Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

September 23, 2012

Conflict of civilizations

By Ed Vasicek
For the Kokomo Tribune

— No matter who sits in the White House, the war on terror goes on. This war, however, is not just about terrorists but includes a conflict of civilizations. The war aspect strikes close to home – too close. Kokomo has lost another hero.

According to RTV6, “A Hoosier Marine was killed in Afghanistan Saturday [Sept. 15], according to the Department of Defense.

“Sgt. Bradley W. Atwell, 27, from Kokomo, died while supporting combat operations in the Helmand province, the DOD said. Atwell was assigned to the Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13.

“Officials confirmed Atwell was killed in the Taliban attack at a British base, in which attackers dressed in U.S. Army uniforms and infiltrated the camp.

“Atwell was one of two U.S. Marines killed in the attack. Atwell’s commanding officer, Lt. Col. Christopher K. Raible, 40, of Huntingdon, Pa., was also killed.”

We offer Sgt. Bradley Atwell’s family and friends our prayers and sympathies. We also offer our prayers and sympathies for the family of commanding officer Christopher Raible.

We did not initiate the war on terror, and our attempts to fight the war at its source have been painfully slow. Complicating the war on terror is the broader conflict between peaceful civilizations. Let me elaborate.

Americans usually avoid insulting the religious, yet are quite tolerant of such insults. I have often been appalled at how people mock my particular religious beliefs. Mocking the Bible, mocking Jesus, and treating Christianity with contempt are common in our society. Those of us who are evangelicals are considered fair game. It is no longer appropriate to tell racist jokes or gender jokes or ethnic jokes or jokes about sexual orientation; we cannot tell jokes about Muslims or Hindus, but we can freely mock evangelical Christians and other forms of Christianity.

We have long paid our tax money to college professors who have mocked Christian beliefs and stereotyped Christians as mindlessly naive. The entertainment industry, the music industry, artists and others have developed many sacrilegious and blasphemous productions.

The Muslim world, however, does not tolerate such things. A recent Reuter’s article explains:

“Protesters enraged by a film mocking the Prophet Mohammad battled with police in several Asian cities on Monday and vented their fury against the United States, blaming it for what they see as an attack on the Muslim religion.

“Police fired in the air to break up a crowd marching on the U.S. consulate in the Pakistani city of Karachi while in Afghanistan and Indonesia people burnt U.S. flags and chanted ‘Death to America’.

“Indonesian police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse hundreds of demonstrators who massed outside the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, capital of the most populous Muslim nation.

“In Kabul, protesters set fire to cars and shops and threw stones at police ... Thousands also marched in Beirut, where a Hezbollah leader accused U.S. spy agencies of being behind events that have unleashed a wave of anti-Western sentiment in the Muslim and Arab world.”

The world has become a much smaller place. Ignorant and ungracious people – whether mocking Islam, Christianity or atheism – have freedom-of-speech rights. It is sad that such individuals do not have sense or concern for others (like our military in the Middle East or Christian individuals who already find it difficult to survive in Muslim societies). Nonetheless, the American government recognizes the individual’s freedom of speech.

In America, you even are free to be an absolute idiot, if you want to be (and some people avail themselves of this freedom). If America has insulted Islam because a few people have put out a sacrilegious video, America has insulted Christianity FAR, FAR more. Arguing a religious viewpoint using logic, evidence or experience is appropriate, but resorting to mockery and name-calling – that is anything but ethical.

I believe most American Muslims understand that most Americans are not out to mock the religious beliefs of others with whom they disagree; but how do you communicate these concepts to entirely different civilizations?

• Ed Vasicek is pastor of Highland Park Church and a weekly contributor to the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at edvasicek@att.net.