made for one another.
So get a little pink-spoon taste of what all the Body has to offer. They’re free. You’ll find way more than 31 flavors of awesome God.
My mouth is filled with Your praise
And with Your glory all day long. Psalm 71:8 NASB
I saw this verse, and the question popped into my mind: “What is my mouth full of?” Maybe it’s because I’m dieting, but I thought of a mouthful of food.
How does that “mouth full” taste to the people around me? How does that “mouth full” taste to me?
Let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. Hebrews 13:15 NASB (emphasis mine)
What comes out of our mouths? Is it fruit that will delight our God and satisfy another’s soul? Or is our fruit rotten and withered by pessimism and unbelief, moldy and putrid because of bitterness and anger?
James drives this point home in writing about the power of our words:
8 But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; 10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. 11 Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh. James 3:8-12 NASB
We all slip up and say things we know we ought not to say. All of us can think of a time where we said words we wish we could take back. We may never be perfect in our choice of words, but we must still aim for perfection.
This prayer of David is one of my favorite in the Psalms, and it reminds me to be careful about the “mouth-fulls” I allow:
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14 NASB
Welcome back to this Sunday Psalm series looking at Psalm 23, considering the various ways David reminds us that “God is the One we need.”
He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. (Psalm 23:3 NASB) True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction. (Psalm 23:3 MSG)
God is the One who restores.
The Hebrew here is a word for turning something back or away, but not necessarily a return to a starting point. A lot of languages are like word pictures where a particular word can have multiple meanings based on the context it’s used in, and this is no different. This word can mean “to come back, to carry something back, to deliver something or fetch something, to recall, recover, refresh, relieve, rescue, retrieve.”
I get the picture that the Shepherd finds this lost sheep going off the path, headed astray, and He picks it up to bring it back to the flock. He’s not bringing it back to the same place; the flock is on the move. But He brings it back so that the lost sheep can follow along with the rest, on the paths that the Shepherd is taking.
Isaiah said of us that “all we like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” Isa 53:5
Sheep aren’t to be trusted with directions.
God is the One who gets in the mess with us.
The good news is that God doesn’t leave us in the muck where we often find ourselves. David writes “He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn’t slip.” (Psalm 40:2 MSG)
The Shepherd doesn’t abandon the sheep, doesn’t say “He got in this mess, he can get himself out.”
“How? you say. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 MSG)
“But the Lord has laid on Him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all.” Isa 53:6
God is the One who guides.
David continues the thought here. The Shepherd doesn’t merely get the sheep out of the mess they’re in. The Shepherd is taking the flock somewhere. He has a destination in mind, and there are specific paths that lead to that goal. The Shepherd is not telling the sheep that “all roads will get you where I want you to be.” He only chooses the right way. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6
Similar to the very first point from two weeks ago, the first way that “God is the One,” this reminds me that God is not shrugging off sin with a “boys will be boys” and a shake of his head. He calls our going astray an act of rebellion and open hostility. He isn’t willing to accept and call good whatever path we choose. And why is that?
God is the One who is worthy.
He guides us for His name’s sake. It’s not simply because He cares for the sheep, but He cares about His reputation.
“I will not share My glory with another.” Isa 45:8
“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 NASB
“For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Php 2:9-11 NASB
He protects His reputation. He makes sure everyone knows He is all He claims to be. It’s about Him, not us. His love and care is not because of something we’ve done to deserve it. It’s because of who He is. He stoops down to shepherd us, not because sheep are special, but because He is humble. “Your gentleness has made me great.” Psalm 18:35
God is the One who is true. The Message puts “for His name’s sake” as “True to Your word…”
His promises and His mercies come to us because He is faithful. He will not go back on His word. We don’t earn blessings like a paycheck, by doing good deeds and cashing in at the Bank of Heaven. We don’t go to God with a list of what He owes us since we’ve done so much for Him. But we do get to go to Him based on His faithful and true nature. Like the child who reminds the father, “you promised,” the responsibility and the commitment are on His end. God our Shepherd is reliable even if we are not.
