Monday, December 22, 2008

In Allah's name

I have long said that one of the main things wrong with the structure of my church's services is that you can't raise your hand during the sermon and ask a question or disagree - like in a classroom. I have walked away from sermons with many questions and concerns and I know I am not the only one.

In the Seventh-day Adventist Church (and I talk about this church because it is the one I have personal experience with) the lesson study period should be the time for open discussion. However, I have noticed that even during these periods people are mum and the discussion is dominated by a class leader/teacher whose qualifications amount to his popularity with other church members. That leaves a group of people, not sure enough of their knowledge to participate in a discussion, possibly being taught by someone whose interpretation of the material, or whose view in general, may be askew. Where are the checks and balances?

This past weekend, a few minutes after I sat in the back of a class during lesson study, I heard the teacher say "Well you know the spirit of Satan is strong too. Look at those suicide bombers. They are under the power of Satan and they are willing to face adversity up to death."

I was appalled. I could only hope that the other people hearing him understood that what he said was hateful, at best misinformed. Our Bibles and history are filled with wars and acts of violence carried out in God's name. Even if we believe that suicide bombers are misguided, we cannot dismiss the foundation of their rage.

Admittedly, there are those who bring harm to others for political reasons, but for many, politics and religion are intricately intertwined. Even as the scriptures of every religion advocate for treating others well and against violence, they also make room for defense of righteousness and righteous people. As with every religion, there is dissent among Muslims. Some believe that bombers act against Islam; others believe that many Muslims have forsaken Allah by choosing to integrate and assimilate, and more so by calling some acts of violence terrorism.

The Sabbath School teacher's comment reminded me of an old joke: A Baptist man gets to heaven and is welcomed by St. Peter at the pearly gates. He is told to go enjoy all the bounties of the kingdom, but to be quiet as he went by a particular room. St. Peter gives the same instructions to a Methodist, Unitarian and Lutheran that follow. Eventually someone asked why it was so important to be quiet around that room, to which St. Peter replied, "The Adventists are in there, and they think they're the only ones here."

I have seen various versions of the joke, with many denominations taking their turn in the room. It is a joke, I suppose that could be made of Christianity in general. Christianity interpreted as exclusive goes against the basic theology of Godly love and compassion. Love and compassion begin with understanding, not by dismissing others as being of Satan.

1 comment:

  1. I have a lot to say, but may not remember it all since I am not able to refer back to your posting as I type. I happen to LOVE this topic, so I was happy for another opportunity to share my feelings on the matter. In regards to the Sabbath School / Sermon part, I feel differently. I have grown into the opinion that the person delivering the sermon or "teaching" the class is not the person that should answer the questions. Granted they can give you further details on what they meant by what they said, but then what? I have learned more from seeking my own answers directly from God. I have no problem with letting Him know that something does not sit right with me and that I would like Him to help clarify the issue. Most times, I am led to a scripture or maybe even a song that helps me to understand Him a little better. He has never missed an opportunity to reveal Himself more to me. As for the joke, I laughed more because it was true than funny. Just earlier this evening, I found myself waving my finger as I lectured my own parents about the various types of people that would be in Heaven. I counseled them that if they could not find good in EVERYONE on Earth, that it didn't make sense planning for Heaven. This brings me to the diversity issue. I am so happy to know that all FIVE of my children will grow up in a society where people are recognized for what they contribute to society, and not ONLY by their gender, race, or sexual orientation. The hard part is getting my parent's generation to believe in the same concept. If we really believe in the Adventist message, then we SHOULD believe that Jesus is coming back for EVERYONE who chooses life with Him. This includes people who would hang someone because of the color of their skin, or someone who would die for a cause they have been taught from a young age to believe in. I could go on for days, but I have probably gone miles away from my original thought so I will stop now. Smooches.