Making Sense of the Senseless

Terrorism is nothing new.  Anger towards the West is not particularly new either.  Whether it is framed as political, economic or religious conflict, its existence, and even its severity should not shock us.  Worse things have happened besides the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and his colleagues, but somehow this event seemed to put us in the cross hairs.  A lot of folks have asked how we are doing over here, so I thought I should write a quick post and attempt to organize my thoughts on a subject that seems impossible to understand completely.

The short answer is that we are doing great.  Rabat has seen a few scattered protests, but nothing near the embassy or the neighborhoods where we live.  Protests remained peaceful.  The consulate in Casablanca (about an hour away) had some problems, but everyone is safe and things seem to have died down over the weekend.  While we recognize that the climate can change quickly, we are enjoying most of the freedoms we normally enjoy as visitors of this country.  So far, Morocco has been great to us.

This photo has nothing to do with the post. Just ruins of an old, beautiful mosque.  I detest text-only posts.

The longer answer is that we are struggling with anger and confusion over the reaction we have witnessed across North Africa and the Middle East.  We understand that insults to Mohammed can offend beyond what most Americans would consider reasonable.  Afterall, we are a country that prides itself on free speech.  Sticks and stones don’t easily break our bones.  Even among the most devoted Christians, Jesus insults don’t typically result in rioting and mayhem.  But though an affront to Mohammed cuts more deeply than we can comprehend, it’s still hard to see how a YouTube video can arouse anger enough to rage against people we would consider innocent.

On the other hand, purposely offending 1.5 million people (or any number of people) seems mean-spirited.  I have not watched the video.  I don’t think I want to.  But I do think I understand enough about it to suppose that whatever this man’s motivation, it was not a wise or effective thing to do.  Overall, we are looking around at humanity and shaking our heads in disappointment.  And maybe that is the point of witnessing strife on earth.  We get to hope for something better.

Here’s another one. Same mosque as above. Isn’t this amazingly intricate?

We’ve grappled with this probably more than your average American and that’s because we see the good work done by representatives of our country/the Christian faith every day.  I use a slash here because somehow, America and Christianity have the same identity in this part of the world, even if they seem nothing alike.  I can’t pretend that my feelings aren’t a little hurt.  We sometimes feel like giving up on a part of the world that doesn’t seem to want us around anyway.  But I am convinced that is not the way to proceed, even through discouragement.

Two things have helped me to understand what is going on out there in the world.  The first is a super short article by Fareed Zakaria, “Vivid Protest Images Do Not Tell the Whole Story,” that I think summarizes this issue very well from a political perspective.  It is both encouraging and admonishing.  The second is an article from Desiring God ministries titled “The Mocking of Muhammad and the Condemning of Christ” (thank you BF).  It is essentially a compilation of scripture that illustrates the key difference between Christianity and Islam.  Specifically, Piper says, “The work of Muhammad is based on being honored and the work of Christ is based on being insulted.”  Though focusing on Christianity, it sheds light on why Christians and Muslims may react differently to insults.  I hope these articles are helpful to you as well…or maybe you aren’t thinking about it as much as we are 🙂

Oh shoot, I promised myself no emoticons.  Too late.