Thursday, June 20, 2002

This is from my hometown of Jacksonville, Florida.

Vines: No Apology To Muslims

At his first public appearance after making remarks critical of Islam that stirred a national controversy, the pastor of Jacksonville largest church didn't back down, but did soften his tone.

During a Sunday morning service at Jacksonville's First Baptist Church, Dr. Jerry Vines insisted he had not spoken incorrectly -- citing the Islamic and academic sources of the remarks he had made at a Southern Baptist Convention conference in St. Louis last Monday.

"If I have misread this information, I would be glad for Muslim scholars to explain their own documents to us all," Vines told his congregation.

Vines had referred to the Islamic prophet Mohammed as a "demon-possessed pedophile," and said that Christians and Muslims don't worship the same God, saying "Jehovah's not going to turn you into a terrorist that'll try to bomb people and take the lives of thousands and thousands of people."

He made it clear that despite calls for him to do so, he would not apologize to or meet with representatives from the Islamic community about his widely reported remarks about their religion and its founder.

But did offer an invitation to talk about their souls.

"I love Muslim people. I have found many of them to be kind, gentle and loving people," Vines said from the pulpit. "Many Muslims have come to our church to hear of the love, joy, peace and saving grace available to all in Jesus Christ."

Those attending First Baptist's 10:20 a.m. service stood and applauded after Vines made his comments.

"He speaks for the majority of the people, without a doubt," church member Bruce Walls said.

Even after Vines' offered no softening of attitude, a Jacksonville Islamic leader continued to try and make peace.

"It is our desire to have a face-to-face meaningful dialogue in an environment of mutual respect," Shakur Bolden told Channel 4 Sunday afternoon.

"I have no plans to speak to this matter further," Vines -- a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention -- said.

***

For the record, at a recent meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, Jerry Vines took it upon himself to say some pretty racist, hate-filled things about Muslims and their religion. It did nothing more than fuel the already prevalent stereotype that Southern Baptists focus more on hating and excluding people than actually worshipping God. But that's just me...

Anyway, I think Jerry Vines needs to jump back for a second. He has to realize that the Muslim religion does not teach hatred. He has to realize that there are certain sects of the Muslim religion that are more extreme than the majority of those that practice the religion. Conversely, there are different "sects" of Christianity that have varying degrees of extremism yet they are all "worshipping" the same God. There are some sects that brandish or stockpile weapons (Branch Davidians) because they believe that they have some key integral role in Armageddon. There are some that put women in a much lower caste system than their male counter parts (Amish and to a certain extent Catholicism). There are some that literally take each word in the Bible as the literal word of God despite evidence to the contrary that Biblical texts have been changed to suit the politics of King James and his predecessors (too numerous to count). So do we heap the sins of a few on the whole? If so, Christianity has a lot of blood on its hands as well.

To be cliche, it's the pot calling the kettle beige...
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