Images of controversy...

These are the images, published some time ago in Denmark that have spawned riots around the world and have at least one person in Canada brought before a "human rights tribunal" in Alberta for publishing them. People have died because of these images. In some places in the world I could be killed simply for posting them.

Christians around the world, of course, will be suprised at how tame these pictures actually are compared to the constant barrage of pornographic images of Christ and Christianity regularly presented in all kinds of media and sometimes supported by government agencies funding the "arts". Caricatures of Christians, obscene works of art based on Christian themes, jokes and put downs directed at things we as Christians hold sacred are more common then ever and in certain parts of our culture are considered evidence of spohistication and educated cynicism.

So why did I post those pictures?

I don't hate Muslims. I disagree with some of the claims of Islam but I don't hate those who practice the faith and have interacted with Muslims all my life without incident. I plan to keep it that way. This is America and people have the right to practice any religion or none and to convince others, if they can, to do the same. This is how it should be in all the world.

And part of that freedom is that sometimes faith is ridiculed and people and things close to us are held up to critique and mockery. I don't enjoy it when people say ridiculous things about Jesus and make fun of my Savior. It hurts. But the freedom that allows this to happen is still important. For every unkind word said about Jesus I can counter because I have the freedom to speak a rebuttal. Freedom is messy sometimes, rough and tumble, and people and feeling get damaged. Outrages happen and we all, in some ways, have to swallow and take it for the sake of the larger principle. Frankly, as well, there are times when our critics are actually more honest about us then we are and their arrows stick in us because they reflect a truth we'd rather not see. But even if they're just malicious fools I'd still rather put up with them and preserve basic freedom then live in a world where only one idea was allowed and all dissent was crushed. After all, no one is ever in charge of anything forever, and today's emperor is tomorrow's slave.

Now I would like to speak to those who are Muslim and may view this blog from places around the world. You may be very offended by those pictures or you may care less. But to be in a free society means that you'll sometimes have to face uncomfortable things. Freedom comes with the risk of being offended, sometimes daily, and sometimes by people who are just doing it because they get their kicks that way.

But it's still good to be free. We have discovered in this country that faith unconstrained by the state is actually deeper and more fervent then faith coerced by the authorities or maintained by social fear. People in this country, with all its faults, still have the right to choose their belief and because they do its often more precious to them because it belongs to them by a commitment of their will.

Yet in some places in the world there are people who want to control you, to gain power and influence by pandering to your basest fears, by exagerating and demagoguing and playing your emotions so they will have what they crave. It happens everywhere, even among Christians, but right now in the Islamic world they have, in some places, tremendous authority. They want to rule you and use your faith as a tool to bend you towards their dreams. And you have a choice to make.

If you are confident in your faith and its values then all the critique in the world, whether justified or not, won't make a difference, in fact it can't make a difference. You may not like the pictures I've posted any more than I would enjoy looking at a picture of the Virgin Mary covered with feces but the truth is that such a thing has no effect on my faith, not even a bit, and never will, and I refuse to give power to any man who would use such a thing for his own aggrandizement.

If you truly believe that Mohammed was a prophet of God then what difference does what some person puts in a paper make in relation to that belief? Does it change it? Is he less of who you believe he is simply because somebody drew a cartoon image of him? Is the deepest belief of your heart so flimsy that one man in Denmark can unsettle it? What could that man do that would threaten God? And what idolatry is it to give him that power by virtue of your response?

The truth is that you and I and every person of faith can choose what we do when faced with provocative, even offensive, words, images, and ideas directed at us and at our God. And when you or I or anyone else succumbs to violence we reveal that our faith is shallow, our belief brittle, and our actions unworthy of the higher good we claim to seek in our faith. In fact the person who makes such scandalous things actually achieves victory because of our reaction.

Right now its a pretty chaotic world out there and we're in desperate need of clearer and calmer heads to keep us from turning our earth into a never ending conflagration. We will probably never agree on the details of theology, but if we do agree, whatever faith we have, to not give way to our darker sides, even if provoked, we will go a long way towards making the peace and sending those whould manipulate us for their own ends into history's rubbish.

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