I virtually never agree with the people who tend to blame America first, but this time at least one of them is right. The investigation of the Boston Marathon Bombing is well underway, and some have wondered about the Tsarnaev brothers’ ties to Chechnya. That nation’s president immediately dismissed the notion that the crime had anything to do with Chechnya. “They were raised in the United States, and their attitudes and beliefs were formed there. It is necessary to seek the roots of this evil in America.”
Unlike the 9-11 terrorists who emigrated here just to attend flight school and crash into the World Trade Center, the brothers Tsarnaev lived here for more than a decade. The younger brother arrived when he was six or seven years old. He’s grown up on American soil, in Massachusetts public schools. He has been immersed in the values of this country, at least the ones his school chose to mention. But what did his American education teach him? Typically, he has learned three all important truths:
- Tolerance is the insistence that all ideas are equally valid. Terrorists don’t practice tolerance, but they adapt it to rationalize that their murderous schemes are worthy of respect.
- Self esteem is the principle that every human being is worthy of acceptance and validation no matter how he behaves. Terrorists generally demonstrate high self esteem. What they lack is any sense of esteem for their fellow human beings.
- Multiculturalism argues America was founded by racists, slave traders and war mongers. This means that our history is no different or more remarkable than the story of any other nation! Look at what most kids bring away from twelve years of public schooling, and you discover that the rain forests of Brazil are more crucial to life as we know it than the Constitution of the United States.
A different generation and a wiser nation might have done things differently. As recently as fifty years ago, public schools in the United States cultivated virtues that could bind Americans together- even those who had recently arrived from distant lands. Only half a century ago, Dzhokar would have been taught a different set of American guiding truths:
- Honor is the conviction that I must be true to the highest ideals of my nation and treat my neighbors the way I want to be treated.
- Duty is the sense of that I am responsible for being a constructive force in the lives of others, even as I make every effort to advance my own life, and contribute to the larger community.
- Moral absolutes are those timeless principles that lead to self control and respect for law. For example, human life is so sacred that murder is always wrong- whether the victim is an innocent child or a corrupt political opponent.
It’s not clear whether the younger Tsarnaev brother had truly integrated Islam into his life, or if he was simply carried along by the radical rage of his older brother. What is apparent is that he was never schooled in the sort of classical virtues and truths that produce great men, great women, and great nations. Islam is a certainly a factor in this senseless crime, but so is the American system of public education. There was a time when our schools were geared to develop great citizens. Unfortunately, public education has now been hijacked to promote an agenda of mindless individualism. Young Americans spend more time in public schools than they do with their families. It’s not outrageous to insist that kids like that should graduate with some skill in math, more proficiency in English, and a sense of gratitude.
Lift up the Cross!
I spotted a new bumper sticker for atheists last week: “God is too big for one Religion.” You can expect this slogan to start showing up everywhere in the near future. It will likely catch on because a) it feels good to give God props while dissing religion; b) secular Americans prefer feeling to thinking; and c) too many Christians fail to laugh at the folly of brainless ideas.
To weigh the honesty or dishonesty of the slogan in question, simply replace the religious terms with non-religious ideas. Let’s try out a slogan like this: “Healing is too big for one Science.” When you realize how vastly important health and wellness are, why in the world would you trust only one field like conventional medicine? Think of all the other callings that are widely available and very sincere: voodoo, snake oil, magic spells, phrenology, bleeding, psychic surgery, positive thinking, therapeutic touch, and witch doctors! Surely, there’s an element of truth in each of those pursuits! Right?
Imagine hearing your own physician utter those fateful words: “You have an aggressive strain of cancer.” Shocked and dazed, you respond, “So what are you thinking, Doc? Will it be drug therapy or surgery?” Then your doctor replies, “Don’t be so narrow minded! Cancer treatment is too big for one small field! I’m going to recommend that you visit a root doctor in East Tennessee. He treats everything from acne to hemorrhoids with roots, ashes and snake blood. Here’s his address….” Yeah, yeah, healing is a gigantic concept, but I’ll bet you quickly forget all about that root doctor as well as the blockhead who suggested you waste precious time with roots and ashes!
In the same way, most Americans are never going to try Buddhism or Hinduism or Zoroastrian religion. God is big but most people aren’t clueless. So let’s just confess that the notion of God being too big for one religion is actually an insult to the true God and all religious people.
- If all religions are partially true, then all religions are mostly wrong. Living as individuals in Heaven, merging with one great spirit, becoming a star in the cosmos, or eternally recycling from one life form to another cannot all be true. Contradictory ideas can all be equally correct only if they’re all absolutely wrong.
- To be valid, the statement requires that God must be too small to reveal himself to anyone; too powerless to demand anything of anyone; too irrelevant to require accountability; too distracted to care about microscopic earthlings or what happens to them.
- The message is this: “Respond to the Big, Big God any way you want or- if it’s more convenient- don’t bother to knock at all. (Wink! Wink!) We’ve always known that people who waste their time with religion are dolts!”
So when some pseudo-philosopher tries to put you in your place with all this nonsense about a big god and small religions, just smile and reply, “Surely, you’re joking!” They’re not joking but you should laugh all the same.
Lift up the Cross!
The President of the Southern Baptist Convention has complained that no member of America’s largest Protestant denomination will be on the program for the Tenth Anniversary of 9-11 in Washington D.C. this week. A Buddhist nun is featured at the National Cathedral event alongside a Muslim Imam and a Jewish rabbi, but not one Evangelical voice will be heard in the “concert of prayer.” Meanwhile in New York City, the official observance there will be even more limited. The Mayor has refused to include any religious leaders or even schedule a prayer.
I can understand the feelings of fellow Christians who protest that we have been slighted. Some have appealed to our nation’s Christian foundations. Others have argued that our politically correct culture demands that every voice must be heard. But in all honesty, I don’t feel slighted or offended at all. I’m sorry that certain public officials don’t recognize the authority of Jesus Christ or the contributions of His Church, but I avoid “interfaith” worship services like the plague! I’m convinced they do more harm than good.
Can you imagine a world renowned MD sharing the platform at a Cancer Treatment seminar with a masseuse, a witch doctor, and a vitamin supplement salesman? No self respecting oncologist would ever intentionally be a part of such a charade. And if by chance, he should find himself in a situation like that, you can be sure he would use his time at the podium to warn cancer patients they should never be deceived by scam artists who don’t practice real medicine!
That’s why I can’t cooperate in a religious undertaking with people whose religion I consider false and destructive. Granted, I can align myself with all kinds of people on the basis of being fellow Americans- or even fellow human beings. I can work alongside a devout Muslim in constructing a house for Habitat for Humanity. I can labor alongside a devout Buddhist serving hungry people in a soup line. I love people like that and I respect their right as Americans to worship any god or no god at all. I am happy to pray for them, and I frequently do. But when I pray for a Muslim friend, I pray to Jesus Christ, not Allah.
Elijah didn’t pray with the prophets of Baal when he appeared with them at Mount Carmel. To the contrary, he wanted to make it crystal clear that the God of Israel was alive and well, in contrast to Baal who was non-existent. When Paul appeared amid the pagan idols of Athens on Mars Hill, he did indeed acknowledge that the Athenians were very religious. But he then proceeded to show the universal authority of one God, Jesus Christ, whose name did not appear on any of the splendid monuments nearby.
That’s why I’m not interested in sharing a platform to pray with people of other religions. I love them too much to risk confusing them. What I really want to share with them all is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Lift up the Cross!