God is the One who gets into the mess with me, lifts me out, and points me on the way to truth, which is why He is worthy of praise.
There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whomJesusloved. – John 13:23 NASB
If you ever want to learn how to make things fair in life, have more than one child.
It seems no matter how hard we try, one of our four children is always wondering why he or she has it worse than everybody else, and why some sibling gets it so easy.
“My chores are the worst!”
“She got to play the XBox for a long time!”
“He got to go to his friend’s house, why can’t I?”
“IT’S NOT FAIR!”
I don’t feel too bad. If Jesus’ own disciples bickered and accused Him of playing favorites, then I figure this is a normal fact of life.
In the Gospel of John, the writer (John… shocking, I know) uses the phrase “the disciple whom Jesus loved” five times to refer to himself.
Maybe it was humility; he didn’t want to write his name in the account, like “me me me, look at me.” But it kind of comes across to my ears as a proud statement. “I’m the favorite. I’m the one He loves. Neenur neenur neenur, you’re just plain ol’ Peter.”
But maybe this phrase is neither humble nor proud.
Maybe it’s a statement of a wonderful and incredible fact.
John understood. He really got it. John’s the one who later writes all about love in the church (read 1st John). He’s the one who emphasizes over and over again that Christ’s followers are “beloved of God” – and he even uses “beloved” as the collective title for his readers.
Beloved means dear to the heart, favored, favorite one. To call myself beloved of God speaks of confidence about His love, security and certainty that “He likes me… He really, really likes me.”
That’s not arrogant, either.
It is arrogant when we add “more than you” either consciously or unconsciously. It is arrogant if we presume to add “but not you” when we think of some group we don’t like. It’s foolish for us to think God should limit His love to suit our desires.
But we can confidently say that we are beloved of God, dear to His heart, favored and special to Him.
It pains my heart when my wife apologizes or worries needlessly whenever I seem frustrated or upset by anything. It hurts when my children say they are afraid to admit a bad decision for fear that “Daddy might get upset.” That tells me that I have not fully communicated to them the unchanging and unconditional love in my heart. They don’t understand that each of them is my absolute favorite. Each of them holds captive the full measure of my love. So, in my imperfection, I must work to communicate that more clearly.
God, on the other hand, has communicated His love. He has told you that you are His beloved, you are His treasure, you are the one He loves. When He plays favorites, we all win.
(Note: I’ve created some new categories for posts. One of these is the “Monday Morning Snack,” which will contain thoughts from whatever Scripture I happen to be reading. These were going to be random and occasional, but now I aim to post them each Monday.)
My Bible app gives me a verse of the day, and it sparked a thought this morning:
but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. 1Pet 4:16 NASB
This made me consider what it might mean to “suffer as a Christian.”
The Bible tells us often that if we’re true to the faith, the rest of the world isn’t going to like us. No one really likes having their sin pointed out, or being told they’re not good enough based on their own merit, or hearing that they are born in sin and naturally at enmity with God until they come to saving faith in Christ Jesus as their Redeemer.
It’s not a popular message. God obviously didn’t read How to Win Friends and Influence Peoplebefore coming up with this plan of salvation.
The problem is, in my experience, believers are often too quick to assume that anyopposition is based on the offense of the Gospel. If someone doesn’t like me as a Christian, of course I’d rather believe that they’re upset because of the counter-cultural message of my faith. But maybe they’re just mad because I’m inconsiderate or lazy at work.
A good example is Dan Cathy of Chick-fil-A fame. Whether you agree with him or not, the statements he made (which sparked the whole controversy over same-sex marriage) were a simple declaration of what he believes based on the Bible. He wasn’t spewing blatant hate or disgust. He was merely professing his faith, and I submit he did it in a respectful way. The withering criticism came because of what the Bible says and how the majority of Christians in the West interpret Scripture on the subject of homosexuality.
