Tuesday, September 18, 2012

On Insults and Offense

Wow, it's been a long time since I've written...and I've missed it...and I'm bored now, so here goes. 

This post has been rolling around in my head for several days, and it's time to finally put it to paper...or cyberspace...or whatever...

Right now in the Middle East there's all these protests and attacks on U.S. and other western embassies, which nobody likes, save for the protestors, I'm sure.  (And even then, probably only the extroverts among them.  The introverts are probably all "Ok, we made our point, can we go home now?"  But I digress...)

What, precisely, it is that triggered this all of a sudden is still somewhat a matter of debate, although the fact that it started on September 11 is somewhat of a clue.  However, some are claiming that there is a video (produced by an American) floating around on YouTube that is somehow offensive to Muslims or Mohammed or some such thing, and this is stoking the fires of the so-called "Arab Street".  Well, maybe yes, and maybe no.  Apparently this video has been up for months (I haven't seen it, and I'm not really interested in taking the time to look for it), only recently acquired subtitles, etc, so the argument that it "caused" these protests seems kind of lame.  The most we can probably say is that if it somehow made its way into notice by those inclined to protest, then it doesn't appear to have been, um, helpful...with regard to the overall situation. 

But nevertheless...I saw a clip on the news the other day of a protestor holding a sign that read "Death is better than insulting Allah".  That's what triggered this here post.  Because my first thought, my first feeling, was one of pity.  "What a small, small god, you have", I wanted to say.  I feel so bad that this person feels it is his duty to protect God from insult - that he would rather die than see anyone say anything bad about his God.

Not that it's bad to reverence or respect God.  Not that we want to actually attempt to insult or offend him, or that we ought not feel bad when we or others do.  There's a reason we take care to handle the elements of Holy Communion with care.  There's a reason we pay attention to the language we use to describe God, and the will, actions, and character we ascribe to him.  And not that martyrdom - when it comes to us, not when we intentionally bring it upon ourselves - is a dishonorable death.  By no means!

But "Death is better than insulting Allah" seems to suggest a god who is too weak to handle insults, who must be protected from offense.  And seeing that sign made me so, so glad that I have a God who is big enough to handle insults and offense.  I have a God who has taken on every insult, and every offense.  I have a God who has been insulted and offended, abused and mocked, scorned and spat upon, ignored and harassed, stripped naked, dragged through the streets, and killed.  I have a God who took all of that, and then overtook all of it.  I have a God who used all of that abuse that I - and every other person - have heaped upon him for my benefit.
1 Who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
    Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
    he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
    and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
    and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.  ~ Isaiah 53:1-12
I am just so glad, so thankful, that I have a God who takes all the insults and offense and scorn the world has to offer, and instead of getting angry, simply says, "Yep, give it to me.  I'll take it, because I'm big enough to handle it.  In fact, I'm big enough to transform it.  I can take everything, up to and including death itself and turn it into life."

The picture I have of this in my head is of the big strong daddy willingly taking a pummeling by the tiny fists of an angry child, a child who is sad and mad and tired and upset and frustrated, a child who has a dad loving enough to stand there and take it until the kid burns himself out and collapses in tears into his daddy's arms. 

I have a God who doesn't need me to defend his honor with shouting and violence - he only needs me to tell the world how much he loves everyone. And how much he loves us is this: that "God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses [our insults and offenses and abuses against him and against other people], made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved."  (Ephesians 2:4-5)

And that's something worth shouting about. 

1 comment:

Junior Seminarian said...

Sorry this is so late to the table, but that was very well said. And as we approach our own elections, let's vote according do our bound consciences, and let's hold those elected to the ethics they profess: liberation theologists to liberation theology, LDS to the precepts of Mormonism, Catholics to Catholicism, Jews to Judaism, and Muslims to Islam. As our elected leaders, the policies they espouse should represent a logical progression from the ethics they aspire to uphold, not a refusal to recognize their creator in practice because not ALL their constituents believe in a creator, especially 70-80% of the American media.

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