Monday, February 27, 2006

Much Ado About Nothing

In the latest incident of alarming insensitivities in the publishing world, a mid-western daily newspaper has drawn the ire of atheists worldwide with the adjacent "cartoon." While some may see nothing but an empty box, regular readers of the "Daily Disturber" newspaper became suspicious that the ominous white space was just the latest in a series of off-color jibes at the figures of various religions. The Disturber's cartoon the day before portrayed a cosmic chef spitting in to a bowl of primordial soup.
The controversial blank cartoon drew immediate reponses from the local atheistic community. Armed with high-resolution scanners and email, members of the local chapter of ANGER (Atheists Not Getting Enough Respect) sent flawless digital copies of the offending image via email to their godless brethren worldwide, fanning the flames of global outrage.
Asked what, in particular, she found most offensive about the cartoon, local atheist Mary Fornow answered: "Well, it's not so much an issue of what IS in the cartoon, it's more about what's NOT there. Sometimes, as is clearly intended here, silence speaks volumes. I mean, everyone knows that atheists don't believe that there even is a god, so this picture of nothing is obviously poking fun at us, and our most sacred object of (non) worship."
The editor of the Daily Disturber, Mr. Lance Disturber, was immediately questioned as to whether the blank box was intended as commentary on atheism. His response was non-commital: "A blank white space can be perceived in many ways. People are going to see what they want to see. Perhaps it was just a printing error. Maybe our printer ran low on toner?"
Gene Chance, president of the group Mid-Western Atheistic Humans Against Hatred All-over (MWAHAHA), doesn't find that answer satisfactory. "Who's he (Mr. Disturbed) trying to kid? The cartoon was surrounded by stories of the Prophet Muhammad situation, and biographies of famous atheists. Context is everything. Just because we athiests don't believe in God, it doesn't mean we're stupid."
Not everyone agrees with Mr. Chance. Even among fellow disbelievers, more moderate atheists are calling for calm and measured reactions. Les Newdoh is one of this camp. "Sure, the piece is in poor taste, but let's use this as an opportunity to show the world what we're all about. Just as Christians strive to emulate their Christ, and Muslims try to be like Muhammad, let us atheists respond as we believe our (non) creator would - by doing nothing at all."
As with the recent prophet Muhammad cartoon response, the blank box brought it's share of extremist reactions. Said Mr. Stan Mistenay, founder of GLAD (God Lovers Are Dangerous) : "This cartoon is an absolute outrage. Mr. Disturber and his entire staff should burn in ...well, I don't know, SOMEWHERE! How can any publisher, knowing what kind of dangerous worldwide reactions we've seen with the whole Muhammad thingy, willingly offend such a growing segment of the population? It's unethical, and society ought to hold that editor accountable. Deplorable actions like his make me so angry, I almost wish I believed in God, so I could pray that curses would be rained down upon his head."

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Jesus - Prophet of Islam?

John Lawrence, writer of Canadian website Conservative Joe, comments on recent publication of cartoons from the Muslim world depicting Jesus:

"In the latest ridiculous tit-for-tat offering from the muslim world, an Azerbaijani weekly publication has published cartoons that include Jesus and Mary."

A few lines later, he asks:

"As part of their outrage, muslims have stated that any depiction of the prophets of their faith is blasphemy. We are also told that they consider Jesus a prophet. How then is it that a muslim publisher can publish images of Jesus?"

Wonder of Joe will get any answers to this?

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Every Cartoon Tells a Story, Don't It?

