I’m writing this on 9/11, a day already infamous for a manmade disaster sixteen years ago and a natural disaster happening as I write.
A day for God Questions.
About the latter, I believe that storms just…are. Science just is. One of our human tasks is to negotiate our storms, but external and internal. God doesn’t seem to be in the storm prevention business. He seems to be in the Master Companion business THROUGH the storms. May he be with those picking through their ruined things and burying their loved ones this week.
About the former, I have a recurring question about religious wars and Islam. Does the Qur’an really instruct Muslims to kill infidels (non-believers in Allah)? After all, Qur’an 9:5 says, “Kill the idolaters wherever you find them, and capture them, and blockade them, and watch for them at every lookout…”
That’s a fierce injunction, but according to Kamir Helminski, author of “The BeliefNet Guide to Islam,” these verses are specific in nature and not overall injunctions to murder all who refuse to accept Islam as their way of life. And there are some pretty fierce injunctions in the Old Testament of the Bible too. We regard them as specific to the situation, not overall mandates.
I’m certainly not an Islamic scholar. I can just think of a couple of distinctions between Islam and Christianity. One is our respective rallying phrases. “Allahu Akbar” meaning “God Is Greater” vs. “God Is Love” (I John 4:8). Although the vast majority* of Muslims disavow things like the following, a document found in the luggage of one of the 9/11 hijackers said: “Shout ‘Allahu Akbar’ because this strikes fear in the hearts of the non-believers.” And although “Christians” sometimes disgustingly find a way to justify violence, you can’t exactly strike terror in people while shouting “God Is Love.” Living under that banner means helping people, not harming them.
Distinctive #2 is that Christianity has a Part Two. The New Testament. The Jesus part. The part that says to love your enemies, not kill them.
As we revisit 9/11 each 9/11, may we grow in our understanding of the power of love. And that applies to all of us, regardless of our religion or our place within the disaster. I know it may sound like a naïve platitude to keep talking about God being love, but I’m betting all the marbles on it being true.
*According to Horizons International, only 20% of Muslims are considered “political.”