Saying "Peace, Peace" When There Is No Peace
There was a time, and not that long ago, when an event like that which took place at the Washington National Cathedral on November 14, would have sparked outrage and offense in me like it did in some others, particularly the Christian lady who was prominently featured in news reports for interrupting this event to speak her mind and make her witness to her Christian faith. It may well have prompted comments here -- comments more vitriolic and inflammatory -- than those which came from the Reverend Franklin Graham, who was carefully identified for us by the youngsters who report the news as the son of the famous Christian evangelist, Dr. Billy Graham.
I found this need to identify the Grahams curious at first until it dawned on me that perhaps such prominent Christian leaders as the younger, or even the elder Graham, are not readily recognized in society at this somewhat late date in post-Christian America. This date marked my 61st birthday, and I grew up in a time in which a televised Billy Graham Crusade was something that garnered a universal attention. And neither was there cave deep enough, nor mountain high enough, to prevent any individual from at least knowing who the Reverend Graham was and what he was all about. With the possible exception of Bishop Fulton Sheen, it is hard to think of anyone back in the 1950's and 60's who was held in higher regard by more people than Billy Graham. And I've always thought of the younger Franklin, a man who is actually a year older than myself, as worthy of respect as something of a "chip off of the old block." His father at his age was as well-known as any American president, and was held in the highest esteem as a trusted spiritual adviser to whoever occupied the Oval Office. Times have changed.
Anyway, it's not that certain mellowing that comes with advancing age, or resignation to the reality of our times, that has led to this lack of outrage and offense in me. This inner peace certainly isn't the result of learning to accept the widespread and burgeoning lack of respect for all things Christian in American society that has led us to such events as these; events that recall Jeremiah, who quotes the Lord, "...from prophet to priest, every one deals falsely. They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace." The true peace I am referring to that has wrought this recent change in me is found in the regular time I am now spending with Jesus in the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. But more on this later.
The event that I am referring to here is the Islamic prayer service that was held at the Washington National Cathedral on Friday, the 14th of November, and the reaction to what took place -- or lack thereof -- that characterized the way it was reported in the media. The local NBC affiliate in Washington D.C. was quick to spin this story in a way in which the Muslim faith was represented as warm and fuzzy and anxious to make friends, while those such as the aforementioned lady, and the Reverend Franklin Graham, were demonized for their inability to "celebrate the move." You can take a look at this report at "National Cathedral Holds First Muslim Prayer" and I suggest you do. The Reverend Graham's comments, posted on Facebook the day before this event, read as follows:
"Tomorrow, the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.–one of the most prominent Episcopal churches in America–will host a Muslim prayer service to Allah. It’s sad to see a church open its doors to the worship of anything other than the One True God of the Bible who sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to earth to save us from our sins. Jesus was clear when He said, 'I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me' (John 14:6)."
The incident concerning the lady removed from the service for protesting was reported this way in the text of the News4 Report:
"'Jesus Christ died on that cross over there!' a woman said loudly, immediately after beginning announcements were made. 'He is the reason why we are to worship only him. Jesus Christ is our lord and savior!'
"As she spoke, a man attempted to touch her arm, but she moved away from him several times.
"She continued in a loud voice, 'We have built, and allowed you here in mosques across this country. Why can't you worship in your mosque, and leave our churches alone?'
"The protester was then escorted out of the cathedral, News4's Kristin Wright reported. She allowed two men to remove her without incident, but she raised her voice again once she was taken to an adjoining space.
"The historic cathedral held Friday's service to help foster more understanding and acceptance between Christians and Muslims around the world."
Now in Ms. Wright's video presentation, this last sentiment is expressed and echoed by the Episcopal clergy who invited these Muslim folks present to have their Friday prayer service at the Washington National Cathedral, and by some of the Muslims who attended it. And let me be clear that, unlike this lady (identified elsewhere as author Christine Weick) or Franklin Graham, I've got no issues with this service being held at the National Cathedral. If such services were to be held at St. Matthew the Apostle, the Catholic Cathedral in Washington D.C., or at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, I'd be all for it. Frankly, I think the lady protesting at the opening of the service was merely out to advance her own narrow agenda. She was clearly out of line, just as a Muslim would have been if behaving in a similar, and equally disrespectful way, at any Christian worship service hosted in like fashion in a nationally prominent mosque -- which is to suggest that a Christian service hosted at the Islamic Center of Washington would be a nice reciprocation of the hospitality extended by the National Cathedral. I think it would be a wonderful experience for all of us if we could come to exchange services at the various houses of worship in the nation's capital, and that the Episcopal Church intends to use the National Cathedral for more of this kind of thing is not only acceptable but commendable.
