May 16, 2005
The Master's Program
The Point of View - A Weekly Commentary by Bob Shank


Dear Marketplace Friend, 

      We're all shaped by our routines; we're molded by our rituals. Habits have a hand in fine-tuning the person we present to the world each day.

      I teach that in The Master's Program ... and I model it in my life. Unavoidably, I might add ... just like every person around me. Our unconscious behavior is the precision chisel that - over time - scribes the details of our design.

      I start my day with caffeine (no leche), some undated but reliable information (best found in the pages of a small leather-bound book that is always along, wherever my travels take me) ... and a copy of the best-available daily newspaper, in English.

      That "in English" standard has been a problem for the last seven days: they don't throw USA Today or The Wall Street Journal at my hotel in Asuncion, Paraguay. Thank goodness for in-room internet - and in-lobby wireless - so I can dial-up some daily update, just to know what's happenin' ...

      The newsflash from Newsweek stirred the pot on Friday, when the weekly mag reported - "... sources said ..." - that US Military interrogators had flushed a copy of the Koran down the toilet at Guantanamo Bay, in sight of some of the detainees/prisoners held there as part of the War on Terror. Light the fuse ...

      From Friday to Sunday, worldwide reports of anti-American backlash are growing. Violent reactions by Muslims to that news are not yet finished, for sure. When they use the term "holy," they aren't kidding. They hold the integrity of that book to a greater level of value than the human life ... especially if it is the life of a non-Muslim (or, infidel, in their lexicon).

      Most American homes have one or more copies of a book that is not the Koran, yet says "holy" on the front cover. Following that descriptor is the popular title: "Bible." You can't check into an American hotel without finding one of those in the night stand - complements of the Gideons - just in case you forgot your personal copy. HOLY BIBLE is the best selling book since Gutenburg fired up the first printing press (for the express purpose of producing copies of ... the HOLY BIBLE!).

      Here's a gnarly question: what would have happened, over the weekend, in America ... if Newsweek had reported that some Al Queda-friendly "freedom fighters" (terrorists) in Iraq had burned a hotel room, Gideon's distributed HOLY BIBLE ... while executing a visiting aid worker, affiliated with a Christian group?

      Their family would have grieved ... the national audience would have sighed at one-more life lost in service to the expansion of freedom into a foreign part of the world ... and we would have gotten-on with our agenda for the day. Just another reminder of the "new realities" ... right?

      Interesting contrast: the "good" American expresses a high regard for human life (most especially, their own) ... and an even higher regard for freedom-of-expression than the sanctity of holy writ. The "good" Muslim (nationality is far less important among Muslim cultures) appears to assess the variable value of human life using a foreign formula (think suicide bombers and innocent victims) ... while holding a sacred, exalted view of their religion's source text (the Koran). Don't mess with their "bible."

      The "good" Christian - one who confesses a personal connection with the Lord Jesus Christ and regards their HOLY BIBLE as the Word of God - is likely to hold to the sanctity of human life, beginning in the womb ... and to the authority of the Scriptures to plot the significant directions of their life. What would that "good" Christian do, in this "new world" of international tension?

      Jesus didn't send us to destroy; the orders were to declare. Christians don't win by "flushing the opposition down the toilet;" we win by loving people who are under the bondage of sin ... and presenting the offer of forgiveness and life purchased by a loving Savior on a Roman cross.

      Some Muslims would die defending the Koran. Some Christians would die loving the Muslims. At the core of the conflict is a sobering question: whose book is, in fact, a message from God? And, based on that answer ... what is our mission, important enough to warrant the investment of our very life?

Bob Shank


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