Sunday, September 17, 2006

Reaction to the Pope's speech

The riots in response to the Pope's suggestion that Islam is not a rational religion put me in mind of another riot that took place against Christianity, in Ephesus.

Paul and his colleagues had been so successful in his evangelism that the metalworkers whose livelihood came from crafting idols were being hit in the pocket. They fomented a riot that led to the intervention of the city clerk.

This was the clerk’s judgment. "You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples, nor blasphemed our goddess (Artemis or Diana). If Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly. As it is we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of today's events. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it." (Acts 19:37-40)

If the Pope's message was offensive to Muslim's their reaction seems to justify his charge. He says there is no reason in Islam and its adherents respond irrationally.

This is unfair, of course, since adherent of all religions, Christianity not excluded, are prone to act irrationally if they feel their cherished beliefs are threatened. Usually there is a calming voice, like the city clerk in Ephesus, who will point out the lack of wisdom in such a response. Where is the calming voice among Muslims?

It is interesting to see what Paul was preaching about that so raised the ire of the Ephesians. We can get a flavor of Paul's message from what he had been preaching in Corinth. In Acts ch 18 v5 we read, "Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah." In his letter to the Corinthian church, he testifies, "I determined to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." (I Cor 2:2). In addition the first chapter of the letter to the Ephesians spells out that message in full.

The point that I am making is that rather than insulting the local religion, Paul preaches the merits of Christ. In Athens, he makes use of the Greek’s polytheism and superstition by centering his remarks on the alter to “an unknown god”.

We would do well to remember that Muslims are part of the “all nations” for whom we were given the great commission. They are among the sinners who are called to repentance. There is one remedy for sin, whether you are Jew, Muslim or Christian. We should not waste time denigrating the beliefs of others. We should, like Paul, devote ourselves to preaching Jesus Christ and him crucified.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As always, yours is the voice of reason and clarity in such matters.

Thanks for your perspectives.