If only all the Christian responses to that controversy were as calm, respectful, and precise.
Peter writes in this passage that “to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing,” and “if you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed” (vv. 13-14). But he also makes the point that there are other reasons why one might suffer: “Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler” (v.15).
Certainly I hope none of those are true of any of us! But the meaning is clear: it is possible that we suffer not because of Christ or the Gospel or our faith, but because of our individual flaws.
I have to ask myself:
Are people upset by what Jesus taught and what the Bible says, or how I am saying it?
Are people irritated by my sincere acts of faith in Christ, or by my hypocrisy in other areas of life?
Is the message the source of the offense, or is the messenger?
(Note: I’ve created some new categories for posts. One of these is the “Sunday Psalm,” which will contain either songs I’ve written or snippets from the book of Psalms in the Bible. This is the first such post.)
Since I’m starting a new feature that closely involves Psalms, I figure it would be appropriate to begin with the most well-known psalm of the 150 we have in the Bible:
A while back, I looked through this psalm and considered the words David chose. I found that all of it tied into one key point: God is the One I need.
(Unfortunately, I later lost the files and the notes for that study. So now I get to recreate it.)
I’ll take it one verse per post, because these time-tested verses contain something of lasting value, worthy of careful consideration.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. (NASB)
God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. (MSG)
God is the One.
David starts with “the Lord.” Not “Lords” or “Gods” or “the Cosmos” or “my true inner spiritual self” or any such thing.
In ancient Israel, monotheism was one of the key religious points that separated the Jews from the nations around them. Starting with Moses, the message was “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.” Other commandments clarified that the Lord was to also be their only God. “You shall have no other gods before me.”
David sets his focus clearly right from the beginning. No other god, no other name, no spiritually vague concept will suffice. David’s eyes are on the Lord.
God is the One who cares for me.
David chooses his own childhood experience and sees how God exemplifies that role. The shepherd loves and cares for the sheep. But the shepherd is not merely a friendly or fawning pet owner with their favorite animal. Shepherds take on several roles-as we’ll see in future verses.
Most importantly, I think of modern, socially-acceptable spirituality, which leads us to a Buddy Christ that loves us too much to discipline us, a Santa-God that gives us whatever we want if we are good boys and girls, an Oprah Spirit that stands back and encourages us to do whatever we think is best for us. Too often, the god we like to hear about is the one that is on our level.
The shepherd is not on the sheep’s level. He’s not their buddy all the time. He’s not out to let them “discover themselves.”
The shepherd can’t treat the sheep that way. Sheep need correction and firm guidance. They go through circumstances they don’t like because it’s healthy for them. They aren’t left to their own devices. They need a watchful eye.
God assumes the responsibility to provide all that for us. He steps up and says, “Let Me take care of you. This is My job.”
And let’s be honest. Look around. On our own, we can’t even do it right anyway.
God is the One who meets our needs.
The older meaning of “want” is used in most familiar versions. It doesn’t mean there will never be a time that I feel a desire for something I do not possess. It doesn’t mean that I will always have anything I wish. Again, God is not Santa. He’s not the ATM.
It means that I will have my needs met. Real needs, not just “really wants.”
“I really want that video game, God… Your Word says I shall not want, so… I need 60 bucks. Hook me up?”
The Message captures the meaning well. David is saying, “If I have God, I don’t need anything else. I’m good.”
Consider Paul’s comments in Philippians 4:11-13.
I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. (MSG)
This is where Paul speaks about God the Provider – “My God shall supply all your needs” (Php. 4:19 NASB).
Did Paul endure hardship and tough times? Absolutely. I have no doubt in my mind that there were moments where he had some wants, maybe even some valid needs.
But his experience was that in every situation, God came through, whether the answer was “yes” or “no.”
