God knows—and we know—that there are plenty of things that we should be worrying about if we really want to make this world a better place. Hunger. Ignorance and the denial of science. Corruption. Discrimination and oppression in all its forms. The list is long.
No matter which community of faith we belong to–and even if we belong to none–we can all agree that being nice to your neighbor is a basic entry requirement if you’ve set your sights on heaven.
But some of God’s “ordained” representatives seem hell-bent on putting up one road-block after another on the highway to heaven. They frivolously “stop and frisk,” based on various forms of faith-profiling.
Malaysia: God by any other name…
It’s a phenomenon that crosses borders. You can count on these viceroys for virtue whether you’re trying to get to heaven from Malaysia or from just about any other place on earth. We are taught to look for the face of God amongst the poor, in prisons, among the hungry and the hunted. To try to hear His voice above the din of our over-abundance. But only too often that voice is drowned out by the gongs and cymbals of those who feel specially anointed to speak for Him.
This past week, I got word that the Selangor lslamic Council (MAIS) in Malaysia is still worrying about who can or cannot refer to God as “Allah.” Apparently they believe non-Muslims cannot and should not.
Not so fast, said the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism. The Malaysian Federal constitution, a 2009 High Court ruling and the revered former Lord President Salleh Abas, have all affirmed freedom of religion. Here is Lord President Salleh Abas in Che Omar bin Che Soh v PP (1988) 2 MLJ 55 (SC):
“…the intention in making lslam the official religion of the Federation was primarily for ceremonial purposes, for instance to enable prayers to be offered in the lslamic way on official occasions such as the lnstallation of the Yang diPertuan Agong, Merdeka Day and similar occasions. ” The Supreme court went on to say that the law in the country today is secular law.
And in December 2009, State provisions forbidding the use of certain words by non-Muslims was found to be clearly unconstitutional by the High Court in Malaysia.
Contraception –More Troubling than Crimes Against Children?
Meanwhile in the US we are dealt the spectacle of the US Catholic Bishops still holding out on fully embracing Obamacare. They want to better understand who really pays for that most grievous sin of contraception. Apparently the Bishops have an abundance of zeal in trying to make sure that women do not sin. Would they had been as zealous in establishing accountability within their own ranks for the scandalous cover up and perpetuation of crimes against children.
Interfaith Solidarity A Problem?
Also, the media reported this week that a Lutheran pastor felt compelled to apologize for appearing to worship with people of other faiths. Pastor Rob Morris of Christ the King Church in Newtown had participated in an interfaith vigil after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
The concern from his church leaders was that in doing so, he might have risked diluting the Lutheran Church’s “core convictions about the uniqueness of Christ.” The media reports appear to have glossed over the nuances of a complex position in which the different parties went to great pains to be mutually respectful. But in these troubled times shouldn’t the appearance of ecumenical unity be something we welcome, not criticize lest it diminish the uniqueness of each believer’s understanding of ‘how we get to heaven?”
I believe heaven has pretty much an open admissions policy.
If it didn’t, too many of us would be in big trouble. Let’s ease up on the visitations and excommunications, the secrecy and demands for public repentance, the double standards and the double speak, the hypocrisy—yes, especially the hypocrisy.
If the hunt for sinners is so irresistible to those in power, here’s a suggestion: pick up a mirror. Perhaps the President of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison, shows us how we might begin to do that with his heartfelt mea culpa and plea for grace and unity.