burning holy books and the terry jones debacle

image courtesy of theinsanityofthesane

Okay, so this is all just a bit ridiculous.  Could anyone have made up a more far-fetched story?  Here it is in it’s most up-to-date version (as of Friday, September 10 at 6:30 am in Tanzania):

The Reverend Terry Jones of Gainesville, Florida, and the Dove Outreach Center where he ministers, planned to burn a stack of Qurans in protest of the religion of Islam on Saturday, September 11.  The 50-member Pentecostal church and their pastor quickly became international media darlings, selling newspapers everywhere.  Christians from all over the world counseled Rev. Jones on what it means to be a Christian — that this book burning is neither Christlike nor a good idea.  Politicians and U.S. leaders counseled Rev. Jones on what it means to be an American — that this book burning will only fuel the recruitment of future terrorists and will also trigger Muslim attacks and American casualties.

The Reverend also met with Imam Muhammad Musri, the president of a Muslim group in Florida, and it was during this discussion that he announced his church would indeed no longer be burning the copies of the Islamic holy book.  Afterwards he explained this the Imam had promised, in return, to terminate the building of the mosque near ground zero.  When Musri denied having made such claims, Jones called him a liar and is now reconsidering the cancellation of his church’s Quran burning — saying that for now he has only suspended the burning.

Okay, so let’s just count the ridiculous happenings in this whole ordeal:

  1. The proper Christian response to a false religion is to burn their holy book?!
  2. World media decides that such a response (by a few people) is incredibly newsworthy — like top-news-story-in-the-world newsworthy.
  3. The actions of this 50-member church are portrayed by many as being the norm for Christianity.  This, after all, is just what regular Christians do.
  4. Christians feel as if they can talk sense into a guy who thinks burning Qurans is something the Holy Spirit has led him to do.
  5. The Pope himself becomes involved.
  6. President Obama attempts to persuade the Reverend not to burn the books because “this is a recruitment bonanza for Al Qaida. You could have serious violence in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan.”  And because Americans are likely to die as a result of Jones’ actions.
  7. General Petraeus agrees and speaks out about it.
  8. Many people claim that if American lives are lost, it will be the fault of Rev. Jones and Dove Outreach Church.
  9. An important Muslim leader in Florida meets with the pastor who wants to burn his holy book, and convinces him not to do so (either with a promise to a halt the mosque project in New York or with a promise of a meeting with the leaders of that project).
  10. Reverend Terry Jones either believes Muslim leaders would cancel the building of another international new story — er, I mean the mosque in New York — OR he just straight up lies about what Imam Musri promised him.
  11. So… he reconsiders the Quran burning, but doesn’t put a date on it.  [Which could very well be seen as a ploy to keep the spotlight for a few more days or weeks.]

And now for a few short rants. I can’t help it — there is just so much that is crazy going on here:

  • What Jesus does Dove Outreach Center read about in the Bible?  Are they serious?  This seems like a good idea to them?  This seems like something Christ would do, or would call us to do?

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.
— Romans 12:20-21

  • I’ve always thought that verse was strange, because there obviously still exists the desire to put coals on someone’s head (which seems overly harsh at best), but it does make clear that we should overcome evil with good.  Not by heaping actual and real burning coals on the holy books of other religious groups.
  • Why does the media attempt to portray Reverend Jones’ group as being accurately representative of Christianity as a whole?  Why do they refer to Dove Outreach Church as fundamental, evangelical Christianity — yet they refer to those Muslims who would seek to kill others as Muslim extremists?  Why can’t this church in Gainesville be Christian extremists?  Or why aren’t Muslim terrorists referred to as fundamental, everyday, run-of-the-mill Muslims?  Instead, one report I read referred to such people as “terrorist-minded individuals” who kill others.
  • And while we’re on the subject of the the media’s portrayal of religion… if Islam is a peaceful religion (as is often claimed), why such the uproar about all the deaths that Reverend Jones is causing?  If there are only an extremely small number of Muslims who believe violence is the answer, why will the actions of 50 people in Florida cause riots and death and destruction?
  • And do President Obama and General Petraeus (and others) really believe it will be Jones’ fault if people die?  I’m not saying I’m in support of what he’s doing, but am I now going to be held responsible for how others react to the things I do and say.  Because it just doesn’t seem fair for me to be accountable for the actions of murderers and terrorists.  Because they can’t respond in an appropriate fashion, it becomes my fault that they kill others?  Really?!  If killing Americans were an equal and commensurate response to the burning of the Quran, I’d at least understand the argument (though I’d still disagree).  But we’re talking burning books versus killing people.
  • As much as I disagree with Dove Outreach Center’s motives and methods, they have every right to burn these books.  I guess this comment is probably unprovoked in that I haven’t heard anyone actually saying Jones DOESN’T have a right to burn the Quran.  But there were a whole lot of people speaking up for the rights of the Muslim community to build a community center and mosque near ground zero (our president included) and, I think, rightly so.  But where are those proponents of free speech now?  Check out this incredibly ironic remark:

