Two Important Perspectives on the Burning

Everyone has been aware of the scheduled burning of the Qur’an set for this Saturday, 11 September, that date being the 9-year anniversary of the well-known 9-11 event. But, it is now being reported that the event has been cancelled following a personal call by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to Terry Jones, the pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center.

I am thankful to hear such has been decided, as I think we all are. But there are two things that have come to me in the past 24 hours that I want to share, two things I have not regularly read or heard in all the news and blog coverage on this event around the world.

First off, while I did not believe Terry Jones’s decision to burn the Qu’ran was what Christ would desire, and if he and his church would have gone through with it there could have been some serious repercussions, I think I am more perturbed, no, more angry, with the response of the media than anything else.

We have all watched the interviews. I’ve watched three – two on CNN and on one CBS. Did you notice anything interesting about those interviews? I did. What I noticed was the absolutely appalling lack of wisdom, responsibility and level-headedness of the media.

Again, yes, I did not agree with Mr. Jones’s initial decision. It could have brought danger to American soldiers abroad and citizens at home, and brought further barriers between Christians and Muslims. But guess why the Afghanistan people and other Muslims knew about this little event? The media, the news. They didn’t, we didn’t, know about this event because of the decision of one man. We all knew about it because of the media.

I am not trying to completely shift responsibility here. Of course it would have been their decision to go through with the event. But I also believe that some, and actually a major portion, of the blame would also have fallen to the media. Again, please understand me. I am not trying to alleviate responsibility from Mr. Jones and his church. But the reason Afghans and Muslims and Americans and Africans and Russians knew about this event was simply because the media ran with the story. And, boy, did they run with it. Thus, I believe they would have been, no, have been, a larger contributor to any repercussions than Terry Jones and his church.

Who has the money? Who is heard around the world here? The media – CNN, CBS, the NY Times, BBC, etc. They gave this event the coverage that it could have (and should have) never, ever received. But only if we had thought the wiser. But, rather, the media ‘took the bait’ and ran with it in such irresponsible and reactionary ways.

And that’s the problem. When watching the interviews, you could sense the argumentativeness, the debative nature and the reactionary words of the reports and news-anchors. I don’t know if they were told to do this by their producers, and that wouldn’t surprise me in an attempt to receive more viewers. But there was no wisdom, there was not tact, there was no thinking-this-through. None of it, at least from what I can tell. But there was an extreme amount of arrogance. And I loved it when they decided to quote Jesus or talk about what Jesus would want to do at certain points. Ah, now they are interested in what Jesus said. But now that the event is cancelled, we can resume our regularly scheduled non-interest in the words of Jesus.

Again, please hear me. I am not justifying the decision of this event. I am glad it is no longer going forward. If it had, I believe Mr. Jones and the church would bear some responsibility. But not all responsibility, and even not the greater responsibility. I look to the media for their irresponsible behaviour for that.

Secondly, one thing happened to me last evening. I want to say it was strange, but it really wasn’t. I was stirred deep within my gut, my inward parts, for Terry Jones. It was a deep stirring of compassion and empathy. Not just feeling sorry for him, but true compassion that springs from my stomach (at least that’s how you would describe it physically).

I truly realised the Father’s love for this man. I caught a glimpse of how much our God, the one we say we follow yet still jest at this man, loves him. I saw that this is a man that Jesus is truly interested in calling to himself, truly wants as a follower.

Again, I am not condoning the action. But I simply came to see how much our Father loves Terry Jones. I kind of suppose he was like a Simon the Zealot. Simon was a follower of Jesus, but some think he might have been a political zealot. I could imagine Simon being interested in something like a Qu’ran burning event today. Yet Jesus still called Simon to follow him.

And so, here is a man that Jesus is still calling to follow him. A man the Father truly loves, even when he gets a little too zealous (and it is blown out of proportion by the media). Thank goodness Simon the Zealot didn’t have such media coverage in his day.

So I simply began to pray for this man. Yes, prayer that Saturday’s event would not go through. But mainly prayer that Terry Jones would know the love of the Father, prayer for the closeness of the Father. Here was a man who must be dealing with a lot following everything this week. A whole lot. It stirs my compassion even now thinking what he has gone through. But I know our Father loves him very much and that Jesus has not now decided that he doesn’t want Terry Jones to follow him. So beautiful. That is gospel, that is good news there. Good news that brings tears to the eyes.

