shotgun reflections on Terry Jones

I suppose it’s not even worth it at this point. I am under no assumption that my views on this matter are in the minority. Concerning matters of faith, both in the individual and the collective, there is nothing more infuriating than an idea or behavior that is said to be inspired by a God whose central message is said to be one of love. The difficult thing in a situation like this is that the Christian God is not a polarized figure that can be easily assumed in every circumstance that demands his providence. The situation happening right now in central Florida is gaining a lot of media attention and there is an obvious absurdity to the event in question. Many Christians will quickly (and justifiably) condemn Terry Jones because it so easy to do so, and of course there is biblical scripture to back up such a condemnation. In addition, there are many tenets of the Islam faith that would provide a sound, peaceful, loving and rational response to this kind of situation. Surely, the two faiths in question would come to the defense of what would be commonly understood as “common sense,” but the association of common sense with religious belief is a superficial one that lies only on the top layer of what is actually a belief that demands devotion. So it becomes the idea of devotion that is questionable. There is a current of Christianity that is just as militant and destructive as extreme Islam, and they are pitted against each other and goaded along by their own (mis)understanding and collective blindness. Although, to call it “misunderstanding” presumes that the truth about these faiths is being overlooked and ignored by these more extreme factions. The marriage of human nature and religious belief is an ugly one. In regards to the Christian faith (of which I am more familiar), the deeper one sinks into it’s depths, the more confusing it can become in regards to one’s role in the world today. If you water down these complexities to appeal to a larger number of people, it potentially becomes more prone to a simplification that yields a gang like mentality which can become distracted by such grandiose aspirations, such as “saving America through Christ,” or “reclaiming America for God.” These reductive ideas undermine the any goal of unity amongst people and other religious faiths.

I’m getting sidetracked. The point to be made is not concerned with “accurate” understandings of these different faiths, but it is to say that within even the most sober version of these faiths, there exists a foundational absurdity which yields a dangerously subjective expression to those who decide to follow god. A christian can not be so quick as to condemn Terry Jones, because according to the Christian faith, Islam is indeed wrong and the world would be better off without it; and the idea that an event such as this would just embolden Islamic terrorists and increase al-qaeda recruits is a testament to the irrationality and misguided ideas of that faith as well. Spokesmen for both faiths would surely point out how these “extreme” characters are in the wrong, but that implies an objective understanding that is simply not afforded by religious faith. The difficulty lies in the fact that these two faiths don’t necessarily lend themselves to an understanding that can be so clear as to justify proclamations regarding the state of the world and the people in it.

I was recently asked a question regarding my role as a christian in a “worldly” surrounding. The time in question was as about 6 years ago. In my answer, I stated that there is a responsibility as a believer that should dictate one to nurture their faith and its evolution internally before recklessly espousing what you believe to God’s word, because in that infant stage, those ideas espoused aren’t anything more than spiritual naivete mixed with passion and reaction. That old saying, “If I had known then what I know now” takes on a certain ominous reflection when it comes to something as central to one’s soul and identity as spirituality. When your words don’t only reflect your ideas but they also represent God, a delicacy is required because of the weight those words may have on anyone who hears them. It seems prudent to nurture your faith the confines of your own heart and mind, observing all you read and all you see as a witness rather than a commentator. One’s experience will always be their own, and while accounts from others can help illuminate a situation, they should never come as unwelcome criticisms. While one is trying to find what the world means to oneself, should one simultaneously be trying to instill meaning into the world?

The world has made the adherence to convictions unreasonable, and in many cases, such as the case presented by Terry Jones, that view is justified. In a world of such diversity, religious convictions become points of contention that do not bend at the threat of cultural dissonance and violence, rather, they ultimately answer only to their faith which provides comfort from reality. And while this case may be one that doesn’t represent the larger community of Christianity throughout America, if ones faith is indeed one that holds to convictions, then the threat of ones devotion is always present. Belief in God doesn’t exclusively imply irrational or crazy, but the nature of the personal relationship with God combined with the subjective thought process creates an interesting dynamic. Religious dogma implemented into the public sphere is not wrong or right, it based on circumstance and cultural climate. The arena of spiritual squabbling is a tension wrought mixture of conviction combined with a tunnel vision like devotion to God above all else.

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1 comment
  1. Jessica said:

    This is quite well-said, Zach. I do hope we will have the pleasure of reading a book from you soon…

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