Thursday, September 9, 2010

Tolerance and Koran Burners

The Koran burning incident illustrates a huge problem with the idea of tolerance. Everybody has to do it. If a small minority of society is intolerant then all the attention is focused on them. But how can you control every tiny group in such a big country? If you try you end up with a police state. We might go there on some issues but I don't think we will on Koran burning. What will happen is really an intolerance of a certain branch of fundamentalist Christianity. I would never burn a Koran but which claim is more reasonable? To demand all people who own a copy of the Koran refrain from desecrating it or to demand the right to assert the spiritual superiority of Jesus over Mohammad by blaspheming the Islamic faith?

But the point is you have to choose. You cannot be tolerant of both. What one side demands in the name of tolerance the other would see as intolerant. So you get stuck. But what is the right answer? Mother Teresa said it is better to do little things with great love than to do big things. What does that mean here? It is a big thing for the elite to make America tolerate Islam. But is it an act of great love? Not really. Love requires self-sacrifice. These intellectuals would not be tempted to get worked up over Islam anyway. They are not sacrificing anything by demanding tolerance. In fact, they get annoyed when anyone makes any fuss about anything religious. So tolerance to them means fewer annoying incidents of religious passion. That is the opposite of sacrifice. It does not show love because it is self-serving.

So how do we show love to Muslims? It starts by listening to them. Really trying to understand their desire to please God. Affirm them in what they do well. They are morally quite solid. They are often faithful in prayer. They tend to believe in their creed very strongly. They are willing to die for their faith. These are not small things. They are things Western Christians should be doing a lot better at. No Muslim will convert until he realizes that he can keep these aspects of his faith in God. I know as a protestant it was important for me to understand I could keep everything I loved about being protestant. That I could still be a bible Christian and still have an exciting personal relationship with Jesus.

Koran burning says exactly the opposite. It says I don't want to listen to you. I implies we need to use force to prevent Muslim teachings from taking hold. The truth is the other way around. When Muslim and Christian teachings are compared using reason and whatever faith principles can be agreed on then Christian teaching seems much more plausible and attractive. The comparison is even more striking when Muslims see Christian teachings lived out. How do we get there? Not by burning the Koran. By being saints.

No comments:

Post a Comment