God is the One who genuinely cares for us and meets our genuine needs.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
That’s the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. It’s kind of a big deal around here.
The trouble is, sometimes we forget the value and the importance of those core principles and ideas that allowed this nation to prosper for the last 200 years. And sometimes we forget that we don’t have these rights because a piece of paper in Washington D.C. says so. These rights are written down on that piece of paper because our nation is founded on the idea that people inherently deserve and possess these rights.
These memory lapses seem to come around every four years or so, like Leap Year’s Day. Strange, isn’t it?
Some atheists decided that they had a message for the two main political parties during all this buildup to the elections. These atheists want to make their case that religion doesn’t belong in politics and that the political parties should pursue ideas, not ideologies. You may agree or disagree, and you can be vocal about it. You have that right. It’s written down on that piece of paper.
The atheists used their money and resources to create billboards, and then sought advertising agencies willing to put up the images near the national conventions of both parties. There was no such agency in Florida. For whatever reason, none of them wanted to carry a controversial message about religion. They have that right. It’s also written down.
An agency in North Carolina was willing to put up the atheist organization’s message.
So these billboards were spotted in the last two weeks:
You might strongly disagree with the messages. (I do.) We have that right.
However, the billboards are now being pulled down, as a response to a reported flood of “vitriol, threats, and hate speech against our staff, volunteers, and Adams Outdoor Advertising,” according to Amanda Knief, managing director of American Atheists, quoted in a Fox News article.
And that’s where our rights cross the line.
When my free exercise of religion or speech threatens the safety of another person, then maybe I’ve missed the point of both my religion and my freedom.
I’ve said before, as a religious person, it’s reasonable to support everyone else’s right to express their religious views, even if–or especially if–those views differ from my own. As soon as we permit the government or the public to decide what is an acceptable religious view and what is not, then we are giving up the principle behind those rights written down in Washington.
It’s not my job just to make a case for my own faith and for my own freedom. It’s my job to make the case that everyone else should have the same freedom as me to express their point of view without fear of violent retribution from government or from their fellow citizens.
This all makes sense from the civic political perspective. I can’t go around threatening the free speech or free religion of others without expecting the same treatment. I can’t push for government to make laws that limit free speech or free religion (or lack of religion) for others without expecting that some day the same government might limit my freedoms.
It’s also sensible from the perspective of Jesus’ teachings. Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you, right? I’m not sure what my fellow believers are asking for “them” to do unto us, if we’re engaging in threats and vitriol just because some atheists don’t believe what we believe.
Newsflash: That’s kind of the point of atheism.
Of course, this is North Carolina, where religion and politics have clashed quite often in the past few months. North Carolina recently voted on an amendment to their state constitution prohibiting gay marriage, or defining marriage as one man and one woman, or however you want to put that.
North Carolina was also in the spotlight thanks to Pastor Charles Worley of “electric fence” fame, who suggested maybe we could lock “all the gays” behind an electric fence and let them die off. (To be fair, he did suggest dropping food and supplies into the fenced area so they could not starve to death… so, I mean, there’s the Christian compassion we were all hoping for, I guess.)
To be fair, everyone can say what they want about other religions, about atheism, about Democrats, about Republicans, about anyone who is “not like me.” As much as I may disagree with their speech, I defend the right of Americans to say what we want. We can shout down voices of ignorance and hate.
Threats of violence are not the way to do it.
To my fellow believers who have raged against those billboards: You want to do something useful with your anger?
“Your values aren’t our values. We know about your plans to open doors in our city, and we want you to know you’re not welcome here.”
Maybe… but I’m not talking about Chick-Fil-A and Boston (or Chicago… or probably a list of cities that will want to jump on this bandwagon to show how progressive and tolerant they are…)
I’m talking about Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and the unremarkable but apparently controversial mosque being built there.
Based on the estimate in the July 19th news story in the link, the worshipers might have already had their grand opening. I sure hope so. I hope they’re having the best Ramadan ever.
