The words in the title of this piece seem jarring in close association. The reason is they really don’t fit together, other than that Terry Jones has sensationally forced them into the same articles, comments, and reactions worldwide.
Jones is the pastor of the approximately 30-member Dove World Outreach Center of Gainesville, Florida, who apparently burned a Quran in his effort to “put on trial” a holy book and a religion with which he disagrees. Last fall he threatened to burn a Quran on an “International Burn the Koran Day,” but apparently demurred when General David Patraeus and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates implored him not to do so because it might cost American lives. President Obama made similar public comments at the time.
But Jones finally put his plan in action, allegedly burned a Quran, and the result to date has been more than 20 killed in Afghanistan, including United Nations employees. Related protests continue in Pakistan.
So as a Christian what am I to think of this? Here are a few things to consider:
--It’s a free country. We enjoy an incredible gift of freedom of speech (which the US Supreme Court has expanded to freedom of expression) that most of us did nothing to earn. It is our political birthright. But what may be legal is not always moral or ethical.
--As a believer we enjoy the incredible gift of Christian liberty, something we did nothing to earn. It is our spiritual birthright. But 1 Corinthians 10:23 reminds us, “’Everything is permissible’—but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible’—but not everything is constructive."
--Scripture tells believers to speak the truth in love. It does not endorse what today we call “hate speech,” acts of violence, or incendiary in-your-face actions against those with whom we may disagree. In fact, Scripture commands us to “turn the other cheek” and to “love your enemies,” whomever we may perceive them to be.
--Jones’s “ministry,” if not a cult, is certainly “cultish.” He emulates the dictatorial pastor of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, who also has apparently burned a Quran. They do not lead as shepherds. They rule and demean and pontificate and sensationalize. They have their 15 minutes of fame. I question what rewards they will receive in heaven.
--Burning the Quran accomplishes nothing but inciting to anger those who revere it. Is this a way to express love, to build a relationship based upon trust or mutual respect? If someone knocked on your door and insulted Christ or burned a Bible would you feel inclined to initiate a friendship? Does Jones really believe he is battling for truth? Or is he applying his warped worldview in the name of Christianity, all the while enjoying his time in the media sun?
--Burning the Quran is more than burning a given book. It’s an act of political malice akin to burning any symbol vested with the ideals of a people. Not long ago, some US Congressmen submitted bills intended to make burning US flags illegal. To date these amendments to the US Constitution have not been ratified by a sufficient number of states. Flag desecration is a protected act of “symbolic speech” in the US—while in many other countries such acts against the national symbol are illegal. The point is, while according to rulings by the US Supreme Court desecrating an American flag is protected speech, as is burning a Quran, we still don’t have to like it, embrace it, consider it wise, or report it via news media. Interestingly, national media are beginning to figure that out, dropping most references to Jones and hopefully letting him fade away from lack of attention.
--Is Jones’s faith so small, so lacking in confidence, that he fears placing the teachings of the Bible alongside the teachings of the Quran and allowing people to make their own decisions about truth, love, forgiveness, and hope?
--I feel sorry for Jones and his followers, for they are clearly enveloped in a false understanding of Jesus’s ethic of love and the beauty of the Christian faith. While I condemn the killing of innocents in Afghanistan in reaction to Jones’s Quran burning, I feel badly for the families who lost loved ones as part of the ripple effect of Jones’s actions.
--Jones is no more representative of biblical Christianity or of most believers than are members of the Ku Klux Klan.
--Burning the Quran or any other holy book from any religion is not an act of Christian love or an overture toward spiritual reconciliation for those who embrace those religions. It is an act of fear and prejudice, self-righteousness and ignorance. No true follower of Christ can or should condone such acts.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011
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