Commentary by Matthew Anderson
September 21, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – One can’t help but notice that religion is all the rage in the news these days. First there was the planned burning of the Koran on September 11 by a Florida pastor, and second, the visceral reactions by some British against the Pope’s visit.
Interestingly (but perhaps unsurprisingly) the reaction from the mainstream media has been rather different regarding these two stories: One is decried as an outrage, while the other is protected under freedom of speech.
This gives rise to an important question: What is the difference between Islam and Christianity? Why are journalists, and the majority of people for that matter, ready to rush to the aid of Islam, but they allow Christianity to be openly attacked?
It goes without saying that burning the Koran was a terrible idea, and there should have been an outcry against it. I may not believe the Koran is inspired, but many people do; and destroying something that many people love (though that love may be misguided) for no constructive purpose, is against charity. For the same reason, non-Catholics should be disturbed by the treatment the pope has received at the hands of certain members of British society. It is extremely offensive to Catholics when the Holy Father is abused so viciously by such as British scholar Claire Rayner, who recently referred to the pope as “this creature,” and said that she has “never felt such animus against any individual” (See previous LSN Coverage here)
Yet, despite the similarities between the two situations, they haven’t been treated alike at all.
For instance, after the burning of the Koran didn’t happen, CNN posted a story on its blog called, “Lessons from the Whole Quran Episode.” For the large part, the comments from the CNN writers who contributed to the post were dead-on.
Akbar Ahmed, a contributing writer and professor at the American University in Washington said, “We … learned how Jews, Christians and people of other or no faiths all categorically rejected the idea of burning the Quran as disrespectful and even harmful. In that sense, Jones' story had a happy ending, showing that there is such a thing as reason and compassion in the hearts of the high and mighty and the ordinary folk, which trumped hatred and bigotry.”
But last week CNN posted a story under a picture of the pope entitled, “Opinion: Why I Oppose the Pope’s Visit,” that does anything but advocate for “reason and compassion in the hearts of the high and mighty.”
The author, Peter Tatchell, the UK’s most prominent gay activist, says, “As a democrat, I defend the right of Pope Benedict XVI to visit Britain and to express his opinions. But people who disagree with him also have a right to protest against his often harsh, intolerant views.” But Tatchell’s defense of the remarks of Rayner, or Richard Dawkins (who has been hurling an endless stream of abusive epithets at the pope for months now) is a far cry from the media’s reaction to the burning of the Koran. When the abuse is aimed at a Christian figure, the media is happy to allow it in the name of free speech.
So again I ask, what’s the difference between Islam and Christianity that leads to this disparate treatment? The primary difference may be found at the very root of each religion: man’s relationship with God. One believes God can never be subject to anything outside himself, the other believes God’s willingness to be a servant to man and humiliated by him is what defines His identity as Love itself.
In Islam, God is all powerful. He is far beyond man’s grasp, and thus to attack him strikes against his nature. He is incapable of being subject to anything. Even depicting God is forbidden. This “untouchable” aspect of God is transmitted to Islam as a whole, making any offense against Islam, such as drawing the prophet or burning the Koran, incompatible with God’s nature.
The president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, expressed the Islamic view of God recently when he said, in reference to the planned Koran burning, “Humiliation of the holy book represents the humiliation of our people.” It is humiliation that cannot be tolerated. An all-powerful God cannot be humiliated; any attempt at humiliating him must be rejected.
Christianity, however, is built upon the greatest humiliation God could ever endure. No one sums this up better than St. Paul who describes Christ as he “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2: 6-11)
In Christianity, unlike Islam, God allows himself to be attacked. It is a religion where God allows all to touch him, in love or in hate. Those who approach Him out of love are invited deeper; those who approach Him out of hate only advance His will and face judgment in the end. But all are allowed to approach Him.
The media takes advantage of God’s humility and allows any and all to attack Christianity. Because he won’t come down from the Cross, the media is not afraid of the Christian God, not realizing they will one day face judgment for their silence in the face of such attacks, or, indeed, their complicity in them.
More importantly, they do not realize the attacks they are allowing only further the mission of the Church they often criticize. They forget that the Crucifixion comes before the Resurrection. The Pharisees wanted to get rid of Christ so they had him murdered, but this only advanced his mission. By aiding those who attack Christianity, the media does not realize it has taken the place of the Pharisees in furthering Christ’s mission in our day. It still has not learned the lesson of the Cross: that God brings redemption out of suffering, and victory out of defeat.
The view of God as one who “humbles himself and becomes obedient unto death” and the view of God as “unapproachable” are polar opposites. Surely, the religions that espouse each view will be treated differently by outsiders. One will be accepted as the target of criticism while the other will remain untouchable. However, as Christians we must have faith. Good Friday always comes before Easter Sunday.