Download the course study guide.
Download the course study guide.
This battle between fear and love was clearly demonstrated in several experiences when I visited churches wearing a headscarf. An older gentleman at the first church visited, who was a greeter at the church, was not able to recover from his fear after seeing a woman wearing a hijab approaching the church. As a result, he blatantly ignored me, which came across as very unloving. In this instance, fear drove out love. On the other hand, at the second church visited, a woman was hesitant at first and kept her distance. She was uncertain as to how to react, but eventually she made the decision to allow love to triumph over fear. Although she initially sat at a distance from me, she eventually moved down to sit directly beside me, engaged her in conversation, and hugged me before leaving. In this case, love drove out fear. In another scenario, I walked into a large lobby and was clearly confused as to which direction to go for the service. At least three greeters and volunteers stood around and watched me, clearly lost. Evidently the volunteers were scared or unsure of what to do, so they did not help, and instead let the me wander around. In contrast, at the fourth church visited, I was once again lost, but this time a greeter overcame fear and helped. He personally gave me a tour of the entire church so I would know how to find my way around. Lastly, at the first church, when instructed to greet those nearby, a woman half-turned toward the me, but upon seeing the the hijab she hesitated and almost turned back around. Fortunately, she managed to overcome fear and made the decision to greet the me despite her initial uncertainty.
Miracles and the supernatural are part of the cosmologies of both Christianity and Islam. The greatest miracle in Islam is the Qur’an. In Christianity the greatest miracle is the resurrection of the incarnate, living word, the Lord Jesus Christ. At some points the religions which claim to be revealed degenerate into folk religion. The serpent of brass, made by Moses at God’s command in the wilderness (Numbers 21:4-9), later became an object of worship which had to be destroyed during King Hezekiah’s reformation (2 Kings 18:4). Jeremiah was ordered to condemn the mechanical reliance of the people on the presence of the Temple of God in Jerusalem. They regarded the Temple as a kind of automatic insurance policy guaranteeing their protection and that of the city (Jeremiah 7:4). In Judaism, Christianity and Islam practices sometimes show deviations from the ideal as set out in their respective scriptures. There are magical uses of the names of God. Bibliolatry or the worship of the book and bibliomancy or the magical use of the book replaces the proper reading of the inspired books. Charms and excessive veneration of saints replace reliance on God.
Let me turn to what the Bible has to say about speech to see if it supports absolute freedom of speech, limited free speech, or something else. Here are five passages that help us understand how God wants us to speak:
1. Ephesians 4:29—Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Interpretation: While we are free to speak, we should consider the effect on others. We need to ask if it will be experienced as grace by those who hear it.
Application to Garland, TX: Would Muslims–or anyone, for that matter–hear Pamela Geller’s exercise of free speech as giving grace? Did her speech build up or tear down? How people hear speech is surely relevant in deciding whether it promotes grace and avoids a corrupting influence.
2. Colossians 4:6—Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Interpretation: Again, God offers the “gracious test.” The salt image suggests that speech should be pleasing to the one who hears it.
Application to Garland, TX: Does Geller’s speech pass this test and did hearers experience it this way? Is there a way to speak truth so as to increase the likelihood that it be taken graciously?
3. James 3:10—Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.
Interpretation: It seems that part of what we say can be praising and part can be cursing, but God doesn’t want us to mix them.
Application to Garland, TX: Is it possible that Geller rightfully praises freedom of speech and at the same time uses the kind of speech that incites violence? Is it possible that mixing the two pollutes praise? Does her way to praising freedom of speech end in death and dilute the beauty of her love for freedom of speech?
4. Proverbs 15:1—A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Interpretation: This is quite clear. Gentle speech increases the likelihood of dissipating anger, whereas harsh words tend to stir up anger.
Application to Garland, TX: Isn’t this exactly what happened? The harsh exercise of free speech stirred up violent anger. In other verses, God acknowledges that we will get angry, but wants us to control it, and not to hang on to it. Geller’s free speech was hateful and angry and this resulted in an even angrier response.
5. 1 Peter 3:9—Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
Interpretation: These are difficult words. As much as we may want to respond to anger with anger, evil with evil and insult with insult, we are told not to do so. Holding our tongue and controlling our actions lead to blessing. The words and actions of radical Muslims are evil, and while we are tempted to respond with anger and insult, that is not in keeping with God’s will. When that happens we fail to be the people God would have us be. We must not use the evil of others to justify our own anger and insulting speech.
Application to Garland, TX: A better exercise of free speech might have been to get people together, pray for radicals, and offer loving words. At the same time we should renounce the evil to which we are all prone. Why? Because fire added to fire will surely burn the house down, and too many houses have already been destroyed by fire.
Pamela Geller, and those who drew insulting pictures of Muhammad, are guaranteed the right to do so by the U.S. Constitution. But those who love God and desire to follow his word prefer a different response. We desire to draw a loving picture of Jesus and offer it to radical Muslims regardless of their response. It isn’t easy, but we are take up our cross and follow him. “Easy” is not the word I would use to describe the picture of Jesus on the cross.
When I first met these young men, they had been living in the U.S for less than a year. They were young children when the Taliban took power in 1994. They, along with their families, were forced to flee the country because their parents worked for the Afghan government. When the U.S. removed the Taliban in 2002, all three returned to Afghanistan as young adults. Each of them recalled watching the news reports of the U.S. invasion, and upon returning to Kabul all three secured prestigious jobs assisting the U.S. in rebuilding the Afghan government. Both Ibrahim and Yusuf worked for defense contractors in Kabul and Ahmed worked directly with the U.S. military as a translator throughout the country. Both Ibrahim and Yusuf had professional degrees and were some of the highest paid Afghan civilian contractors in Kabul. They loved their jobs because they felt like they were seeing their country transformed for the better, particularly the city of Kabul. Ibrahim put it this way, “It’s not because Kabul is very modern, but there is a deep connection for a lot of Afghans. Friends in Kabul are different. If you have a friend there, they are friends forever. Even after my dad died, his friends would still come to my house to check on us and take care of us.”
The truth is, these young men loved living in Kabul. They described the city as being cosmopolitan and that the ethnic and religious differences that dominated rural areas of the country did not matter in the city. However, as time went on, the threat of retaliation by the Taliban became an ever present reality. They applied and were given visas to come to America but none of their family members could join them. This has resulted in an incredible sense of loneliness and concern for…