It only gets worse
Well, the news this morning is flooded with reports of riots and killings across the Islamic world about an insult to their religion that seemingly came from here in the U.S. It’s early in the news cycle but it appears that some unknown person or people put together an amateurish video that was insulting to Islam and the prophet Mohammad. At some point the pastor of a 30-member church in Florida saw it and promoted it. This is the same pastor that set off riots some time ago by announcing his intent to burn the Koran in his pulpit.
Although the video had apparently had only 6,000 views before the riots, hardly a drop in the bucket in our You-Tube world, it was picked up by persons unknown in the Islamic world and the worst parts were reposted with Arabic translations. In the repost it was implied that the video was a major American movie release and that we are all flocking to theatres to see it. As quickly as that, riots break out and people die. The whole thing would be comical if it were not so tragic.
Of course, this being an election year, politics is coming into it and the Romney and Obama camps have issued quick press releases. Romney’s castigates Obama for responding so poorly. Obama’s camps say they are shocked, absolutely shocked, that politics came into this. Sigh.
OK, what can we learn from this? For one, stupid and offensive things can only get worse. One unknown crackpot does something offensive and, at each subsequent step, the horror magnifies. As early as it is in the story, I suspect we have not seen the last of the escalation of vengeful response. Only grace can break such a cycle. It is only by receiving the insult and not retaliating that we can keep things from getting worse. Only the turn-the-other-cheek teaching of Jesus actually defuses the pain cycle.
Secondly, people have a tendency to choose their villains in a story such as this. We single out one offense in a story where at every step there lies guilt and say “there is the guilty party.” Sadly, that villain is almost always the person or people we didn’t like all that well to begin with.
Also, this once again shows that America and the Islamic world still do not understand each other. Muslims see something idiotic that is offensive to 99.9% of Americans and they believe that we are all in agreement with the offense. Americans see the horrifying over-reaction to some obscure video and are appalled that something that so “obviously” does not represent us all gets them so upset.
Finally, the actions of one obscure Christian somehow ended up with a situation where all of our faith, in the eyes of others, is perceived once again as hateful.
But there is one thing that strikes me most profoundly and that is, while this is a big geo-political crisis, the same four lessons can be drawn out of the ordinary mundane interactions that we all have. What if, instead of insulting an entire religion, I insult just one person? Or I am the one person insulted? Only grace and forgiveness can stop the hate cycle.
What if, in my personal situation, I am willing to not seek villains but reconciliation?
What if, in my personal situation, I try and understand the other person’s motives and reasons before I react?
And what if I, as a Christian, take time to think before I do or say something how this will reflect on the Lord I love?