Sooooo, after a week of media nonsense covering the abhorrent and irrational Quran-burning stunt, the rubber hit the road here. I lamented previously that I wasn’t sure how to speak out on the issue about which I feel passionately. And then, DUH, I came to grips with the idea that it was time to do what I already knew I needed to do: speak.
With the media train wreck as backdrop and the political maneuvering as the painting on that canvas, I tackled something that had been bothering me throughout this episode. While I certainly agree that burning the Quran, or any holy book, is anathema and contrary to American values, the action by a Christian is more wretchedly contrary to Christian values. Why wasn’t anyone saying so? So I did. Sunday morning in my sermon.
I noted that burning a holy book was unchristian. Why? Let’s start with the commandment of Christ to love our neighbor. That’s right, commandment. Jesus commands us to love our neighbor. There is no equivocating. Love. Neighbor. It may not be easy and it may not be comfortable, but it is that simple.
Let’s move on to something else Jesus said. Pray for your enemies. I’ll paraphrase for context. Pray for those whom we consider to be our enemies. I don’t think Muslims are our enemies, but there are people in my congregation who do.
I mentioned that if we have hate in our heart then we are failing God. The gospel was about the sheep that was lost and separated from the flock. I suggested that a heart full of hate was the heart that was lost to Christ and separated from God. Okay, I more than I suggested it, I said it outright.
I acknowledged that these words might be hard for some to hear, but I also stated that they needed to be said to be true to the savior we follow. I noted that Jesus didn’t preach repentance to those of other faiths, but to those of his own faith whose lives reflected hypocrisy rather than obedience.
I think I hit some nerves. It wasn’t my intention, but I did know that it was a risk. One couple walked out, though they did so discreetly.
Two members of my vestry showed up for last night’s meeting. Two out of seven. Of the remaining five, one had surgery that morning, so I didn’t expect him. One was going to be late, so she was accounted for. It turns out that one was tending his sister who had surgery that morning as well. Apparently the remaining two decided to boycott the meeting as a form of protest to my scriptural reference from Matthew (5:44) where Jesus tells us to love our enemies. So I’m told. Apparently they don’t have any intention of loving or praying for Muslims, and don’t cotton to the idea of being told to do so. Especially by a woman, I suspect.
Here’s the thing. I’m not having any trouble sleeping. It was a tough sermon to preach, but I have no regrets. If our church loses members because I spoke the truth, then that will be too bad. And sad. Sad, especially, because boycotting the vestry meeting didn’t hurt me, it hurt the people who elected these leaders to serve them.
Many members of the congregation told me they appreciated the sermon. More than a few thanked me for preaching it. I didn’t experience any hostility during the remainder of Sunday’s activities, so I don’t think this will amount to much. It feels more like an interesting footnote, though I am weighing my options on what, if anything, to do next. I'd be interested in your thoughts.
We do live in interesting times, no?