Followers of Islam are becoming violent in their outrage at their prophet Momamed being caricatured in newspaper cartoons. One of these cartoons shows the prophet with a lit bomb behind his turban. I guess the perceived suggestion that perhaps there are violent aspects to their faith is insulting. Insulting enough for some to start fires and burn flags. Indeed, a leader of the Islamic militant Hamas group, which recently swept Palestinian parliamentary elections, told an Italian newspaper on Saturday that the cartoons were an "unforgivable insult" that should be punished by death.
It's awfully tempting to compare and contrast Christian vs. Islamic reactions to having one's God mocked. Sadly, it wouldn't take long to dig up historical and current incidents of Christians resorting to violence in defense/pursuit of the Gospel of Christ. Rather than pit Christian behavior against the behavior of non-Christians, which only invites (often valid) cries of "HYPOCRITE," Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith... (Hebrews 12:2). How would/did/will Jesus respond to being insulted, and what does that mean for us?
Jesus was/is no stranger to being mocked. How did he respond? There are numerous examples in the Bible, but the clearest is His reaction when being mocked by those watching as He endured His crucifiction. Luke 23:34 reports:
Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."
Jesus is clear that many of his followers will endure not just mockery, but death as well. His command, though, is hardly to take up arms:
If anyone is to go into captivity,
into captivity he will go.
If anyone is to be killed with the sword,
with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints. (Revelation 13:10)
This willingness to endure mockery of one's God, and one's faith in that God, (even to the point of death!), is hardly one of the Bible's most attracting lines of scripture. In fact, without knowing how God's grand scheme all works out, the level of commitment required would be ludicrous.
The "human" part of me would be unwilling to die for an unseen God. Hence, the importance of Faith. That same "human" side of me would also react with rage if someone insulted me or my God. It's through God's grace alone that any Christian can respond with love to an enemy. Do we always succeed? Hardly. Once again, our individual success rate is not the good news of the Gospel. The Good News is the forgiveness offered by the one (Jesus) who we've all mocked/insulted/disobeyed, etc. Portraying Jesus in a less-than-flattering light in a newspaper cartoon is mild compared to how we've all treated our very Creator. And yet, He stands ready and eager to forgive us if we simply admit our sin, and ask for His forgiveness.
The difference between following Jesus, and any other religious pursuit, is that Jesus is solely responsible for making us Holy enough to find favor with God . We do not have to blow ourselves up, kill infidels, or even demonstrate a proven track record of behavior where our goodness outweighs our badness. (Yes, we are expected to strive for Holiness, but Jesus makes it clear that we will all fall far shy of the mark until we are perfected in Heaven). Once again, Christ is the author and perfector of our faith (see above). Christ is the one true God who does it all, including taking care of Himself. Jesus does not need us to defend Him, but He does give us the gift of wanting to share His good news.
Does a Christian then, have no inner turmoil when his Lord is mocked? Of course not. It IS uncomfortable. However, the discomfort often has more to do with anguish for the mocker's soul than any personal slight. We know that it is not our place to avenge (Do not be revengeful, my dear friends, but give way before anger; for it is written, "'Revenge belongs to Me: I will pay back,' says the Lord." (Romans 12:19). Even if we were to disobey this command, we know that NOTHING we could dole out would compare with God's wrath: Matthew 10:28 tells us (and anyone willing to listen): "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell."
No, God does not need His followers to stick up for Him. The end for those who mock Jesus is horrifying. Even this final judgement, however, is not God's wish for anyone. God does not want anyone to perish but wants everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
Someone. right now, is mocking the God I put my faith in. Jesus does not want me to burn their buildings. God does not ask me to convert them by force. Rather, He has prompted me to share the news of His available, incredible mercies. That same mercy is available, right now, to everyone who still breathes. As the saying goes, "don't be caught dead without Him."

Friday, February 03, 2006

Why Support Israel?

Shortly after I came to Christ, I joined a Bible study. What a wonderful thing it is for a new believer to get with a bunch of folks who have studied the Bible for years. Their insights, explanations, and guidance (not to mention enthusiasm) are immeasurable for one's understanding. Of course, the Bible tells us that without the Holy Spirit, the natural man cannot understand scripture, but even with the Holy Spirit, an experienced man of Faith can accelerate a fresh believer's learning.
Somewhere along the line, I came to realize that much of the Old Testament was "over my head," since I had next to no understanding of Hebrew/Jewish history, customs, language, etc. I believe the Holy Spirit prompted me to take an interest in things Jewish, to better understand the Bible.
Over the last two years, I've found a few sources that help me gain an understanding of the Hebrew roots of my faith. Television ministry's like those of Zola Levitt and Perry Stone, authors like Ariel Fruchtenbaum, and the ministries of Friends of Israel or Jews for Jesus are a few of my "Rabbis."
With current world events pointing more and more to the tiny nation of Israel, it makes me wonder if even secular news-readers ever wonder why that nation gets so much news coverage? If anyone doubts this, just click on your news-page of choice. Can two days go by without Israel in one of the top-five headlines? Ariel Sharon's coma, Hamas winning the Palestinian election, the leader of Iran threatening to "wipe Israel off the map," etc., etc.
Now I'm no prophet, but I have read the Bible, and I feel it's safe to say this: Israel will remain in the news for the foreseeable future, and will likely become even more of the entire world's focus. Yeah, I know, hardly a profound insight, right?
For non-believer's sake, I kind of wish Israel's current visibility would fade back, for that would suggest that world events are NOT currently lining up like dominoes for Christ's soon return (which would mean there would be more time for non-believers to come to Jesus). Only God the Father knows His timetable, but regardless of when He acts, Israel will be center stage in the end of this age.
Are you a believer? Read your Bible, watch Israel, and marvel at God.
Not a believer? Dust off your Bible, watch Israel, and you too, will marvel at God.
Here is one of the best short Biblical explanations I've found for why Israel is important to followers of Christ:
Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem. Why? Because it will not happen without the Lord's help.

Maranatha (come Lord Jesus)