Unwelcome Extremities

I’ve been thinking about two news events which happened within 24hrs of each other on Christmas day 2009:

Two men with deeply held religious beliefs illegally traveled into other countries to spread their messages. Neither succeeded, but both made news. And though the news coverage has been very different, I can’t shake the feeling that their stories are almost exactly the same.

First off we have the guy on the Northwest flight, Umar, who tried to blow up 300 fellow passengers as they landed in Detroit. A part of me thinks that some people would actually rather light their underwear on fire than land in Detroit, but I digress. His bomb failed, passengers tackled him for the chance to be on Larry King, and now he’s in a tiny cell while his picture is on every TV in the land.

This is an all too familiar story in the US news media. A Muslim extremist, an Al Qaeda plot, Presidential exclamations, and near constant news blathering about “What went wrong”. In short, be afraid, run for your life, cower under the stairs, but whatever you do… don’t turn off your 24hr news station!

Next we have the story of Robert Park, a Korean-American man who snuck into North Korea on Christmas Eve with “A letter” for Kim Jong Il. Frankly he’d be more likely to get a letter to Santa, but this reality did not deter him. He was promptly captured and imprisoned in a country where the US can’t talk you out.

On the surface, Park’s story is completely different because he’s a Christian missionary. His goal was to enter North Korea illegally and deliver a letter asking one of the craziest dictators in the world to open his borders in the name of Jesus Christ.

I read both stories the same day. And I found them equally sad.

Whatever you believe… forcing it on someone else doesn’t change hearts. No one ever got forced into changing their belief system. People have lied over and over to save their skins, but what you believe is a personal thing beyond the control of governments, laws, tortures, and killings.

Yet, somewhere along the way both these guys got convinced of the exact same thing: “If I sneak into this country and deliver this message then things will change. A difference will be made. I will get a reward in the next life and others will find the right path on earth.”

For one, the message was a bomb. For the other, a letter. But it doesn’t change the fact both are just pointless extreme actions which won’t do anything but entrench people further.

If the bomb had gone off would the US have pulled its military from Muslim nations?

If the letter got read by Kim Jong Il would he have wiped away a tear and repented from his ego-manacle ways?

Um. No.

So we’re left with extremist poster children for two different religions.

Another Muslim with so little self-worth and so much belief in a one man Jihad changing the world, that he’s willing to kill himself and others. And people can point and say “See, they all just want to kill us, women, children, everyone. Muslims are all waiting on their moment to be evil …”

Another Christian convinced that his belief is not only right, but so undeniable that if he could only be heard then change would come. And people can point and say “See, another Christian shoving their belief in our face like we’re all unthinking jungle folks rooting around in our filth until he came along. Christians aren’t loving, they’re naïve and offensive.”

And no one changes. Or grows. Or opens their minds. Or makes a new friend that isn’t just like them. With examples like this, why would they?

Which ultimately brings me to another thought.

We’re all just playground children pointing fingers to figure out who’s at fault. The security system. Al Qaeda. Kim Jong Il. The system. The West. The East. There’s no shortage of groups to blame these days. It’s us verses them, and “THEM” has become easy to find.

How different would things be if we were worrying about ourselves instead of everyone else. No keeping up with the Joneses , or staring at the neighbors through our binoculars. You do your thing. I’ll do mine.

And maybe… just maybe… we’ll have dinner together some time. Our kids will all play as a group so we can realize they are all just – kids. If things get really crazy we might become friends. Which is really better for everyone cause you’re less likely to force your beliefs or your bombing runs on your friends.

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