Christians Should Be Upset Yet Non-Violent Alongside Muslims About Film

After reading about the riots in Libya and the subsequent outcry against the horrendous film “Innocence of Muslims” (in case you’re wondering – the film is on YouTube and it’s absolute garbage. Not only is the content contrived, the quality isn’t even remotely close to a “movie”), I decided I needed to say something about this.
Why?

This.

For those of you who follow memes (a text-image quip, usually pertaining to social commentary on a broad swath of topics), you’ll recognize this as the “Good Guy Greg” template. But, instead of Greg, we have Jesus – hence “Good Guy Jesus.”
Now, I don’t disagree with the meme. Jesus taught to love your neighbor and to pray for those who persecute you.

Let me make one thing clear before going any further: I’m not trying to turn this into a classic “Us vs. Them” post.
I’m not advocating some kind of universalist-we’re-all-spiritual-family approach.
I’m not going to talk about what the Qur’an says.
What I do want to do is pose a question: Flip the tables, Christians. Someone makes an incredibly ugly and untrue depiction of Christ. Would you be ok with it?
I’m not asking, “Would you riot over it?” I’m asking, “Would you be angry?”

For most people, I’d guess that the answer would be, “Yes. It’d make me a little/somewhat/really angry.”
Why, then, is it so hard for some Christians to extend sympathy and solidarity to our Muslim friends? Why do some scoff and say, “You shouldn’t get so worked up”?
Yet I see comments mocking how “crazy” Muslims get. Or how “extreme” some Muslims are.
If the stupid meme above is true, why aren’t we demonstrating – as Christians – the same kind of absorbing love and extending it to people who are deeply hurt by the depiction of someone sacred to them?

The Church in the United States has much to learn.
In Egypt, the Coptic Christians and the Muslims co-exist together peacefully. In fact, when Cairo was a hotbed last year, they even formed a circle around them in order to protect them as they prayed. Yet we sit here and fear what we do not even begin to know about our neighbors – here and abroad. Several articles have flown past my eyes in the last few weeks concerning the fear that Muslims have in this country.
Fear that they’ll be wrongfully accused of something simply because someone identified them as a practicing Muslim.
They’re afraid because a very small and radical sect of Islam has been responsible for what some have called “Islamic Terrorism,” effectively rendering any “Muslim” a terrorist.
I’d be afraid, too.

That’s why I’m calling for a stand of support for the Muslims of the world as they process and work through the debacle of this film.
Stand and support those who mourn over the desecrated image of Muhammad.
Don’t support the violence.
Support and stand with the family of four who you see heading to the mosque down the street.
They’re upset and angry about this film. Christians, of all the people in this world, should be the ones to help shoulder their emotions and frustrations.

We are not in any better of a position to lean back and say, “Well, we totally wouldn’t act that crazy if someone made a film insulting Christ.”

We totally would.

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The Mars Hill Controversies

Everyone knows about Mars Hill. Two possibilities come to mind.
1) Rob Bell. (And, subsequently, Love Wins.)
2) Mark Driscoll.

Now, I look up to both of these men in different ways.
Both push the envelope.
Both want to challenge the church to move forward, to keep thinking and chase after God. Now, the reception of these two men couldn’t be more varied. Some praise their work. Some declare them a heretic and an extreme fundamentalist.
While it would be interesting to discuss Bell and what he’s up to these days, I’m going to focus on the recent string of controversies that have been seeping out of the Northwest with the situation surrounding Driscoll’s Mars Hill.

I won’t say much more in this post. There’s much more to be read in what I’m about to post. As I would hope you always do, read the following with an impartial mind. Put aside your love/hate for Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll and read this story with fresh eyes.
I say this because it’s vital to our survival as a church in the West.

The main article is here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/2012/03/22/mark-driscolls-house-of-cards/

Then, after you’ve read/scanned that, read some of this (Paul Petry’s blog): http://joyfulexiles.com/

But ultimately, this is what I want you to read: http://joyfulexiles.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/jonna-mhc-story-29.pdf

Jonna’s account starts at the bottom of that 2nd page I linked – the posted link is also found on that page.
It’s long (14 pages). But you should read it.
I have no reason to doubt the truth of her witness, especially given other recent “silence-breaking” accounts that have surfaced in the past 3-4 months.
To be fair, there could be embellishments/stretching of certain facts to develop the “victim” motif. But, if what she says is true, then we have a severe problem growing in our midst as the Body of Christ.

