A Sad Lack of Responsibility in the Florida Panhandle

But Lord, I was only exercising my constitutional rights.

I’m surprised by how little attention a recent event has gotten in the American press. It seems that the Florida “pastor” who had been threatening to burn the Koran, did so. It also appears that the mainline press did the responsible thing and didn’t give this demagogue the media attention he craved. Would that the story ended there.

But Lord, I am not responsible for the murderous actions of religious zealots on the other side of the globe.

“Pastor” Terry Jones’ decision to send some kind of message by burning the Muslim scriptures ended up costing at least 12 UN peacekeepers (PEACEKEEPERS!) their lives.

His actions were commented on by the Afghani President, and a mob of extremists in Afghanistan reacted by attacking UN peacekeepers and beheading at least two of them.

But Lord, I was standing up for the Bible.

“Pastor” Jones’s reaction was straightforward, though it’s worth reading the entire NY Times article for the necessary context.

Jones replied, “Emotionally, it’s not all that easy. People have tried to make us responsible for the people who are killed. It’s unfair and somewhat damaging.”

Of course the Afghani President and the murderous mob is responsible, but responsibility is not a zero sum game.

But Lord, I can’t be responsible for the unseen consequences of my actions.

Responsibility is a difficult issue for all Christians, and I feel that it is an issue Liberal Evangelicals should focus on. On the one hand, we recognize our own complicity in all the evils of the world, whether as sins of our own commission or as sins of omission. We are called to be keepers of our sisters and brothers and we continually fail to live up to that call.

On the other hand we are overwhelmed with gratitude and joy at having been redeemed from our sins through Christ and recognize that by our own responsible actions such redemption could never have been achieved.

Of course we are mere mortals and cannot see all ends. Of course all of our actions may have negative consequences somewhere further down the line. Even our most well intentioned actions gang aft agley as Steinbeck reminded us. But to act in such a way as to virtually guarantee that the amount of pain and suffering in the world will increase, to put innocent lives in danger for the sake of cheap publicity, to initiate a string of actions that directly and foreseeably leads to the deaths of at least a dozen innocents and then to retreat behind a wall of “rights” in order to avoid responsibility is itself the height of irresponsibility. No U.S. laws may have been violated by “pastor” Jones and his fellow biblio-pyros but God’s law and human laws are not the same.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we all stand before the maker of the universe guilty for the lack of care we have shown for one another. How little will it avail at such a time to plea that our actions are mitigated by the fact that our individual straw did not break the camel’s back!

But Lord, I didn’t know it was you.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

“Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”

“The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Matthew 25:31-46 NIV

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