I’ve read and seen enough on this matter this week. But I wanted to share two things that I haven’t read or seen much this week. I don’t know if we will ever come to a place of better and wiser media responsibility, but we do need it. And more than anything, I am glad the Father helped me understand just how much he loves Terry Jones. And that includes a selfish, arrogant, and sometimes zealous-in-the-wrong-way person like myself.

N.T. Wright Leaving Durham, Heading to St Andrews

The Divinity School of the University of St Andrews has just announced today that N.T. Wright has been appointed the chair of New Testament and Early Christianity. This will be effective as of 1 September 2010. The article reports:

The School of Divinity is delighted to announce that Dr N. T. (Tom) Wright, currently Bishop of Durham, has been appointed to a Chair in New Testament and Early Christianity at St Andrews. He will take up his duties on 1 September 2010. The Head of School, Professor Ivor Davidson, says: ‘Tom Wright ranks among the most distinguished New Testament scholars in the world, and his profile as a churchman, writer and communicator is simply outstanding. I am delighted that he will be joining us at St Andrews, where he will further enhance the long-established reputation of the School of Divinity as a major international centre of biblical and theological scholarship.’

Specifically, Dr Wright shares some words about stepping away from Durham in this article:

‘This has been the hardest decision of my life. It has been an indescribable privilege to be Bishop of the ancient Diocese of Durham, to work with a superb team of colleagues, to take part in the work of God’s kingdom here in the north-east, and to represent the region and its churches in the House of Lords and in General Synod. I have loved the people, the place, the heritage and the work. But my continuing vocation to be a writer, teacher and broadcaster, for the benefit (I hope) of the wider world and church, has been increasingly difficult to combine with the complex demands and duties of a diocesan bishop. I am very sad about this, but the choice has become increasingly clear.’

Hmmm. St Andrews might now be on my list of possible places to undertake my PhD in the near future.

Zimbabwe Government Changes

Most of us are, at least, somewhat aware of the difficulties in Zimbabwe these days. There has been an economic crisis for many years now, much greater than we can imagine in America and the western world. Just a few days ago, the BBC reported that the inflation rate has recently been at 231,000,000%! I cannot even comprehend such. They also report that, due to such inflation, prices change by the hour. And, not only that, but Zimbabwe faces its worst cholera epidemic in 15 years.

Even more, this past summer of 2008, in the midst of elections for Zimbabwe’s President, there was much debate and scandal surrounding the precedings. Robert Mugabe, who has been the head of the Zimbabwean government since 1980, and currently the President, was being run against in the elections by Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Most people saw Tsvangirai’s run for presidency as a good thing, hoping to bring about change to a nation rifled with economic strife, disease and an oppressive government. Following the elections in the summer, it seemed that Tsvangirai had tallied more votes and won his place as the new President of Zimbabwe. Yet, Mugabe was not going to go out easily as he challenged the vote total (this is a little bit worse than the Florida situation of 2000 in America’s election). There are only hypotheses as to what really took place, but in a subsequent run off between Mugabe and Tsvangirai, Mugabe came out the winner. Rumors are that many Zimbabweans had received threats from Mugabe’s team and the military. Thus, with fear controlling the votes of many, Mugabe was able to win the run off.

Yet, with so much controversy surrounding the elections, and with help from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), a deal was struck to allow Morgan Tsvangirai to become Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister while Robert Mugabe remained as President. There was to be a shared government rule. And, though this deal was confirmed back in September, Mugabe continued with much resistance.

But, after pressure from the SADC to move forward with the decision of a shared government by the end of next week, the BBC news reported this today.

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe is due to sign into law a constitutional amendment allowing his rival Morgan Tsvangirai to become prime minister.

The signing of the bill will bring a power-sharing unity government in Zimbabwe one step closer.

The deal between the two men’s parties was agreed in September 2008 – but has been mired by bitter disputes.

Mr Tsvangirai is due to be sworn in next Wednesday, 11 February, with Mr Mugabe remaining as president.

This is, no doubt, a great blessing to finally see things moving forward in Zimbabwe. While it’s problems will not be immediately solved, it seems they are headed for change. But we must be encouraged to pray that Mugabe and Tsvangirai can work together. And we must call on God to work in this land full of pain and crisis.