Friday, December 14, 2012

A Matthew 5:16 Moment

In these waning days of Advent we're busy, busy, busy at All Saints Church with preparations for the annual Christmas pageant extravaganza, three Christmas Eve services plus one on Christmas Day, a coat drive for our homeless neighbors in Pasadena in addition to all the year-end stewardship, pastoral care and administrative "stuff" of a parish of 4000 members.

AND we're hosting the 12th Annual Nat'l Convention of the Muslim Public Affairs Council tomorrow -- an event that organizers estimate will draw between 800 - 1000 participants and has drawn no small amount of controversy and attention over the last two weeks.

To be completely honest, when we booked the event months ago, the only controversy we expected was managing the space challenges on our busy campus of a choir rehearsal in the morning with a conference beginning at 11:30 a.m. But the opportunity to provide hospitality to our friends at MPAC -- and to participate in their desire to make this year's convention an historic opportunity to celebrate interfaith peacemaking by not just talking about it but incarnating it by the fact of meeting in a Christian church for the first time -- outweighed the calendar juggling so we happily booked the event.

And then the Crackpot Christians got wind of it and all hell broke loose.

As soon as the IRD sponsored critique of MPAC and All Saints hit the Internet, we started getting a stream of the most ugly emails we've ever experienced at All Saints Church. (And do bear in mind that we've been on the front lines in the Culture Wars for lo these many years and so have gotten way more than our share of ugly emails over the years.) Just a couple of examples:
Islam is satanic garbage, indistinguishable from Nazism. Do not welcome the muzziescum into your church. They're like Body Snatchers.

Any effort by a Muslim organization to align themselves with Christians has nothing at all to do with a sense of common faith or building bridges, but rather everything to do with co-opting uninformed Christians as a credible shield for their indefensible ideology. It's like a pedophile joining the Boy Scouts.

God helps those who help themselves, and the only way he will love his brethern is we actively advocate the extermination of Muslims worldwide. Praise Jesus.

If you've been following the story, you'll know that we held a joint MPAC/ASC press conference last week to address the hate mail and to make the case that it exposes exactly the kind of ugly underbelly of Islamophobia in this country we are standing together to counter with our ongoing witness to interfaith peacemaking.

This week the L.A. Times weighed in with an editorial that said in part:
"It seems perfectly reasonable for All Saints to offer up its home for the convention this Saturday of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. In fact, it's something of a mitzvah."
And this morning the NYTimes ran a feature article drawing further national attention to what we really thought was going to be just another interfaith gig at All Saints Church. Go figure. I'm considering it a Matthew 5:16 moment (that's the "let your light so shine" passage to save you looking it up) as we stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters and let the light of our shared values of God's love, justice and compassion shine in the darkness of fear, polarization and Islamophobia.

And because I want to end on a positive note, I also want to share a couple of the supportive email we're received ... and to report at this point the positive and negative are trending just about equally:
Hi. I am not part of your church. Nor am I a Muslim. (In fact, I am more or less an atheist at this point.) And I don't even live in Pasadena. But I was appalled to read in the LA Times that your church is getting hate mail, or hate email, simply because you are hosting a convention put together by the Muslim Public Affairs Council. So I just gave you $20 via your web site.

Merry Christmas! Thank you for the courage your church has shown in recent days! You are setting an example of what a peaceful world can look like. Much love, light and God's blessings to your church next Saturday and every day!

Thank you for demonstrating the true love of God by hosting the Muslim conference. More Christian churches, and individuals, need to show the courage required to live Christ's message. Peace and Blessings be upon you, Pat (Carthage, Mo.)
Happy Advent, Everyone! And Tick Tock Christmas!

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