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Without Conscience (Quran Burning)

September 3, 2010

“There is much done in Christendom of which Christ would be incapable.” – Bishop

A church in Florida, poised to commemorate the tragedy of September 11th, are poised to undermine their faith if they proceed in their plans to hold a public burning of the Quran. The threat itself proves true the ascersion of religion that the character Hospitaller espouses in the 2005 movie “The Kingdom of Heaven”:

“I put no stock in religion. By the word religion I have seen the lunacy of fanatics of every denomination be called the will of god. I have seen too much religion in the eyes of too many murderers. ” – Hospitaller (The Kingdom of Heaven, 2005)

 Certainly, this Florida church should be seen as fanatical.  However, the controversy over the Park51 (Cordoba House) project, which this event is by no means unrelated, has exposed a broader “conservative” view of the liberty they supposedly hold so dear.  Apparently, conservatives, and especialy conservative christians believe in the right to the free exercise of religion and enterprise, except when the religion is not their own.  Grace is in short supply to the fundamentalist christian church.  If this were not so, we would not be suffering through, as we do today, the constant barrage of talking heads who have been armed to the teeth with talking points that create a simplistic emphasis on the worst elements of a complex religious tradition.

Christian fundamentalist need to be aware of two things as they continue this march toward intolerance. You reap what you so sir. You’ve heard this, haven’t you?  A cursory look at Christian fundamentalism will reveal that it is generally viewed as a strident religion by full of illiberal practitioners. That its views on gender roles, homosexuality, public morality and social justice are  an attack on democratric values, not unlike they themselves see Islam. But, the First Amendment comes in handy — when it’s protecting you. Right?

Secondly, these fundamentalists need to be aware that there actions (the public burning of the Quran, as well as the continued opposition to the Cordoba House by conservatives) are inviolate to the Christian faith. Let us be clear of this, Christianity, Islam, Judaism have certain commonalities all being born from the Abrahamic tradition; and one of those commonalities is the assertion of human worth and dignity transcendant of tribe and nation. That is to say, that God by the act of our creation (in his image) has in all humanity established a standard of worth distinct from all creation. This is the founding of all of the Abrahamic traditional religions, and if truth be told, most other religions. Therefore the continued demonization of Muslims (1.6 billion of the world’s population)as a terrorists enthralled by an evil religion is an act of tribalism that refutes the universality of the human condition.

Freedom of religious worship and expression is essential to human dignity, which makes burning the holy books of other traditions, or blocking the construction of an Islamic center for religious reasons or any other a violation of Christian belief. This is why there is a great need to understand the theology behind social justice — which can only be known if we understand the purpose of social influence. The theology of social influence for Christians is not to favor our own faith; it is to uphold the universal rights and dignity taught by our faith. It is not to advance our own dogma; it is to apply that ideology in pursuit of the common good. This is what turns religion into a positive and healing force  in public life.

There is a 2nd part to my earlier quotation from Hospitaller, who for me is the most important of the figures to impact the main character in “The Kingdom of Heaven”:

“Holiness is in right action, and courage on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves.”

It is the calling of all Christians to live holy lives, and holiness in the face of the overwhelming ugliness we are observing today from conservative politicians and christians is to condemn these acts of bigotry and hate. For as the main character in “The Kingdom of Heaven” quotes of his father:

“It is a kingdom of conscience, or nothing.” – Balein of ibelin

Peace be with you.

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