Redux: Will you be my Martyr – I mean, Valentine?

Oh, Valentine’s Day. What a strangely weird and wonderful day.

February 14th can elicit emotions of love, desire and excitement.
It can also be a day of promoting the singularities, the individuals and the angst of several million people, decrying the evils of Hallmarkian holidays.

The first riot outside the Hallmark headquarters, circa 1513.

But what do we know about the origins of this holiday?
Sure, Hallmark executives have several houses in Aruba because of this “holiday,” but where did we get this day of love?
From a martyr. That’s touching.

Valentine’s Day is most accurately attributed to a particular saint who was martyred.
The exact saint is a bit harder to narrow down.
Doing some research, three blips on the radar pop up:
1) Valentine of Rome
2) Valentine of Terni
3) Some random Valentine who might have died in Africa (but nothing else is known about him).

Most of this is irrelevant, however, as by the 14th century, the distinction between Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni was probably lost. In their original context, there were no romantic elements associated with the Valentines.

He was definitely popular with the ladies.

We don’t actually know how he (they?) died. Just that they were martyrs.
For the sake of subject-verb agreement, I’ll only talk about one Valentine from here on out.
Valentine has some fun legends associated with his death, though.
The best one is this:

“The Early Medieval acta of either Saint Valentine were expounded briefly in Legenda Aurea. According to that version, St. Valentine was persecuted as a Christian and interrogated by Roman Emperor Claudius II in person. Claudius was impressed by Valentine and had a discussion with him, attempting to get him to convert to Roman paganism in order to save his life. Valentine refused and tried to convert Claudius to Christianity instead. Because of this, he was executed. Before his execution, he is reported to have performed a miracle by healing the blind daughter of his jailer.”

What a guy. He tried to convert the emperor to Christianity and BOOM! Instamartyr.

“What’d you do?” “I tried to convert the Emperor to Christianity.” “Classic Valentine.”

He didn’t even get a church named after him.
It gets better: in 496 AD, Pope Gelasius I establishes the day on the General Roman Calendar as “Valentine’s Day,” a day of remembrance for the martyred saint. But then in 1969 Pope Paul VI removes it from the calendar.
Why? “Though the memorial of Saint Valentine is ancient, it is left to particular calendars, since, apart from his name, nothing is known of Saint Valentine except that he was buried on the Via Flaminia on February 14.”

Enter Geoffrey Chaucer.
If it weren’t for him, Valentine’s Day would have remained a feast on the Roman calendar, with no hearts or chocolate or candy or cards or perfume or anything like that.
Chaucer was a poet (and he know’d it). His first work to feature a reference to “Valentine” was Parlement of Foules (1382):

For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make
.

Stirring, isn’t it? If you can read it. (Here’s the translation for those who can’t quite make sense of it: “For this was Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.”)
Here’s the thing that floors me – readers have made uninformed assumptions that “Volantynys day” refers to February 14th. However, if you actually read the text, this is probably untrue. What birds do you know find their mates in mid-February?
“Henry Ansgar Kelly has pointed out that Chaucer could be referring to May 2, the celebration in the liturgical calendar of Valentine of Genoa, an early bishop of Genoa who died around AD 307.” (Kelly, Henry Ansgar, Chaucer and the Cult of Saint Valentine [Brill Academic Publishers, 1997])

By the High Middle Ages (11th-13th centuries) and even as late as the 1700s, Valentine’s Day had become part of the “courtly love” tradition, picked up by such names as John Donne and William Shakespeare (in Hamlet when Ophelia says “To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day…”).
From there, we catapult to late 19th century where we see the advent of handwritten “valentines” which were given to people as presents and mementos of love.
And then there’s Hallmark. I think you can pick it up from there.

Why did I tell you all this?
Am I trying to ruin your day of love and affection?
No. Well, maybe.
Wait. No. My wife is probably reading this so I officially have to say “No.”

I tell you this because this holiday is based on a guy who was martyred for some unknown reason, canonized by the Roman Catholic Church into a saint, and then picked up by (with somewhat wrongful assumption) by readers of Chaucer, who then paved the way for the 15th century courtly love tradition, which then gave way to modern holidays, consumerism and mass chocolate production.

So, Happy Valentine’s Day!

Grammarians of the World, Unite!

