Just Because We Can … Doesn’t Mean We Should

Unauthorized pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge, a movie trailer (and I can only presume the whole movie), a French newspaper’s cartoon mocking the Prophet Muhammad, some years ago a Danish publication doing the same thing. Qur’an burnings. Burning Bibles and other destruction or defilement of any sacred text or structure. They are all wrong. I did not say that they were illegal, although some of the above cited events may have been. But just because some law was not broken does not mean that the action taken is in any measure appropriate.

I write this reflection under the very First Amendment banner that in our country allows vitriolic films and satirical political cartoons to be produced and shown, written and published, because it provides for both freedom of speech and freedom of religion. I know of no great world religion that does not instruct, in exact words or words so clearly close as to be synonymous, “Do unto to others as you would have them do unto you” (Matt 7:12, Luke 6:31). And, yes, the Hebrew Bible and the Qur’an go there as well. If fact, the older King James translation of the Bible gives us the saying in a more pointed fashion: “as ye would that [people] would do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” But in things both little and large it seems we increasingly embrace judgment and behavior that dismisses this teaching.

I had the honor and opportunity of spending an evening last week, along with others representing the Cathedral community and the Diocese of Michigan, at the 10th Anniversary Gala for the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU.org). It was a beautiful night spent in the extraordinary hospitality of my brothers and sisters of the Muslim community. There was humor and humility, appreciation and poignancy, and candor and challenge.

The written words of the U.S. Constitution affords them the right to their religious practice, as it affords me mine. Yet, they live in “the land of the free and home of the brave” with a burden of suspicion and discrimination that is born out of others’ fear and ignorance. The Episcopal/Anglican tradition of Christianity holds at the heart of our baptismal understanding being in relationship with God and with people, who are created in the image and likeness of God. “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons loving your neighbor as yourself? … Will you strive of justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being?”

The printed words are not enough. Spoken words are not enough, but are sometimes a start. As I have said many times, the sermon of our actions preaches longer and louder than those of our mouths. Just as faith without works is dead, a loving heart without loving actions is an illusion. And all people are to know we are Christians by our love, by our love. This we can do and this we should do.

Salaam, shalom, peace,


[ISPU is a scholarly think tank born out of the terrible events of September 11, 2001 to help educate and inform all parties with an interest about Islam and Muslim life in the United States, in well-researched, scholarly and relevant ways. There work highly credible and in my opinion simply outstanding.]