The Rev. Ray Morton, 46, is a native of Northeast Mississippi and has been pastor of First Christian Church Tupelo (Disciples of Christ) for seven years. The Disciples of Christ have 700,000 members in the United States and Canada, and, according to Morton, those members are “deeply committed to attitudes of tolerance and dialogue.”
Morton last week discussed with the Daily Journal the actions of the Rev. Terry Jones, a Florida Pentecostal minister who planned to burn the Quran, the Muslim holy book, as a protest against a religion he believes is evil.
Morton responded to the Daily Journal’s questions via e-mail and answered exclusively by quoting from the New International Version of the Bible.
Q: Across religious and political lines, when people think of burning books they think of censorship and oppression. Most people consider it a brutish and offensive act. Aside from any theological differences you may have with Islam, what do you think of the act of burning the Quran?
A: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12
Q: At the heart of this controversy is really the belief, which some Christians in the U.S. hold, that Islam is an evil faith and that Muslims are committed to undermining this country. Do you feel that this is a paranoid belief, and do you believe that Islam and Christianity are incompatible?
A: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:43-45
Q: On the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, many in the religious world are wondering why moderate Muslims aren’t making their voices heard and letting extremists dominate the news and the public conversation. The same criticism is sometimes leveled against leaders in Christianity. Do you think that public, religious debate in general tends to be dominated by extremists and, if so, how do we overcome this?
A: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers.'” Matthew 7:21-23
GALEN HOLLEY / NEMS Daily Journal