Language is a dynamic expression of an organism.
It “can be defined as verbal, physical, biologically innate, and a basic form of communication.”
In short, it is how we live. If we didn’t communicate, we would probably cease to live.
Sure, we could live for a while. You can manage to bring down wild game without speaking or even coordinating with someone else.
But our society – our wold – cannot function without communication.
Of the brothers and sisters of language, we in the West are children of Potentate English – ruthless and domineering.
Yet this titan has a weakness: its speakers.
Particular emphasis on the Internet.
Almost complete emphasis on the Internet.
Actually, let’s just blame the Internet.

This is all your fault.

Internet and texting are the floodwaters that have begun to erode away the foundations of our already convoluted language.
Like the bursting of a dam, the increase of technology (coupled with the horrendously low reading capability of people in general) has produced something of epic proportions: the exile of grammar.
We live in an age where correction to language is seen as “nazi-ish” or “pointless.”
Pointless?
Grammar is pointless?

Grammar saves lives.
Doubt me? Think again.

Proof that commas do something.

We need to do away with the notion that grammar is “stupid” or “pointless.”
Difficulty does not mean we should shy away from trying; with regard to language, we should strive our best to communicate well.

Now, I don’t mean that you should completely reform your speaking/writing.
I have many bad practices that are tolerable at even the academic level.
What I’m talking about are basic rules that help everyone understand what you really mean.

Let’s go through some examples.

Your/You’re: Not hard. Not hard at all. “Your” is possessive. “Your grammar is worse than Justin Bieber’s music.”
“You’re” is a contraction, meaning two words have been combined via the almighty apostrophe. “You’re too lazy to use spell check.”

There/Their/They’re:
“There” is a child with many parents (at this stage of English). Commonly, it is used as a (bad) way to begin sentences. Traditionally, its function is locative, telling us where something (or someone is). “I think you dropped your brain over there.”
“Their” is a brother to “your,” meaning its possessive in usage, differing in person and number. “Their grammar was so bad that they were kicked out of school.”
“They’re” is a contraction. “They’re listening to dubstep. Yeah, I don’t understand it, either.”

Words like “truely” or “dyeing”:
What should be spelled as “truly” or “dying” often find themselves with an extra vowel. It’s typically one that was present prior to converting the word to an adverb/participle/whatever. In the case of “dyeing,” we have the problem of confusing two actual words.
You are not “dyeing” if you are drowning.
Consequently, you also are not “dying” your shirt blue. If you are, I’m turning you in for cilicide (“shirt killing”).

Duck/Duct Tape:
This is a simple mishearing that’s snowballed over time into a full blown brandname for what was once called “duct” tape.
Also, to be fair to our lazy speakers, “duct” (pronounced correctly) takes far, far more effort say than just a simple “-ck” sound. While we’re on the lazy train, we should let on the naïve people, too. Some people might not know what a “duct” is.
If this you, this isn’t a dig against you personally. I’m just highlighting the fact that languages do weird, funky things through time. Go, go humanistic dynamism!
I’ve never seen “Duck” tape, but I imagine there’s a use for it.

Why am I surprised?

Irregardless:
Negative form of “regardless.”
Yet “regardless” is already negating what was just written/spoken/posited. “Regardless of what you think, I’m far more more awesome than Justin Bieber.”
It does not make sense to add a negative prefix “i-” to make it more negative.
In fact, a double negative is a positive. That means “irregardless” is the opposite of “regardless.”

There are many, many more I could go through. But you’re bored. I can tell.
So, I’ll end it here. (But I’ll add some if I find particularly funny errors.)

Well, one last one.
Do not end a sentence with a preposition. Just don’t do it. Ever.

Ever.

Linguistic Musing: Zachariah!

Haven’t had many linguistic musing posts lately, so I thought I’d post something about me. (Not egotistical at all.)

Learning Hebrew has (rightly) made me return to words I accepted as “true” in meaning to rediscover if my first sense was accurate.
One of these has been my own name.
My name – Zachary – is a modern Hebrew-to-English version of the name “Zachariah” (which appeared probably in the late 13th century) which then is a version of “Zechariah” (which preceded the Zach- form slightly). Yet all of these are still within English; we need to go back to the Hebrew to find the actual name.

זְכַרְיָה is the script for Zechariah.
It is more accurately transliterated as “Zakaryah.” (Which is a pretty cool spelling if you ask me.)

I bet his name is also “Zakaryah.”

