Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Religious Respect?

Recently members of the US military personal were caught having burned copies of the Koran, the religious book of the Islamic faith.  President Obama apologized to the Afghan people for this act of disrespect.  There has been a lot of hoopla around this.  Should the President have apologized?

In a recent interview with ABC News, General John Allen, the top U. S. Commander in Afghanistan had the following to say:

“Why wouldn’t we [apologize]?” the general asked. “This is the central word of God for them. Why wouldn’t we? We didn’t do it on purpose but we should apologize and we did.”

I agree with the General.  By apologizing we are saying we respect that this is part of their religion, their belief system.  It may not be mine, or yours, but it deserves to be respected in the same ways we expect others to respect ours.

I think one of the problems we face as a people, not just a Christian-people, is our inability to respect other beliefs.  We are called to love God and to love each other.  Does that not mean we are to respect others’ faith? It’s almost as if we have forgotten our past.

Christian history has told how Christians were disrespected for their faith, and treated poorly for it.  Christian history has told us how Christians disrespected other faiths and treated them poorly for it.

In the Gospel of Luke Jesus, a Jewish man, takes the time to talk with a Samaritan woman.  This was unheard of for various reasons, Jesus was a man talking to a woman.  Jesus was a Jew talking to a Samaritan.  Jesus was a teacher of the Law talking to a known sinner.  Jesus did what Jesus does best – erase the lines of separation.  Jesus didn’t tell the woman all the reasons why she was wrong.  He showed respect, compassion, and love.  And as a result, she believed.

It seems since the beginning of time humanity has used one religion to disrespect another. It was done to the Hebrews and by the Hebrews.  It was done to the early Christians, and it has been done by Christians since.  It has been done to the Muslims and by the Muslims.  When does it end?  Are we in some weird stage of humanity’s life span where we learn nothing from the past?  We just continue in this endless cycle of disrespect of religions?  Is this what God wants?

Burning another religion’s holy book – the equivalent of our Bible – is not out of respect, compassion, or love.  It does not point to a love of God or a love for others.  And telling a President, regardless of political standing, not to apologize is not a sign of respect, compassion, or love.

So, all of this pondering has left me with more questions – go figure.  But, I would love to hear what you think about all this.  Feel free to leave your thoughts or questions below.


  1. Yeah, I heard about the Quran thing I was very dissapointed to hear that. But no, I don’t think there will ever be religious settling in the world. Because people LOVE to belittle people to help themselves feel better. As for all the violence caused from religion, it seems people got the idea that if they kill those who disagree they won’t have any more problems, which we all know is wrong. That’s all I have to say for now

  2. George Belden

    March 6, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    A friend of mine recently told me a story about how his father, as part of a Christian prison ministry, went so far as to give a Quran to a Muslim inmate because he asked for one. Years ago I would have thought it absurd — shouldn’t a Christian give him a Bible instead? But now I think this is the exactly love we are supposed to express as followers of Christ. The “love that surpasses knowledge”. Love that won’t just refuse to burn an opposing holy book, but also give it as a gift in Christ’s name. I’m told that this inmate later came to Christ willingly. Had he been given a Bible, perhaps he would have burnt it. God isn’t a book. God is love.

  3. Debbie Ireland

    March 6, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    You put my many questions into coherent words. I completely agree with you. If we are truly followers of Christ, we will follow His example. His compassion with the woman at the well is a big, blinking, neon sign to me of what true evangelism looks like. And, the result was a new believer. Shouldn’t that force Christians to look at the way they themselves try to bring people to Christ? Burning Qurans, picketing military funerals, harassing JcPenney for hiring Ellen Degeneras as a spokesperson, political rivals claiming one’s faith is stronger than the other’s. How does any of this demonstrate what Jesus showed us at the well? He seemed to save His harshest words for those who already felt they were pillars of righteousness in the practice of their faith. Will it ever click?

    Showing respect for another religion, especially one that believes in The One True God as well, does not mean we lack Christian faith or conviction. If anything, I feel it shows we are trying to follow Christ more closely. Because, only through respect can we earn trust and from there love. It was Christ’s love that converted the woman at the well, not His condemnation.

  4. “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
    ― Mahatma Gandhi

    I thought this fit well also to what everyone is saying

  5. I wonder if the reluctance to respect another’s religion is not really an expression of ones lack of conviction in their own faith.

    Whenever I read or hear someone in the media discussing a controversial topic of any kind, religious or political, it seems necessary for them to continually put down and demean the “opposition”. I presume that this makes them feel better about their own opinion and possibly bolsters the confidence of those already on that particular bandwagon. It certainly does not convince the opposing side that they have made an error in their own judgment and should reconsider their point of view. Instead of attempting, as we who are Christians are instructed, to enlighten and convert others to believe as we do, many of the most vocal prefer to just stand on their own side vigorously declaring how right they are and how wrong the other side is. This kind of action serves only those who need continual reassurance about the position they have chosen. It is a shame that the Christian’s reputation is so often compromised by the those individuals whose one redeeming quality is that they are all too willing to put themselves in the public eye but fail to genuinely exhibit the Christian qualities that could bring others to the faith. Indeed, I suspect that they drive many away.

    Respecting another’s faith does not mean accepting the idea that their belief is “right for them”. Truth is not relative. But you must respect the fact that others may not see the truth as you do. Many Christians have held alternate beliefs before coming to Christ. Many people have put their faith in something other than Christ or have rejected adopting any religious belief system at all. As Christians, we should feel compassion for these people and strive to share what we know to be the truth. And, we should feel sorrow when they reject that truth. The one thing that we should not feel is anger towards them or disrespect them, for they are lost, and as Christ weeps for them, we should do no less.

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