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Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Light of love and a bushel of bigotry

'Of all religions, the Christian should of course inspire the most tolerance, but until now Christians have been the most intolerant of all men'.

So stated Voltaire, the enlightened French philosopher, who defended religious freedom and civil liberties. Voltaire lived in the 18th century, yet this quote is pertinent today.

For decades, the Christian church has seen a large shift to the right-wing with a corresponding rise in intolerance, religious hate speech and violence. Many fundamentalist pastors preach against homosexuality, abortion, socialism, multiculturalism while embracing doctrine that borders on idolatry, such as prosperity doctrine and Zionism.

Religious hate-speech has most recently been manifesting itself through Islamophobia with attacks on Mosques and Muslims. Women have been attacked for wearing burqas, hijabs or head coverings. There is even an attack on food with campaigns against halal certification because some believe money raised from halal certification funds terrorism. Australian political journalist, Malcolm Farr appeared on the ABC's Insiders program on 24 November 2014 and eloquently stated: 'to those pig-ignorant droogs who shut down a South Australian business because it had halal certified yoghurt selling to Emirates. What stupid, stupid people! If they really think that this money goes to terrorists, they should stop buying petrol'.

Attacking food, attacking Halal does nothing to further the Gospel. Even Romans 14:20 states, 'Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food'.

Christians who attack Islam would do well to consider Matthew 7:3-5, 'And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye. Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.'.

What plank?

Many of the same anti-Islam brigade are happy for the West to go to war against the 'infidel', whether it be in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq. Yet these wars have directly resulted in the terrorism and fundamentalism that they so fear. It's no secret that during the 1980's the USA funded and trained the Mujahideen and jihadists in Afghanistan to fight the Soviet Union. Out of that arose Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Zionism, a dogmatic twisting and perversion of scripture, that claims the establishment of modern Israel as the God-given homeland of Jews. This has seen the displacement and genocide of Palestinians who lived there for thousands of years, many of whom were actually Jews who converted to Islam centuries ago. Yet Zionist Christians support the ethnic cleansing by cheering Israel's human rights violations and war-crimes, and by rewriting history to delegitimise Palestinian history and the right of Palestinians to their own land. The Palestinian Nakba and ongoing ethnic cleansing has directly resulted in attacks on Israel and the creation of terrorist groups. These groups only formed in response to the genocide and ethnic cleansing of Palestine. The genocide that is sponsored, supported and cheered on by Zionist Christians.

The attacks on Islam in Western nations such as Australia and Britain, is a response to fear of Islamic extremism and terrorism. It's one thing to condemn terrorism, but another to attack innocent Muslims trying to live a normal life.

Why attack the burqa? Self-proclaimed experts in Islam will state that Muslims are not required to wear burqas or head-coverings. What arrogance to tell others how they should worship. Plank/speck ... Remember that the bible does tell women to cover their heads, yet how many Christian women do so? 1 Corinthians 11:5-6, 'But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved. For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered'.

Christians should know better than to be driven by fear. 1 John 4:18, 'There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love'.

Christians who preach or practice intolerance and hate are not acting in love, they are nothing but clanging cymbals. 1 Corinthians 13:1, 'Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal'.

People respond in kind to how they're treated. Treat people with hatred & violence, they respond with hatred & violence. Show love, they respond with love ... you reap what you sow.

Francis of Assisi stated 'preach the Gospel, if necessary, use words'.

The one message from the Gospels is LOVE. Love God, Love Others. (Matthew 22:27).

If you're not loving others, you are not preaching the Gospel.

Christianity has enough issues of its own. Before attacking others with mindless, ignorant and often false allegations, clean up your own mess. Get your own life right. Live the life of love that Jesus commanded you to. Be an example to the world.

Christians are called to be tolerant of others. Romans 14 expounds on not judging others and in particular, be accountable for your own actions rather than attacking the actions of others. Verses 12 and 13 state, 'So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore'.

Rather than attacking others and opposing people we disagree with, Romans 14:19 tells us to pursue peace: 'Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another'.

Islam is the religion of peace. Christianity is the religion of love. Both religions are founded on peace and love. Who are Christians to criticise those who follow a religion founded on much of the same tenets as their own?

Matthews 5:14-16, 'Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven'.