What we have here are two words in Hebrew: “Zakar” and “Yah.”
“Zakar” is a fairly simple verb in Hebrew. In the Qal/Pa’al (simple, active action), it means “remember, to remember, bring to memory, surely remember” and so on for another 10 definitions.
“Yah” is actually a shortened term for היה (“Ha’yah,” the verb of being in Hebrew) and יהוה (Tetragrammtron – YHWH, “LORD” or “Adonai” [‘Lord’]). In a sense, it signifies God’s name/presence.
When combined, it does mean “God Remembers” as so many Christian Bookstores engrave on small signs.
But something that had never struck me before is that a shard of God’s name is in mine.

Part of God’s name has been given to me.
I am NOT ascribing divinity to myself.
But the fact that my name has part of God’s name within my own is significant.
It is significant because God, in some way, has called me.
God has placed part of his name onto my own.

I am Zakaryah, and God has remembered me.

“Bleak.”

“But why do we have to leave?”
The air was brisk and crackled with the shuffling of hundreds of feet.
Suitcase handles jostled as they were carried back and forth, from house to the station platform.
The bustle was enormously loud.
And pensive.
“Momma, why do we have to leave?” the little girl reiterated.
The mother sighed, put her blouse on the bed beside the open suitcase and knelt down next to her daughter.
“My dear, we are going away. We don’t know why, but we are told that we are needed somewhere else.” She brushed back the dark brown bangs that dangled in front of Ruth’s eyes. The little girl smiled.
Rachel returned to her standing position and continued packing.
Ruth skipped to the front door of their apartment, clutching her doll as she watched the great procession go forth.
Why do so many people need to leave?

“All aboard! Come on, now, we need to get going! Train leaves in 15 minutes!” shouted a man in official garb.
Worried expressions could not be lifted from the faces that tried to smile. The smoke from the engine of the train billowed into the bleak December sky, hanging there for almost too long.
Reuben tugged at his father’s coat, eyes fixed on the eerie smoke that clung to the clouds.
“Father, why are we leaving?”
Caleb handed his suitcase to the attendant and turned to his son.
“We are called to leave, my son. And in this time for us, we do not have an option. We must leave.”
“But where are we going?”
Caleb shrugged. “They are not saying. I heard from someone else that we’re being ‘resettled.’ Some of may work on farms. Some of us in factories. All I know is that we’re leaving this place.”
Reuben detected uncertainty in his father’s quavering voice.
Something was wrong. Something was very, very wrong.
Caleb, instinctively sensing the internal dialogue, ruffled the boy’s hair. “We will be fine. I have a feeling.”
Reuben was not so sure.

“All aboard! Time to leave!”
The train churned forward, heaving and chugging forward, sputtering out smoke as if coughing.
No one spoke much on the train. Families talked in hushed tones, eyes darting about. Some slept. Others stared out the window.
“Momma?”
“Yes, sweet?”
“Do you think we’re being taken to the same place they took Oma?”
Rachel’s soul stung.
“No, we are not going to where they took Oma, Ruth.”
Ruth grew quiet. “But what if we are?”
Moments passed. Neither said anything in response.
“We’re not going there, dear. Now, get some rest.”

The train stopped in a small town later that day.
The passengers filtered out and walked around the station for a couple of hours.
The sky was even bleaker here.
It was if one cloud stretched over the entire sky. Reuben looked hard to find any detail of any clouds at all.
He used to love to watch the clouds.
Used to.
His wandering eye caught something down the platform from him.
“That looks like the conductor,” he thought aloud.
He told his father he was going to go walk down the platform to stretch his legs. “Don’t stay down there too long, son. We’ll be leaving soon.”
Reuben weaved his way through the crowd of people, mostly from his neighborhood. Why did so many people have to leave at once? he thought. After what seemed like hours, he finally drew close to the conductor. He was standing alone, facing away from the people.
Reuben carefully approached the man and tapped his arm.
The man spun around, surprising Reuben.
“Oh – you startled me, lad.”
“I’m sorry, sir. Are you the conductor?”
“I am.”
“May I ask a question?”
“Proceed.”
“Where are we going?”
The man’s eyes stared deeply into Reuben’s dark brown eyes.
Then they fell to the ground. Turning away from the boy, he said, “Somewhere to the east of here.”
“Oh,” replied Reuben. “Do you know why were forced to leave?”
“Yes.”
“Oh, then, you know what we’ll be doing once we get there!” exclaimed Reuben.
The man stiffened. “Yes, you’ll be farmers. Farming the land for the good of all the people.”
Reuben smiled. “Thank you, sir.”
The man continued to face away from Reuben, away from the people.
“Go on back to your father, lad. Best not to be alone.”

