The facts are still being investigated, but some are beginning to emerge. It would seem based on unfolding news accounts that an ex-convict, an insurance salesman, and a supposed Christian charity were involved in making the movie Innocence of Muslims. The film purportedly portrays Muhammad as “a fraud, a womanizer, and a child molester.” Evidently the movie was circulated on YouTube and its disparaging of Islam has sparked violent protests by Muslims in the mid-east and around the world at American embassies.
We now know the violent protests at the United States Embassy in Libya turned deadly. The United States Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans died during the riot. These protests are not isolated to the mid-east. In Sydney, Australia, protestors at the American Embassy gathered chanting “behead all those who insult the Prophet [Muhammad].” One is left wondering what Islamic extremists hope to gain from this kind of lethal retaliation and these deadly threats.
This movie that incited such widespread violence and deadly response appears to have been made by some anti-Islamic extremists acting on their own. There is not one shred of evidence the American government sponsored or endorsed the making of this film. On the contrary, our government has denounced the film and its message as being “inflammable and despicable.” In a nation that embraces and practices freedom of speech it is hard to understand killing another for an insult, but it is sheer madness to kill anyone who may have had no knowledge of or been responsible for the insult. That seems to be what happened in Libya.
History is replete with the failed attempts to spread religious beliefs by force or threat of arms. It just does not work. Nor does it engender peaceful relations. Our government conducted a ten year manhunt for Osama bin Laden to bring him to justice. We did not hunt him down for what he believed; we hunted him down for what he did. If Islamic extremists think the rest of the world will tolerate this sort of irresponsible retaliation and indiscriminate killing they are blind fools.
In the wake of these events U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered what has been term “a powerful and personal speech about religion.” Her remarks were given at an Eid ul-Fitr reception that marks the end of Ramadan, a Muslim holiday. Secretary Clinton made sense when she said, “When Christians are subject to insults to their faith, and that certainly happens, we expect them not to resort to violence. When Hindus or Buddhists are subjected to insults to their faiths, and that also certainly happens, we expect them not to resort to violence. The same goes for all faiths, including Islam.”
The power of her message does not lie in its eloquence or oratory; it lies in the sheer common sense it applies to the current state of affairs regarding world religions. That same common sense is found in the Scriptures.
In the sixth chapter of Judges starting in verse twenty-eight part of the biblical account of Gideon is recorded. Gideon destroys the altar of Baal. When it becomes known Baal’s followers go to Joash, Gideon’s father, and demand “bring out your son, that he may die, for he has torn down the altar of Baal (v. 30).” Joash reasons with the Baal extremists, “will you contend for Baal…if he is a god, let him contend for himself, because someone has torn down his altar (v. 31).” His point is clear; any true god should be able to defend himself and his reputation. The defense of any real deity is not dependent on the actions of his followers.
Christianity is not without its accusers, and there appear to be no shortage of those who blaspheme the beliefs I and others like me hold dear. I pray for them that their eyes might be opened and they would come to see their folly and turn from their wickedness before it is too late. But I do not hate them nor wish their demise. The Day of Judgment will come soon enough and I trust God to right all wrongs. He does not need my counsel in His deliberations or my help in carrying out His decisions. I trust He is able and will do what is right by every single person who has ever lived.
The words of Christ are appropriate at this time. “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 12: 28).”