“If he’s listening, I hope he understands that what he’s proposing to do is completely contrary to our values as Americans, that this country has been built on the notion of freedom and religious tolerance.”  — President Obama

  • Did Terry Jones really believe the Muslims would cancel the building of the mosque in New York to keep him from burning some books?  I realize those books are important, but seriously?  Has he read the paper lately — the pressure put on this group, the money offered?!

I’m telling you, we couldn’t make this stuff up.  What do you think?

A couple of closely related stories and blog posts:
– a mother’s response to the ground zero controversy
– not near ground zero, they don’t
And a cartoon that speaks a great deal of truth to the situation:
Jesus and Mo


Filed under really?!

18 responses to “burning holy books and the terry jones debacle

  1. Ditto… Instead of blogging on the topic, I’m sharing yours. SPOT ON!

  2. I’ve read and heard so much on this topic, it’s become overwhelming.

    It is overwhelming to think the message of the Gospel can be so distorted and twisted by those who seek any excuse to carry out their own agendas.

    It is overwhelming to think that, in this day and age, incredible ignorance (in most cases), or either willful abuse of the name of Christ, can be so rampant.

    It is overwhelming to think that the actions of a handful of people in one obscure place can do so much damage to the good work being done by Christians around the world.

    It’s overwhelming, and discouraging, to watch this saga play out; it seems that no matter how hard we try, we’ll never move beyond these types of problems.

    I have been focusing on this event itself, but reading your blog got me to thinking instead about how the event (or non-event, rather) has been played out over and over again in the global media. It is true that the big media groups can make a story out of nearly anything they want to and keep it alive as long as they want, but the fact that this event stays on as a topic of conversation and debate among people tells me something: It is an uncommon occurrence. And that is progress. There was a time, not really that long ago, when a pastor in Florida holding a book burning wouldn’t be news anywhere outside of his community, because every other community was holding its own book burning as well. There was a time, not that long ago, in a town in my state of North Carolina, when Bibles were being burned by pastors because they had not been translated into the king’s English. A few generations before that, there was a time when the translators of such holy books were being burned alongside their work.

    This whole ordeal in Florida is very discouraging to Christians trying to live for Christ in the world, but then I remember, thank goodness, the hard work is not up to you or me anyways. Victory belongs to the Lord. Perhaps the best we can do is to continue pushing for perpetual progress.

    • good words, david. well said. it especially stands out to me that it wasn’t long ago that this sort of thing might have been the norm. there does seem to be a progression of sorts — when this instance is singled out and as popular in the media as it is.

  3. Very well put, sir! I have to admit I did not believe this was real until I read it in the news. We discussed it in my National Security Policy class and many of the students expressed the same incredulity that this was even newsworthy, regardless of their religious or political views. Rick and Bubba also expressed similar views this morning (just to keep you updated on the radio talk shows over here). 😉

    I really really wish the media would not portray the Dove Outreach Church as run of the mill Christians. One thing Rick and Bubba talked about this morning was how we’ve (US, media) chosen to embrace and protect a religion that teaches violence and we are not embracing the one that promotes loving enemies instead of killing them. I have no idea if ALL Muslims agree with that portion of what to do with infidels, and I don’t want to assume that all of them are like the extremists who have caused so much death and destruction, but either way I don’t think burning their holy book is the right approach. The Jesus we love was (is) not about that at all.

