Monday, March 25, 2019

A few things we can say

Still lots of comment washing around the world, mainstream and social media, about the terrorist attack on mosques in Christchurch on Friday 15 March 2019. Here I will add a tiny amount.

(1) A Christian theological account of what has happened enables us to resolutely call what has happened evil and to acknowledge that evil perpetrated through human choice is a tragic fact of human life. A tragic fact made possible by freedom to choose good or evil being a mark of and gift to humanity as created by God. Thus I am less than tempted to side with those commentators who wish to apportion responsibility to loads of other people, whether, say, to white European New Zealanders who have not completely solved racism in these islands, or to alleged deficiency in our intelligence services.

(2) Nevertheless, and with yesterday's RCL readings in mind, Isaiah 55:1-9/Luke 13:1-9, focusing on repentance, it would be escaping the accountability of this moment in history to not take the opportunity to repent of what the terrorism highlights: (e.g.) everyday, structural racism in our country; Islamophobia; lack of inclusion of migrant communities in our society. In Christian terms, have we loved our neighbours as ourselves? I cannot speak for you but for myself I see much to repent of.

(3) As we headed towards a national two minutes of silence at 1.32 on Friday 22 March, the government initiated a nationwide broadcast of the Islamic call to prayer  and many Christchurch folk, including myself and many Christians, headed to Hagley Park to be "Hands Around the Mosque" in support of our Muslim community gathering for their Friday prayers. That governmental and Christian support created some kerfuffle. At a national level, Bishop Brian Tamaki of Destiny Church, was reported as voicing his strong opposition to such a call being broadcast. This went down like a cup of cold sick in the media (and, I imagine, in the minds of many Kiwis). At a local level my support for the call being supported as a matter of respect and honour to the Muslim communities has led to some opposition. E.g.:

"Thank you for encouraging the Adhan to be said: 
"Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest. I witness that there is no god but Allah. I witness that there is no god but Allah. I witness that Muhammad is Allah's Messenger. I witness that Muhammad is Allah's Messenger. Come to the prayer! Come to the prayer! Come to the salvation! Come to the salvation! Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest. There is no god but Allah." 
Wasn't 2 mins of silence, and /or the National Anthem enough?The Christchurch Diocese and it's bishop have, in the eyes of Islam, become Dhimmis, and in the eyes of other Christians, become Apostate."

There is, of course, no neutrality between Christians and Muslims on the matter of what we believe about Christ and Mohammed. Each respects the other faith as distinctive, different and in disagreement. By contrast, I am confident that the underlying presupposition of much media reporting and comment this week is that "all religions are the same."

Nevertheless, I think what Bishop Brian said was tone deaf to a tragedy of global reverberations and that Christians supporting Muslims in a respectful way through these days and weeks of grief is the right thing to do. As best I understand, many if not most Christian leaders in NZ this week share the latter approach and not the Tamaki approach. 

The gunman makes no claim (so I understand) to be Christian - thankfully - but once he started shooting with a gun bearing names on it of European leaders in past Christian-Muslim battles, Christians lost the right to claim control of the narrative of the subsequent course of events.

If the devil is winning a spiritual battle for NZ at this time, it is due to 50 people being killed by a terrorist, not to Christians leaders supporting Muslim communities as the least we can do in order to love our neighbours as ourselves.


George Armstrong said...

Great to have your reflections Brian; I'll need to think carefully about them; I see this event as possibly changing the polarity of our history and reopening secularity to relligious and spiritual dimensions much (and understandably) despised but bearing reliable salvation for the human spirit.

Father Ron said...

Dear Peter, here is my response to your thread which says this:

"If the devil is winning a spiritual battle for NZ at this time, it is due to 50 people being killed by a terrorist, not to Christians leaders supporting Muslim communities as the least we can do in order to love our neighbours as ourselves."

My response to this question is that; whether we Christians like it or not, Muslims are also descendants of Abram (from his wife's servant Hagar, to whom God also promised an inheritance (Gen.16:11).

That the Incarnate Jesus is the direct descendant of Abraham (through his wife Sarai - right down to Jesus' foster-father, Joseph) - gives us Christians the assurance that Mary's predicted firstborn is the actual Messiah and Redeemer of ALL people, not only his Jewish sisters and brothers (the secret of our inheritance).

Jesus' sacrificial death brought about the salvation of the world - in the way that God the Father intended. To my mind, that does not exclude anyone who - in their faith community - is earnestly and faithfully seeking salvation from the One True God.

Jesus is about inclusion - the very opposite of the exclusion sought by those who think they have God in their pocket, of whatever faith community. This, I feel is where 'Bishop' Brian Tamaki has mistaken the tenor of the Gospel. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners (like all of us). Perhaps those who set themselves apart as 'righteous' (like the Pharisee in the Temple in Jesus' parable) feel that their 'righteousness' earns them salvation. However, Jesus, who welcomed the Samaritan woman (sinner) at the well; said otherwise: "Who, do you think, came away justified?" - not the self-righteous!

Listening, again this morning, to the "Stabat Mater' (the link provided in your previous post by Bryden) I realised that the suffering of Mary at the Cross is being shared by the Muslim woman in Christchurch, who mourned the death - not only of her firstborn son but also of her husband in the recent mosque tragedy. Will not the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ hear her grief and give her the comfort she needs? Jesu, mercy; Mary, pray for us all.

(n.b. Muslims have a respect for Mary, the mother of Jesus - as I found out at the 'Home of Mary' at Ephesus, where the 'Beloved Disciple', John, is reputed to have taken her after Jesus' death).