Whenever discussions revolve around religion, it is always a heated and charged discussion. The reason behind this is simple: Religion is something personal. Therefore whenever our faith is attacked, a religious person will do everything in order to protect and defend the basic tenets of their faith. In this way, religion has been one of the catalysts for some of the wars throughout history. It is usually not a very pretty picture.
This notion of religion being an emotionally charged topic was illustrated perfectly in the recent South Park episode where they parodied Islam and Muslims’ reverence for the prophet Muhammad (note: spelling varies depending on the source).
In fact, after it was aired there were death threats leveled at Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park. The threat came from various blogs and websites. One person in particular is Zachary Adam Chesser (a.k.a. Abu Talhah al-Amrikee), who posted something on www.RevolutionMuslim.com. Chesser said that he wrote what he did and put the picture of a murdered Dutch filmmaker to raise awareness and to show the severity of what happens to someone who mocks Muhammad. But he clearly reiterated that it was not a threat, but rather it was just an explanation of what would be the most likely outcome, if anyone criticized the prophet or Islam.
It is very clear – Islamic law prohibits any forms of depiction of the Prophet Muhammad.
Even with the recent failed terrorist car bomb attack in New York’s Times Square reminds us of another example. As facts are coming out, there is some speculation that this was linked to the South Park “transgressions.” But as the investigation is underway, authorities are finding out that the car bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad was upset at the U.S. treatment of Islam. The court evidence shows that Shahzad has some ties to the Taliban militants by receiving explosives training in Pakistan’s Waziristan region. Shadzad was also in contact with people in Pakistan prior to the attempted car bombing.
President Obama in his press conference said, “This incident is another sobering reminder of the times in which we live around the world and here at home, there are those who would attack our citizens and who would slaughter innocent men, women and children in pursuit of their murderous agenda. They will stop at nothing to kill and disrupt our way of life.”
Bill Maher has even jumped into the discussion. He challenged the claim that Islam is a “peaceful” religion. I thought it was a very bold and honest interview with Anderson Cooper.
Incredibly, there are some similarities between Christianity and Islam, well, at least more than what we see at the surface (i.e. theology, Christology, views of salvation, etc). Both religions seek to claim to have the “truth.” Both religions seek to “convert” people. Both religions demand devotion from its followers. Both religions have “extremists” who take some of their holy writings out of context and justify their actions. The list goes on and on.
But in the midst of these surface or general similarities, I couldn’t help but to notice the reaction of people towards the two religions. I decided to put it in a question format to help us think through some of these issues:
2) Why is it that people have no fear or reservations in disparaging Christ and Christianity, but when it comes to Islam, people are afraid and very accommodating?
3) Why did South Park, who is well known for ridiculing and satirizing religion (especially Christianity) all of a sudden decided to censor themselves and pull out all videos associated with the episode of the Bear Muhammad episode?
4) Why is there a glorification of “homicide bombers” and “justified killings”?
As I am asking these questions, I am challenged by the Muslims’ passion for honoring their great prophet. Do I have just as much passion and is my emotion stirred when people attack or negatively talk about Christ?
But as I look at Christ and the various Gospel accounts of his last days here on this earth, I sometimes get disturbed and a bit angry. Why didn’t his disciples do anything to defend Jesus? Why didn’t Jesus call upon the twelve legions of angels (Mt 26:53) to destroy the people who were going to hurt Him?
This is when I realize that strength is found in what seems like an “apparent” weakness (2 Co 12:10). It is always harder to love people than to destroy them. It is always harder to forgive people than to get revenge. It is always harder to be humble than to demand our rights. It is always harder to obey God than to do what we want to do. It is always harder to deny ourselves than to be self-centered.
In essence, Jesus did the harder thing and took the road that many people would never have gone on. Maybe this is why I am drawn to Christ more each day. I am humbled to know how unique He is compared to anyone else in history. I am just amazed at how different He is than me, but yet, He calls me to be more like Him.
The difference? The Apostle Paul said it well to the people of Philippi: