Posted by: mystic444 | August 17, 2010

“Burn a Qur’an Day”

There’s an awful lot of craziness going on these days – in the name of God and country – regarding one particular religion: Islam (which name, interestingly, just means “devotion [or submission] to God”, and the peace which derives from that devotion). People gather to protest the building of mosques and Islamic Centers, as in the famous (or infamous, depending on your perspective) “Ground Zero” Cordoba House initiative in New York City, or the obviously nowhere-near-Ground-Zero mosque in Temecula, California. In one such recent protest in Connecticut, the “Christians” who had come all the way from Texas to protest even declared that Jesus hates Muslims! Newt Gingrich opposes the NYC mosque because Saudi Arabia doesn’t allow churches, and Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association says no mosques should be allowed to be built in the USA. John Joseph Jay of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, the umbrella organization behind SIOA (Stop the Islamisation of America – think Robert Spencer and Pam Geller) believes that all ‘liberals’ and Muslims must be killed. As I pointed out in my article “Of Mosques and Men”, people have been attacked because they “look like” they’re Muslim (Arabic), and ironically Christians from Egypt who came to the USA to protest the NYC Islamic Center were attacked because they were Arabic and speaking their Arabic language.

And now pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Church in Gainesville, Florida is sponsoring an International Burn a Qur’an Day scheduled for September 11, 2010. One has to wonder whether this Qur’an burning is really zeal for God, or just simply party spirit – the “my daddy can beat up your daddy” kind of attitude. 😆 In a book by Imran Ahmad which I have just begun to read (Unimagined, page 18 ), the author tells of an incident when he was 7 years old: “There is a television programme about different religions, and one day my mother makes me watch it because this episode is about Islam. Okay, so now I know that I’m Muslim and we believe in someone called Muhammad. Well, I bet that Muhammad could beat up Jesus in a fight. Oh, but they wouldn’t fight; they would make peace, because that’s what they’re like. Damn.” That’s the impression I get from Terry Jones and his church (and plenty of others like them); the only problem is that Terry Jones is an adult, and ought to have outgrown such childishness a long time ago.

Here is a description, in the Qur’an, of a “true believer”: 8:2-4 (Muhammad Asad) – “[8:2] Believers are only they whose hearts tremble with awe whenever God is mentioned, and whose faith is strengthened whenever His messages are conveyed unto them, and who in their Sustainer place their trust – [8:3] those who are constant in prayer and spend on others out of what We provide for them as sustenance: [8:4] it is they, they who are truly believers! Theirs shall be great dignity in their Sustainer’s sight, and forgiveness of sins, and a most excellent sustenance.” A “true believer” is one whose heart and mind is focused on God, who delights to hear God’s ‘revelations’ from whatever source they may come, and who does good to his/her fellow humans.

I have mentioned before that I first began to ‘examine’ Islam earlier this year in response to a Muslim bashing e-mail I received – which said that Muslims believe that they are commanded by God to kill everyone who doesn’t accept the religion called “Islam”. From the first time I read anything in the Qur’an, there was something in me which was delighted with the descriptions of God, and the admonishments to treat others with kindness and equity. I immediately recognized that, whether or not this Qur’an was literally a ‘revelation’ from God, through the angel Gabriel, it definitely was a ‘good’ book filled with wisdom and ‘godliness’. I found that this was true of me: Qur’an 5:82-85 (Ahmed Ali ): “…the closest in love to the faithful are the people who say: ‘We are the followers of Christ’, because there are priests and monks among them, and they are not arrogant. For when they listen to what has been revealed to this Apostle, you can see their eyes brim over with tears at the truth which they recognize, and say: ‘O Lord, we believe; put us down among those who bear witness (to the truth). And why should we not believe in God and what has come down to us of the truth? And we hope to be admitted by our Lord among those who are upright and do good?’ God will reward them for saying so with gardens where streams flow by, where they will live for ever. This is the recompense of those who do good”. While I did not literally weep with joy, there was a real inward joy at reading this beautiful message.

This verse also contains a poetic description of how I have felt about the message of the Qur’an: Qur’an 39:23 (Muhammad Asad) – “God bestows from on high the best of all teachings in the shape of a divine writ fully consistent within itself, repeating each statement [of the truth] in manifold forms – [a divine writ] whereat shiver the skins of all who of their Sustainer stand in awe: [but] in the end their skins and their hearts do soften at the remembrance of [the grace of] God…. Such is God’s guidance: He guides therewith him that wills [to be guided] – whereas he whom God lets go astray can never find any guide.

So why do some of these fundamentalist Christians react with hateful denunciations, mockery, and ridicule of this wonderful book? Can it possibly be because their hearts don’t “tremble with awe whenever God is mentioned”, and they don’t  “stand in awe” of their Sustainer? Might it not be that such people really are simply promoting a party spirit, only interested in asserting the ‘inferiority’ and ‘worthlessness’ of anything that doesn’t toe the line of their beliefs and whims? Compare the hate filled denunciations of Terry Jones (and Dove World Church), and Flip Benham’s group of ‘Christians’ from Texas (shouting “Jesus hates Muslims” in their Connecticut protest) with the attitude expressed in the Qur’an: “VERILY, those who have attained to faith [in this divine writ], as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Christians, and the Sabians – all who believe in God and the Last Day and do righteous deeds – shall have their reward with their Sustainer; and no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve” (2:62, Muhammad Asad). This is repeated in 5:69 (Muhammad Asad) – “for, verily, those who have attained to faith [in this divine writ], as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Sabians, and the Christians – all who believe in God and the Last Day and do righteous deeds – no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve.3:84 and 85 (Muhammad Asad) – “Say: We believe in God, and in that which has been bestowed from on high upon us, and that which has been bestowed upon Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and their descendants, and that which has been vouchsafed by their Sustainer unto Moses and Jesus and all the [other] prophets: we make no distinction between any of them. And unto Him do we surrender ourselves. For, if one goes in search of a religion other than self-surrender unto God, it will never be accepted from him, and in the life to come he shall be among the lost.

In 6:52 (Muhammad Asad),Muhammad was told not to repulse anyone who seeks God, even though they might not be strictly in accord with the ‘truth’ he proclaimed: “Hence, repulse not [any of] those who at morn and evening invoke their Sustainer, seeking His countenance. Thou art in no wise accountable for them – just as they are in no wise accountable for thee – and thou hast therefore no right to repulse them: for then thou wouldst be among the evildoers.” As long as they were calling upon the One God, who is the Sustainer of everything in heaven and on earth, Muhammad would not be held accountable for those things wherein they differed from him; and they would not be held accountable for the things wherein Muhammad differed from them. The continual teaching of the Qur’an is that God Himself will make clear “on the Last Day” the things wherein we differ. Islam does not require anyone to ‘convert’ from his/her religion in order to embrace the truth of the Qur’an, because Islam itself embraces the truth contained in former ‘revelations’.

Freedom of religion and pluralism is inherent in Islam – which is one reason ‘American’ Muslims fully embrace the US Constitution and would not for a moment replace it. Yes, Islam teaches that there are erroneous beliefs and practices in other religions – particularly in their present expressions, which are believed to be departures from the original ‘revealed truth’ of those religions – but for Islam the essential thing is to believe in – and stand in awe of – God, and do ‘good works’; the things wherein we differ will be straightened out at “the Last Day”, without depriving of his/her ‘reward’ anyone who maintained those essential elements. What a striking and pleasant contrast with some of those fundamentalist Christians!

The ‘surprising’ thing is, though, that the very Bible the fundamentalists claim to believe teaches the same truth. Acts 10:34 (NIV): “Then Peter began to speak: ‘I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.” 1 John 3:14 – “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death.” 1 John 4:7 – “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” Perhaps Terry Jones and Flip Benham need to take Jesus’ “yoke” upon themselves and learn from him. Learn what it means to love your neighbor as you love yourself, and do good to all men – even your ‘enemies’. But no, that might make them ‘Muslims’ (those who are devoted and submissive to God alone)! 😳 😀 Instead of “Burn a Qur’an Day”, perhaps September 11 should be set aside as “Read a Qur’an Day”! 🙂

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Responses

  1. Thank you for this article Mr. Parker.

    Also, I was thinking about the name of this blog the other day and was wondering what the inspiration was behind the name? Does mystic444 mean anything significant Mr. Parker? Is there a story behind the name?

    • Thanks for the comment and question, iSherif. Let’s see if I can answer the question in a brief way appropriate for a comment rather than a blog article. 😆

      The “mystic” portion of the “pen name” comes from the fact that, after leaving “Evangelical” Christianity 22 or 23 years ago, I embraced a “mystical” philosophy. That means that I see God, the One Life from which all else derives, as filling and permeating everything that is. In fact, All That Is is one of the names by which I refer to God. One of my favorite verses in the Bible comes from the discourse the apostle Paul had with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers at Mars Hill in Athens (Acts 17:16-34). In seeking to show the Oneness of God in contrast to the prevalent idolatry, he quoted from a couple of the philosophers recognized by the Epicureans and Stoics: “For ‘In Him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are His offspring'” (verse 28). My “mysticism” also refers to the fact that I believe in the preexistence of all ‘souls’, and the continuing process of reincarnation whereby we, from lifetime to lifetime, progress toward ‘perfection’. Also my “mysticism” sees all religions – at least their original ‘uncorrupted’ versions – as being ‘revelations’ from the One God, by which He makes Himself known in various times and cultures to the extent that we are able to comprehend Him who is the Incomprehensible. To the best of my knowledge, all the major religions have their mystical ‘subsets’ – if they are not in fact intrinsically mystical. For instance, as I understand it (and I admit my knowledge is very limited here) Sufism is a mystical branch of Islam (though I’m not sure that reincarnation fits into their beliefs). If I were to ‘officially’ affiliate with Islam, Sufism would probably be the ‘branch’ in which I fit best.

      The “444” portion of the ‘pen name’ stems from reading a book about a contemporary man named Nick Bunick (“The Messengers: A True Story of Angelic Presence and the Return to the Age of Miracles”). He came to the conclusion – rather reluctantly at first – that he “shares the same soul” as the Christian apostle Paul (meaning he is another incarnation of the same soul who lived in the 1st century A.D. as Saul/Paul of Tarsus). The apostle Paul he remembers, though, has some very striking differences from the ‘orthodox’ version of the story – despite the fact that there are also strong similarities. His ‘Paul’ believed in reincarnation (and it’s historically verifiable that the Pharisees did believe in a version of reincarnation), so he didn’t believe in ‘eternal damnation’. He also didn’t believe in the Deity of Jesus and the Trinity (but then, I believe that’s consistent with the Biblical Paul, also). He had what we would today call a ‘liberal’ view of Scripture – that the Old Testament books were not infallible, and contained myth and allegory. He didn’t accept the ‘truthfulness’ of the vicious and violent parts of the Old Testament writings.

      During the process of ‘self discovery’, he found that he and a number of his friends were having rather strange experiences relating to the number “444”, which he came to realize indicated the presence of angels in their lives to protect or guide into previously unrecognized (by him and his friends) areas of spiritual or mystical ‘truth’. For instance, he would wake up at precisely 4:44 A.M. and experience something ‘strange’, such as a virtual ‘compulsion’ to write down words that were coming into his mind, or draw symbols. These words and symbols were usually meaningless to him at first, though he would eventually be ‘taught’ their meaning. He would frequently find that they related to Christian mysticism.

