A Beautiful and Humbling Lesson on Values

Update/confirmed: according to this tweet and this WSJ article the book burning has been cancelled. I wonder…

I had been wondering what has taken me so long to comment on the Qur’an, and a tweet by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was just the poke that I apparently was looking for.

Let’s start with the tweet and work backwards from there to my point:

I like to retaliate by burning a book that you Americans hold dear, but the only book you care about is Facebook.

I’ve been told that you need to go outside of the US in order to see what your country really looks like. I disagree with that (affluent and mis-educated) opinion, but it has some merits – especially towards situations such as this one.

This country does some really great things. We have the kind of wealth that’s only been seen by a few nations over the course of human history. And like those empires of old, we have both done good and horrible in managing both the wealth and the social responsibilities that come with it.

One of the social responsibilities that we’ve had a hard time managing is that of life and faith. Despite the often (mis-)taught traditions of the 13 colonies being started for religious reasons, the fact of things is that like everyone, those who started the US did so because of their need to be defined and therefore prosper by their own accord, not a ruling class who subjugates them. And so the colonies started for political, economic, and religious reasons – but marked by a number of distinct fights (politically and religiously) to maintain one’s sovereignty to believe on whatever deity they choose.

This causes some issues with many faiths, because for an epoch or two, we’ve not held a pleasing eye towards people who believe and live different from the truths that we hold to be evident to all. This devaluing of another’s faith to accent the value of my own rarely causes cultures to move forward. It more often than not embeds seeds of discord and disharmony which are technically vital to all surviving and their faith being proven by the legacies which they leave (or don’t leave).

As a Christian, I’m all to aware of the loud and abrasive history that’s marked several aspects of life in the US. I’m accustomed to the attitudes of worth and usefulness propagated by the misuse of certain Biblical verses. I’m ashamed of the utter disregard for unity because ego equals the power that drives churches and politics alike to grown and fall on the whims of personalities. I’m embarrassed at the disregard of the words (forgetting for a moment the perspectives and behaviors) of this country’s founders, who – despite their denominational and social party differences – had enough sense to at least call every man into account of their faith and prove that unity of nation was more important than political or economic interests.

I’m also very aware of the stories of the losers. Those who were put down and their voices muted through law, war, disease, and outright theft. People who to this day have no say towards their history, because the laws which provide the freedom to speak, aren’t laws which enable speech by all.

And I recall the histories of the Christians of old. Those who also lost the fight because their brand of faith was muted, stomped out, and replaced by the histories and economies of another. Paying attention to historical trends as I do weather trends, you can’t always hear the stories of all those who lost, but you can see the effects of erosion and decay.

It is the kind of thing that causes me to pause for a minute, consider my words, and then articulate that which is valuable to the ears of people – not just for today, but for those times long after I’m gone.

I read that tweet and it hit like a brick. We’ve lost all sense of valuing one another as a nation, and that’s the proof that as a nation we have no values to offer anyone else.

Mr. Ahmadinejad pointed to what we value as a nation. Popularity. Social connects which go no deeper than bits, bytes, and a few memories. Content that’s shared within a silo for those who can get in, and for those who leave their identity is that of… well, we don’t know. There’s not much open conversations about what happens outside of a Facebook connection anymore.

It is a shame that the parts of the Christian faith that once shaped the values behind and in front of the media and personalities of this nation are now filtered through the assumption that we don’t know what life looks like outside of ourselves. We don’t value one another because we don’t take time to learn about one another. Appreciate the differences, and let the values that we hold dear be the impression that’s left on another to consider towards their own lives.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

It is really easy to spit rhetoric about faith, charity (love that serves), generous donations, or even policies which enable others to not die by our increasing consumerist acts. It is another thing to live out such rhetoric in a manner that causes others to speak about your name, even when they don’t hold fast onto your faith.

I don’t agree with the tenants of Islam (nor that of most Christian factions/denominations as a matter of point). But, I do respect those who choose to follow such a faith as that is their freedom to do so here, and their choice to persue. I earnestly hope to value them enough to listen to their lives, as I hope that they are listening to mine. I don’t live in such a way that I need actions such as book burning to make a point about the kind of faith I have, or the values I impart to this generation or the next. Such actions are foolish, doing more to kindle the wrong points, and advancing retaliatory rhetoric and actions which help no one.

But, I do understand that for the brash actions of a few, we shall all be judged (Exodus 32, Numbers 32:6-13 and a few other sections of the Scriptures) until we all come into the perfection of faith. Or, at least that point when we can value one another with a freedom to believe as we’d like to have.

4 thoughts on “A Beautiful and Humbling Lesson on Values

  1. This post has been updated with the now confirmed news that the book burning has been cancelled. As much as that’s good news, I wonder how the conversations between faiths, and inside of the Christian faith, will mature from this point. At least, I hope it matures.

  2. Richard L. Floyd posted something to just add to the reflections of this piece:

    “…I argue that it is the humans who use the communications media who shoulder the moral responsibility for the messages they put out. It is too simplistic to blame the media (although there is a long history of blaming any new media for the decline of civilization, religion, civility, etc.) The medium is not the message (or not the whole message, at least.)

    Christians believe we live in a fallen world, and that everything in creation can be used for ill as well as for good. Should the new media be any exception…”

    Read his post here: http://richardlfloyd.blogspot.com/2010/09/fire-too-far-ruminations-on-new-media.html

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