And I hope their opponents are choking on bile as they see it happening.
There’s a thing called the First Amendment in the Constitution. It goes something like this:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
In this case, no one’s worried about Congress. The Federal government is (to my knowledge) not involved at all. But what the folks in Tennessee seem to be forgetting is that the amendment that lets us freely step into our churches on Sunday wherever we’d like is the same amendment that permits Muslims to build a place for worship wherever they’d like.
Intolerance and fear are clearly a part of the issue. One resident talked about the Buddhist place of worship in town and how no one seems to pay those guys any mind.
“Well, with 9/11 and the whole terrorism thing, people are just a bit nervous about having a mosque in town.”
That’s a paraphrase, but you can read the sentiment in the article for yourself.
To that I’d say,
“With the vandalism and arson on private property, and the open hostility, maybe the Muslims are a bit more frightened of you than you are of them.”
I’d say that, but I’m afraid that (were they ever to read my pointless rant in this corner of the Web) the perpetrators of this fear-mongering would feel proud at the thought. “Look at how we stood up to those Muslims! We sure let them know they’re not wanted here.”
Yeah, good job. Way to go against one of the key reasons America was founded. Way to stand up against one of the freedoms men and women have fought and died to protect for the last 226 years. Take that, religious expression!
Regrettably, our freedom of speech (see First Amendment quote above) doesn’t create any hindrance or safeguard concerning spewing ignorance. Anyone can say pretty much whatever they want.
I approve that. I applaud that. I don’t want the government telling us what is approved speech and what is not. And I know the vast majority of Americans feel the same.
But that allows for voices of thinly-veiled hatred to speak terribly insensitive and frightening thoughts.
Horrible thoughts like the North Carolina preacher a few months back with his “I got an idea… we build an electric fence, and we take all the gays an’ put ’em behind it.”
Horrible thoughts like the mindless venom pouring out of the mouths of Westboro Baptist Church members. I won’t even quote their signs. You’ve seen them on the news, or you can google them and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
Horrible thoughts like that of one of the leading opponents of the Murfreesboro mosque. “I know we weren’t going to win the legal battle… I just wanted to show ’em they’re not welcome here. And I plan to keep up the fight.”
What fight? Once the mosque is built, as is permitted by local, state, and federal government, and by our fundamental freedoms inAmerica, what fight is there?
I have several friends and coworkers who are gay. Some have made the point that they have come out in public because they don’t want to give anyone the impression that they will sit quietly while people malign or threaten them. They’re all sensible, thoughtful people who would love to leave that part of their lives off the radar. It’s such a minor thing to them, and it’s so not anyone else’s business. But oftentimes the terrible treatment they receive from others necessitates a harsh response, so they stand up and are counted. They stand up and say, “This mistreatment will not stand,” because they know there’s probably someone else sitting in quiet fear, too afraid to speak out in their own defense.
To my fellow Christians, I’ll say, how long are we going to sit in peace and quiet, shaking our heads, muttering a little tsk-tsk in shame, looking at stories like Murfreesboro or Westboro or the electric fence guy? I’ve often heard people ask, “Where are all the moderate Muslims to denounce what the radicals are doing?”
Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
Maybe we think it goes without saying. “Everybody knows” that Westboro Baptist Church is a bunch of nutjobs that have nothing to do with Christianity. “Everybody knows” that what that NC preacher is saying is horrific and wrong. “Everybody knows” that the First Amendment protects the rights of these Muslims in Tennessee.
Apparently everybody doesn’t know.
It’s time we stand up and be counted. Make sure that those who would wrap themselves in the American flag while clutching a Bible to their chest properly understand the significance of both of those symbols.
Make sure we speak out to those who would spread hate and fear in the name of Christ, and let them clearly understand:
“Your values aren’t our values. We want you to know you’re not welcome here.”
The home of David M. Williamson, writer of fantasy, sci-fi, short stories, and cultural rants.