On October 31, 1517, a German priest and scholar named Martin Luther went to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg and posted his Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences, which we know as the 95 Theses. All Saints Church was an important center of academic and spiritual life. By posting his 95 Theses on the door, Luther was publically objecting to the Catholic Church’s policy of issuing indulgences.
Today, Martin Luther might have posted his objections on his Facebook wall. And like on Facebook, Luther’s words went viral. Thanks to the newly invented printing press, a single copy of his pamphlet could become a thousand copies, and soon Luther’s words spread throughout Europe. His words put his life and his liberty in danger, but Luther could not be silent. Luther wasn’t trying to bring down the Catholic Church with his protests – he was trying to reform it – giving us the Protestant Reformation.
The Protestant Reformation was far more than a struggle over religious principles. It was a world-changing struggle fueled by power and greed and lust and all those human weaknesses that breed war and violence. But for the Reformers, it was a struggle for truth, about God and the true nature and character of faith and worship.
Nearly five hundred years later, we can see the results. The Catholic Church still stands, reformed and strong. Many Protestant denominations stand, spreading faith, hope, and love throughout their communities. The United States of America stands, formed in great part by those who fled Europe in order to worship in freedom. The First Amendment stands, promising that our federal government will not impose a national religion on its people nor interfere with the free exercise of religion of its citizens.
This promise extends to Islam.
In the hours after the slaughter of a British soldier in Woolrich, UK, several voices have stated that the Islamic terrorists “do not represent Islam”. They repeat the mantra that Islam is a “religion of peace”.
I am not an Islamic scholar. I know almost nothing about the Koran. What I do know is this – if large groups of people were committing unspeakable crimes in the name of Christ, in the name of my faith, I would protest. I would go, not to the victims of the crimes who may not believe as I do, but to the people of my faith who distort its teachings. I wouldn’t just talk about it quietly. I’d bang the message on the door of the centers of faith and learning – of my faith. I’d call for a reformation.
People frequently compare Islam to the Westboro Baptists. I see great differences. The Westboro Baptists are not a member of any major religious denomination. They are a small, local group, mostly from one family, who misuse the Bible to spew hatred in the hope of inciting a reaction upon which they can base a lawsuit. As heinous and reprehensible as their actions are, the Westboro Baptists haven’t killed anyone. Christians, both leaders and lay members, uniformly condemn their actions, and not just in word. Christians are often among the human shields that block the Westboro Baptists from interfering with funeral services. Christians hurt when Westboro Baptists hurt others in the name of Christ. It is offensive to us.
Unlike the Westboro Baptists, Islamic terrorists have killed in the name of Allah. We remember 9-11. We remember Fort Hood. We remember the Boston Marathon. From the young man in Woolrich to the thirteen people murdered at Fort Hood, we read of murderers shouting Allahu Akbar before committing their crimes.
This should make “peaceful” Muslims very angry. If this is not what the Koran teaches, then these terrorists are learning it somewhere, from some mosque, from some imam. If Islam is a religion of peace, then follow the example of Martin Luther. Nail your disputations on the mosque door. Insist that crimes in the name of Allah cease.
Or follow the advice of Martin Luther King, Jr. “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”
“Moderate Muslims”, take that position now! If Islam is a religion of peace, then take a stand for peace. Don’t tell it to the victims. Don’t defend your religion to the general public. Defend your religion from the ones whom you say abuse it. Call on your religious leaders to condemn bad teaching in your centers of academic and spiritual life. Call for the cessation of murder and violence in the name of your religion. Stand up. Speak out. Spark a reformation!
If you don’t, the louder voices – the voices of those who use knives and guns and pressure cookers to murder in the name of Allah – will be the only voices heard.