Thursday, February 09, 2006

Mock Jury

I have struggled over the last few days to find the balance between compassion/respect and being completely appalled and then incensed. Unless you have been under a rock for the past few weeks, you have heard tale told of the uproar over the posting of disrespectful cartoons depicting the Islamic Prophet Muhammad wearing a bomb in his turban. The Islamic tradition does not tolerate for any image of the prophet to be cast, respectful or disrespectful. Therefore, since these images fell along the disrespectful side, the backlash has been even greater.

I do have a level of compassion for those who truly have been offended and have chosen to express their dissatisfaction legally through the boycott of Danish products or what have you. However, I am appalled at those who have chosen to respond with violence to the extent of burning a Danish embassy and other acts that have resulted in the deaths of several individuals. And to these individuals I would like to pose the question: “Muhamad was shown with a bomb in his turban, indicating that those who follow him enjoy violence. And you are responding with an even greater violence, therefore, what message am I to take from this concerning the Islamic faith?” It simply does not make sense. My own shock and amazement increased exponentially today by an interview conducted by NPR’s Morning Edition with Ahmed Abu Laban, the religious director of the Muslim Society in Copenhagen, Denmark. Abu Laban is the man responsible for informing the world of the existence of the cartoons by sending what he calls “intimidation letters” to various centers in Egypt and Lebanon. In these “intimidation letters,” he chose to not only reprint the cartoons that he is supposedly adamantly opposed to being in print, but he also willingly reprinted other cartoons that were NEVER published. So I question what his true motivation was. Was it truly so that the Danish newspaper would apologize to the Islamic faith, or was it a way to incite those who are prone to violence so that they may have an excuse to do so? Kudos to NPR, Morning Edition, and Steve Inskeep for this here for interview

John Piper, in his article Being Mocked: The Essence of Christ’s Work, not Muhammad’s, makes a quite insightful observation: “The work of Muhammad is based on being honored and the work of Christ is based on being insulted.” Part of Christ’s incarnation was His humiliation. The very fact that He descended from the loftiest of all thrones, gave up the position above all other positions and chose to become flesh was a humbling experience for Him. As Ken Gire has written, “The baby [Jesus…]sighs, the divine Word reduced to a few unintelligible sounds. Then, for the first time, His eyes fix on His mother’s. Deity straining to focus. The Light of the World, squinting[…]She touches His hand. And hands that once sculpted mountain ranges cling to her finger.” All this before He faced angry crowds, had His character challenged, was kicked out of towns, denied by His closest friend, scorned, ridiculed, and mocked profusely by a group of soldiers who were just having a little Friday night fun. His humiliation was required for our salvation and future glorification.

Perhaps men and women of the Islamic tradition understand Christianity’s 2nd commandment more than we do: “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth” (Ex 20:4 NASB). Why would God give us such a commandment? Because He knew in our own limitations that we could not possibly make an image that accurately resembled His likeness and His character. So was the cartoon of Muhammed an accurate representation of his character or completely off the mark? If the reaction that it has sparked is any indication, I would venture to guess that it was dead on. Furthermore, it has much more of a possibility of being accurate because Muhammad was a man, not the Divine Savior, Creator, and Author of all things, through whom all things hold together. “Jesus Christ is still the only hope of peace with God and peace with man. And it means that his followers must be willing to “share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10)” (Piper).

For the complete article by John Piper,click here

Ken Gire. Moments With the Savior: A Devotional Life of Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1998. 31.

** UPDATED 2/13/06 **: Little did I know, Dr. Russ Moore, Dean of the School of Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, was sitting in as guest host for the Albert Mohler radio program the same day that I posted this commentary. As Drs. Moore and Mohler are much more learned than I am, I would submit the radio program to you for your review. You may access it here

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