The days passed and the train neared its destination.
Daylight was always bleak, it seemed.
Rachel couldn’t remember the last time she saw blue sky.
She wondered if the sky had forgotten how to be blue.
Or perhaps the sun had forgotten how to shine.
“Just like everyone else,” she muttered.
The train’s whistle blew.
People in the cars straightened up, straining to see what destination they approached.
Caleb looked out the window and saw their destination.
His face drained of color.
Those gates.
Those factories.
Those walls.
“We’re not going to be farmers…”
German troops could be seen waiting at the station.
Dread began sweeping over the train.
Rachel heard the commotion and looked to see what was happening.
Dear God, no! she silently cried.
“Momma, what’s wrong?” Ruth whimpered.
Rachel grabbed her child and held her close, humming a lullaby while rocking back and forth.

“Engineer, stop this train!” barked the S.S. Officer.
The man remained silent.
“If you do not stop now, I will be forced to execute you for treason!”
The engineer only stared ahead.
“Sir! Stop this train now! These animals need to be purged!”
Without warning, the engineer reached down, grabbed his pistol and shot the man between the eyes.
He rose from his seat, pushed the body to the side, and locked the cabin door.
He returned to his seat and increased the speed of the train.
Shouting could be heard warbling past the train as German troops shouted profanities at the Jews onboard.
A series of peculiar knocks came from the door.
The engineer opened it. In stepped another man, dressed like the conductor.
“Ewan, did you take care of the other SS men?”
“I did, Jacob.”
“Good. I heard from my contacts. We’ll be in St. Petersburg in a few days.”
Ewan glanced out the window.
“Do you think we’ll make it?”
Jacob shrugged. “Even if we don’t, it’s better than letting all these people die at the hands of those demons.”

Rachel was in shock.
Caleb cried.
Ruth clung to her mother.
Reuben smiled.
“We must be going to Russia, then,” stammered Caleb.
“Momma, where are we going?” Ruth inquired.
“I don’t know. But I know that God must have sent an angel to be our conductor.”
“Really?”
“Yes, really.” Rachel kissed her daughter’s head.

The train barreled into the night sky, chugging through the snowy wilderness.
The next morning, a blue sky was ready to greet the passengers.
The sun had not forgotten.

Unfair.

“What do you mean, ‘this is it’?”
Rain smashed against their faces as they stood in the middle of an intersection.
The illuminated bank sign behind them read 2:32AM.
“This is it. I’m done. I can’t do this anymore,” he said.
“But – but that’s not fair. You never gave me a chance.”
He tilted his head and suppressed the bit of rage that tried to escape his throat.

“‘Not fair’? How is it unfair? I tried for months – years, even – and you have still refused. You still chased after what you wanted to while you forgot about me.”
She moved to touch his arm, but he vehemently jerked away and walked toward the glowing screen that now read 2:34AM.
“What was so difficult about me?” he pressed.
She looked away, biting her lip – trying to ignore his question.
“It wasn’t like I asked you for the world. I just wanted to be your friend. And we were friends! Were. We were friends. But you made the decision.”

She stormed over to him and shoved him.
“Stop it! You’re being completely unfair! You don’t even know my side of the story. It’s not like I was the center of your universe. Nothing you have said is a basis for indicting me! Look – my life became busy and, well, our interests shifted.”
He shot her a look. “You mean my ‘interest’ in Christianity and your commitment to Atheism.” Once again, her eyes fell to the ground.
“Admit it – that’s what it was. We finally grew up and you realized that I was the fox and you were the hound. What about our conversations? What about the fact that we had one of the best friendships I’ve ever had? Just because we believe different things doesn’t mean we have to stop being friends.”
“That’s not it…”
“THEN WHAT IS IT? This is ridiculous. We’re close friends for years and now you treat me like some Facebook stalker. I know time and space separate us but I’ve kept in contact with other people whom I consider less close. I mean, they kept in contact with me.”

He stared at her face.
She stared at the ground.
He let his eyes also fall to the ground.

“That’s it, then. Silence. That’s my answer. All that. All of that for silence.”

The sign read 2:42AM, and the only sounds that could be heard were the rain, the wind and two sets of footsteps moving in opposite directions.