      I adopted the number 444 as part of my ‘pen name’ more out of wishfulness than anything else. I was fascinated by the idea that the number symbolized angelic presence, and was delighted when I would occasionally wake up precisely at 4:44 by my watch or see the number 444 on a passing license plate. But I’ve never had any of the ‘strange’ mystical experiences that he and many of his friends and readers have reported; nor have I ever noticed that there was any special evidence of Divine protection from danger at or near the time when I saw the number 444 (or woke up at 4:44). It’s been quite a few years now since I last read the book, and for the most part I don’t even think about the number anymore. I’ll smile when the number sort of ‘jumps out at me’, but otherwise I don’t think about it much. I’m still very ‘mystical’ though, and would love to have those spiritual experiences. (But I also believe I would like to see a UFO, and perhaps even have an ‘abduction experience’ 😀 . I put the smiley face there, but I really would like it – I think).

  2. Thank you for that explanation! Mysticism is not something I’ve really looked into yet, tho’ I recently came across a few websites (Muslim) promoting Sufism. Anyways, I must look around for the works of Rumi or other mystics at some point….this whole ‘mysticism’ thing definitely piques my interest 🙂

    Also Mr. Parker, is it correct to say that a Unitarian’s beliefs are very much in line with the teachings of the Lord Buddha? Reincarnation, progress towards perfection, etc?

    • Unitarianism just means the belief that there is only One God, and that God is One (as opposed to orthodox Christianity’s belief in “the Trinity”); so there is a wide degree of divergence about ‘afterlife’ views among unitarians (I use the small ‘u’ to show I’m not talking about a particular denomination known as Unitarianism). Jehovah’s Witnesses are a form of unitarian belief, as is Islam. I don’t believe any JWs would acknowledge belief in reincarnation; and if any Muslims believe in it, it would probably be only within the Sufi branch (though I may be mistaken in that). The Church known as Unitarian Universalist is very open to Buddhist/Hindu ideas; but then again, it’s even open to Atheism!

      More ‘traditional’ Christian Unitarianism (such as the American Unitarian Conference) has no hard and fast doctrinal statement, so it is open to a number of variations. Many (particularly in older versions of it) apparently believed in a heaven/hell dichotomy very similar to Islam: judgment would be based not on doctrinal beliefs – particularly not on whether or not one believed in a substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ, since Unitarians have never accepted that teaching – but on whether or not one had a faith in God that produced good works. Such good works were seen as mainly how one treated one’s neighbor; one’s moral and ethical character. Some figured one would have to be really bad to merit hell.

      Others, though, did not believe in eternal hell; everyone would be saved. Those who had not attained to salvation by the time they died would somehow or other find it in the after life. For most of these folks, the ‘how’ was left undefined. Others, though, did and do accept the idea of reincarnation. I don’t think it’s very common in ‘traditional’ unitarianism, though. Belief in reincarnation in Christianity goes all the way back to its beginnings. Without arguing over whether the ‘original’ 1st century Christians believed in it, it at least goes back to Clement of Alexandria and his disciple Origen in the 2nd and early 3rd centuries. Origin no doubt had more ‘exalted’ views of Jesus Christ than Islam allows for; but because he consistently maintained that Jesus was not only distinct from, but always subordinate to the ‘Father’, I believe he can legitimately be classed as ‘unitarian’. It was definitely not what is today considered ‘orthodox’ Trinitarianism.

      My own belief is unitarian – either monotheistic or monistic – but it is very eclectic. I find a lot I admire in all forms of unitarian belief, whether it be Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Taoist, or the ‘liberal’ form of Hinduism illustrated in Paramahansa Yogananda’s “Autobiography of a Yogi” (in which the ‘many gods’ of Hinduism are seen as merely metaphorical portrayals of the many ‘attributes’ of the One; His/Her ‘multifaceted character’). I don’t think all unitarians would want to associate with my eclectic belief system, and belief in reincarnation, though.


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