    Maybe you should have a talk show when/if you move back to the States. Bob and Brett (you gotta find a guy named Bob). OR you could do James and John and find a guy named John. I like both.

    • you have a class called ‘national security policy?’ what are you studying again?

      i like “james and john,” though i don’t think radio is something i’d ever want to do. i also don’t think i’ll ever live in the states long enough to start a real “career” there…

      • No radio talk show career? Maybe you should blog then.

        I’m working on my M.A. in Public Affairs. Most of my classes have been really interesting, with a lot of hot topics discussed. I’m not much of a debater, but I really like to listen to all the sides everyone presents. This may be one of my favorite classes so far, although I think it might also make me paranoid.

    • Emily Stutzman Jones

      I think it’s great that you cited both the conversation in your National Security Policy class and Rick and Bubba. I turned them off when I heard them mercilessly mock fat women but if they said what you said they said, I may give them another chance on my 8 minute morning commute.

  4. Seems like all the church experts completely overlooked this strategy for church growth…I can’t help but keep asking myself, would he continue with the plans to burn the books if there were NO media attention?

  5. I believe that as Christians, Dove Outreach are wrong. As Americans, they are right. Here is why.

    We are to love our enemies. That’s the easy point. In Acts 19:19 there was the burning of non-Christian objects – BY THE PEOPLE THAT WERE SAVED, not the believers burning them!

    I could care less about the media, but I am a little concerned about the double standard of the president. It is the right of the mosque builders to build in spite of significant opposition, and it is not the right of Jones to burn some Qurans? Which is it?

    BTW – Donald Trump offered to buy the mosque site for 25% more than the $5M they paid for it, and they refused. I think there is more to the story.

    • david, i read the muslim group didn’t take trump’s offer seriously because they’d already refused other offers of $20m elsewhere. the article i read made it sound as if the muslims were suggesting trump was offering a low bid only to make himself look good — and that if he was serious about the offer, he’d have bid higher than the $20m others already had.

  6. Emily Stutzman Jones

    I am 25 and just figured this out: Most of America thinks a “fundamental, evangelical, born again Christian” is a terrible thing to have around, nearly as bad as “Muslim extremist.” The view is that yeah, fundamental Christians don’t kill people all that often (Oklahoma City was a tragic exception) but they do all kind of other irritating things, like teach Creationism, try to convert people to Christianity, hate Obama because they think he’s Muslim (and black and socialist), and preach all kinds of oppression of women. They’re much worse than “regular” Muslims, because they’re so much louder, less cool and exotic, and when was the last time you sat next to a Muslim on an airplane reading her Koran and she tried to strike up a conversation about what Allah is doing in her life?

    I don’t know if I can legitimately deny being a fundamentalist Christian based on what I believe, but I hope and pray that my actions and conversations don’t align me with people who do or say things that radically (fundamentally?) depart from what Jesus says about how we should be.

  7. emily, thanks for commenting. and it’s funny that you asked about someone striking up a conversation about allah and what he’s doing in her life. that kind of happened to me just a week ago. but it wasn’t on a plane, it wasn’t a girl, and it was about the joys of islam — not his indwelling work. but i’ll give you that it doesn’t happen often.

    i think you’re wise to look to your actions and conversations (and not your beliefs) to show you are a christian.

    oh,and i’ve read that timothy mcveigh was indeed not a christian. do you know otherwise?

  8. A friend of mine commented the other day that he was sort of glad this whole thing was creating such a stir in the media. When I asked him why, he said something that really stuck with me.

    He said, “I’m glad this is happening because most Christians have spoken out and said that they find Jones’ actions here deplorable and an unfit representation of the Christian faith. And that’s exactly how most Muslims feel about the actions of the radical terrorists behind 9/11.”

    That helped put some of this in perspective for me.

  9. Mariam Ali

    Um, I just wanted to comment and say that as a Muslim (and no, I’m NOT a terrorist) I don’t think Mr. Terry Jones had ANY right whatsoever to threaten to burn the Holy Quran. It’s just not cool.

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