Be the shining light of love to the world, don't smother love under a bushel of bigotry.


Other articles

This is one of a number of articles in the 'Remove the plank' series, regarding the hypocrisy of criticising Islam. Other articles include:

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A tale of two war crimes: MH17 and IR655

Wouldn't it be horrendous if those who shot down MH17 were to receive a medal for their efforts?

On 17 July 2014, Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine while flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpar. It is a tragedy that cost 298 innocent lives.

Investigations are continuing into the tragedy, however it is widely believed that Russian separatists shot the plane down with a weapon supplied by Russia.

Because of the Russian backing of the rebels, some are holding President Vladimir Putin responsible. There is also pressure on Putin to withdraw any Russian troops or involvement in the Ukrainian conflict which has cost thousands of lives.

Australia's Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, demanded that President Putin apologise and pay compensation to the families of the MH17 victims. He claims to have evidence the weapon was immediately smuggled across the border into Russia after the tragedy. If this is the case, Mr Abbott should present this evidence to the investigators.

It is premature to be holding Russia responsible. Investigations are still ongoing and have even raised the possibility of a Ukrainian military jet firing on MH17. There is also the possibility that the jet was shot down by forces within Russia, which would mean a direct involvement from the Russian military. Investigators claim that the plane was hit by a number of high velocity objects that is consistent with it being hit by a surface-to-air BUK missile, which would most likely have been supplied by Russia.

President Obama states Russia's aggression against Ukraine is a 'threat to the world, as we saw in the appalling shoot down of MH17'.

It is a grim irony ... or hypocrisy, in fact, that President Obama decries the tragedy when it was his own nation that shot down a civilian passenger jet, Iranian Air flight 655, on 3 July 1988, killing 290 innocent civilians. The difference between the war crimes of MH17 and IR655 is that IR655 was within Iranian airspace over the Persian Gulf, flying its usual route and its transponder was broadcasting an IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) code on a civilian frequency. The US naval cruiser, the USS Vincennes challenged the jet, got no response and then fired. The crew initially claimed that they thought it was an F-14 Tomcat fighter, even though it was ascending at the time, was travelling relatively slow on a known civilian flight path and using a civilian IFF signal. A 53 page Pentagon report found that the crew testimony was 'erroneous' yet absolved them of any blame.

The crew of the USS Vincennes had more evidence of IF655 being a civilian jet than any Russian separatist in Ukraine would have had about MH17, yet Vincennes still fired and they still attempted to cover-up their crime.

The United States never apologised for the tragedy. In 1996 President Bill Clinton expressed 'deep regret', but this was only after a settlement reached at the International Court of Justice in which the US refused to admit legal liability but agreed to pay compensation of $131 million to Iran, with $61 million going to the families of the victims (around $213,000 each).

The US pinned medals on the crew of the USS Vincennes.

Where was the world-wide condemnation? Where was the world-wide anger? Where was the media? Where was the shirt-fronting?

There is no evidence that we know of which indicates either a sophisticated radar system being used to detect MH17 or that MH17 was challenged prior to the missile being fired. Both of which the USS Vincennes availed themselves prior to shooting down IR655. Whoever shot down MH17 most likely did not realise it was a civilian passenger jet, meaning that as tragic as this was, it was a terrible accident. It is highly unlikely that there was any direct order given, or any intention to attack a civilian airliner.

It is the sentiment of a number of world leaders that Putin be held accountable for the actions of rebels. This is fair enough and should be extended to ensure other nations are held accountable for war crimes committed with their support. For instance, holding the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and other nations that support Israel responsible for Israeli massacres of innocent civilians in Gaza and Israel's breaches of the Geneva Convention in extending settlements into Palestinian territory. Or holding Australia responsible for crimes against humanity committed by the Sri Lankan government against Tamils. After all, Australia recently gifted naval ships to Sri Lanka so they can round up Tamils who may attempt to flee the brutality.

Shooting civilians out of the sky is a war crime, whether it was intentional or not and regardless of whether the perpetrator was Government or a militant. Those who kill civilians should not be exempt from prosecution and certainly should not receive medals.

MH17 is a tragedy and those responsible need to be held accountable. However, the investigation must be conducted without the hyperbole, hysteria and hypocrisy that we are seeing from some quarters.