However, the key here is sincere mutual respect, and when this kind of mutual respect is not forthcoming, it should be reported honestly so as to not skew the perception of those in the audience at home. And this brings us to what was omitted from the News4 report, while being reported in, of all the perhaps unlikely places, Israel Today. And so, without further ado, here is this quote from their article on this same event entitled, "Muslims Chant to Remove Jesus at Washington’s National Cathedral:"
"It looked like a chilling scene from a Last Days, anti-Christ-takes-over-the-world disaster movie. Hundreds of Muslims take over America’s most notable church, prostrate on their prayer rugs as their unified chant echoes out in full volume: "There is only one god, he begets not and I bear witness that Muhammad is His only servant and Apostle.'
"Only this was not a movie. This was the scene, last Friday, for the first time in history, at the iconic National Cathedral in Washington, where orthodox Muslim clerics were invited to lead an Islamic prayer service. A congregation of hundreds were led by an Imam in declaring that “god has no son, that Jesus Christ cannot be his son, and that there is no god like Allah.'"
Times certainly have changed in America when the media feels the need to identify the son of Billy Graham, and imply him to be some sort of Christian radical, asMuslim clerics with links to radical Islam stand in the pulpit of the most prominent Christian church in the United States and denounce Jesus Christ publicly. Further, the Muslims present, so incited by this kind of rhetoric, get a media pass for shouting down Christ in his own house of worship, as a politically correct television affiliate looks the other way. And this while a Christian woman, representing only herself, is demonized for protesting to the truth that this facility is dedicated to the worship of this same Jesus Christ: and it is she who is held up alone as the example of religious intolerance and bigotry. Improper behavior to be sure, but also exemplary in this case of that media pot which doth calleth the Christian kettle black. Usually we can only comment on these things by saying, "Imagine the outrage if a Christian had protested against Allah or Mohammed in this way," but in this instance we see the usually imagined truth of this displayed for all to see. And we apparently only see the religious intolerance and bigotry of the Muslim guests at the National Cathedral if we pay attention to the Israeli press. When given this larger perspective, we realize, in retrospect, that the Reverend Franklin Graham's comments do take on a certain prophetic tone. And he certainly should have the right to express himself in this way publicly, especially when other Christian leaders do not have the courage, or the resolve, to witness for Christ as he did. Those of us old enough to remember his father in public life also remember that he did this routinely with no such controversy attached to it.
As a Roman Catholic, the greater question this raises for me is that of what would become of Jesus, in similar circumstances, in a Catholic setting like that of the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, or the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception? Would the Catholic Church, which holds to the truth of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, accommodate this kind of thing? Would the Tabernacle be removed and the red light of the Real Presence be extinguished so as to not offend these strangers in our midst; these guests who would demand of us that Jesus not be recognized as the Son of God and so not be present and offend them? Would Church officials do this to appease a local secular media affiliate and so win an imagined public favor? One would certainly hope not. And, in light of such a scenario, we don't have to agree with everything Franklin Graham says to appreciate the fact that he, like his famous father before him, doesn't shy away from declaring his faith in public. It's become a dirty job but somebody has to do it. Maybe more of us should.
In the News4 video, the Episcopal clergy at the Washington National Cathedral welcomed their Muslim guests with these words:
"For we approach the same God, whose desire for our world is salon, shalom, peace. You are so very welcome."
What price this welcome? What price this peace? Did not this same God give to us His very Self in the Prince of Peace, Our Lord Jesus Christ? I know that in His Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament He brings us this peace -- this peace that passeth all understanding. I've experienced this peace and it has been life changing. It is the peace the world so desperately needs, and it is the very peace that delivers the world from the violence that engulfs it and threatens the Christian peoples, and all peoples of goodwill, with extinction. This peace must not be removed for any reason, but especially not to appease those who would, in turn, further engulf the world in violence and bloodshed.
We do not bring this much needed peace to the world by ignoring the true nature and intent of those who promote such violence against those of other faiths, and this is particularly so if done in conjunction with declaring that those with the courage to stand up and witness publicly to Christ, as did Reverend Graham, are somehow the true radicals. To the contrary, there is no more sure way to take away peace, and bring destruction upon the earth, than to welcome and appease those who would banish the Prince of Peace from our midst and so do their bidding. And those who would do this to appease the agenda of a faithless, ignorant and politically correct media are truly those who say, "Peace, peace," when there is no peace. And they heal the wound of the people lightly indeed -- or not at all.
Phil is the owner of the news portal Radio New Jerusalem.
All Biblical quotes from The Catholic Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1965, 1966 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.