Word to the Wise: Leave Camping Alone This Time

Most of the world, or western world, was made aware of Harold Camping’s end of the world prediction that was to take place on 21st May 2011. The day went and passed, and as usual, the end of the world did not take place.

Personally, I don’t like the phrase ‘the end of the world’. There is something in American pop theology that sees an importance in creating a kind of scary view on all things eschatological, or last things. I think some of that simply goes away when we realise important truth such as a) we have been in the ‘last days’ since the Christ-event some 2000 years ago, b) Christ has won the victory and so will his people, even if an intense future worldwide tribulation were to come, c) Christ is currently reigning over all heaven and earth, and now our task is to ask that this reality come in this world as it is in heaven, i.e., Matt 6:10. For me, this is a more biblical foundation for last things. Continue reading

Could We Show Compassion to This Man?

There are plenty of heinous things that take place on a regular basis in our world today. We are not privy to such in our day, as if we are in more desperate times than previous days. I believe such has always been prevalent in the history of mankind. It’s just that we have the media and internet today to help emphasise it even more.

In recent months, we have heard of Terry Jones and the Qur’an burning or Jared Lee Loughner and the Tucson shooting, and now many know the name Harold Camping from his recent prediction of the ‘rapture’ that was to take place on 21 May 2011. Obviously, as most of us suspected, it didn’t take place.

With such acts, our tendency is to, no doubt, ridicule these people. Simple mockery and ridicule. And we, Christians, can easily step in and add to the one voice of jeers and sneers as well. Though we love to back up a lot of this by stating we are simply speaking the truth in love, such is far from any notion of being able to be backed up by this quoting of the biblical text. Continue reading

Some Thoughts on the Tucson Situation

If anyone was unaware of events last Saturday in Tucson, Arizona (in the US), I might just believe it if they told me they were from another planet. The 22-year old, Jared Lee Loughner, opened fire on a public setting in the city of Tucson, killing 6 people (including Federal Judge John Roll) and wounding another 14 (including US Representative Gabrielle Giffords).

No doubt such was a tragic event. It is events like these that make me lean towards doing away with laws that allow private citizens to own guns. I am not one to passionately picket for this, and I know that murders will still take place even if guns were not available to private citizens, also being aware that more people are responsible with guns than aren’t. So that is why I say I lean towards outlawing such. Also, I might be drawn a bit to a passage in Isaiah 2:2-4, especially vs4).

But I am really not here to share thoughts on gun prohibition.

My struggle some 5 days following the Tucson shooting is related to the struggles I had with the Qur’an burning, which almost took place back in September of this past year. This struggle, maybe even frustration, has to do with the media and how they are approaching all of this.

First off, I have no problem with television, media, internet, etc. It is a grey (gray) issue, neither black or white in and of itself. As the famous television journalist, Tom Brokaw, once said: ‘What or who was blamed for the flaws of the world before television. It has become a handy, all-purpose scapegoat.’

So I am not anti-media, hence I have a blog.

But I am deeply saddened by the way the media has gone about ‘investigating’ the life of Jared Loughner. It is all covered by the sentiments towards those killed and wounded, of which I, too, cannot imagine what these families are going through right now. But my stomach rolls over within me for how the media is now approaching Loughner and his family.

How so?

All of sudden, the experts of the journalism world understand Jared Loughner. Really – all of a sudden. They purport to know him inside and out. They know exactly what he was thinking, his emotions, his problems, his turmoils. His ‘inner-demons’, as some may say. These psychologists and other related analysts simply know EVERYTHING. Again – all of a sudden. And they are splattering it across the newspapers, tv’s and internet.

Simply stated, you do not learn about someone by reading a book, not even fully by reading their journal. People are relational at their core (you know, being made in the image of God). You have to talk with them, which involves listening to them. You have to eat with them, laugh with them, cry with them, argue with them, struggle with them. And not one of these ‘experts’ have done this, and they probably wouldn’t be interested in doing such outside of a pre-programmed interview to up the ratings.

Listen. Please know that I am not trying to justify anything that Loughner did. Not one bit.

But I cannot deny that, just as the compassion of God is stirred in me towards the victims of the Tucson shooting, so are they stirred in me towards Loughner and his family. Stirred in a different way. But nonetheless stirred.

I am thinking that Loughner and his family are the ones to which Jesus came to announce good news. The Son of God said himself, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick…For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners’ (Matt 9:12-13). And by quoting vs12 about the sick, I am not insinuating that Loughner needs to simply be mentally cured (though, of course, he might need healing there, which again is why Jesus came!).

Now, I don’t expect the media to take this up. It doesn’t sell. It doesn’t make news. It doesn’t up the ratings. I don’t even think a repentant and transformed Loughner will make the news, for they’ve all heard it before, right?

But I am truly saddened not only by the events of Saturday, but also by the continuing events of the past days (and probably the days to come) in which the ‘experts’ continue to explain and expound on who Jared Lee Loughner was/is, which will only raise the hatred-disgust level of many towards a man and his family that right now need the restoring compassion of God proclaimed to them. And, no, not in some cheesy way where we quote a few Bible verses as a quick-fix, unauthentic sharing of the good news of Jesus.

Thankfully there is One who does actually know Loughner and his family (Psalm 139:13-16).

So, as my prayers went out to Terry Jones of the Dove Outreach Center in Florida, so I also I am stirred to pray compassionately for Loughner and his family.

Jesus, you know what he and his family need most.

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.