UPDATE: Scratch that--it seems like it's back on.
It looks as though the church planning to burn the Qu'ran has decided to back down and cancel the event.
SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- Florida pastor Terry Jones, who had planned a mass burning of copies of the Islamic Quran for Sept. 11, has canceled the event in the wake of international outcry, according to media reports late Thursday. Jones, who heads a tiny congregation outside of Jacksonville, became a lightning rod for international criticism overnight after scheduling the event. [source]I'm glad. The idea of burning the Qu'ran was terrible. Why? Well, here are my thoughts. . .
1. It is foolish.
It smacks of juvenility. What’s the point of this? To send a message? How? Any way you slice it, the message is unclear.
If the point is to protest the actions of Muslim extremists the act of burning the Qu’ran fails to communicate that message. Burning the book believed to be holy by all Muslims, not simply extremists, fails to make the (ostensibly) intended point. Instead, it offends all Muslims indiscriminately—making it really impossible to claim that the protest is limited at a sect within Islam.
If burning the Qu’ran at a Christian event is designed to make the case that Islam itself is a deficient religion and therefore inferior to Christianity, it is also silly: when Peter said that Christians should be ready to give a “reason” for their hope, I doubt very much that the apologetic approach he was advocating involved book burning. Book burning smacks of weak-mindedness; let's use reason and employ a thoughtful discussion.
2. It is un-Christian.
Jesus taught, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27). Is committing an action that would be perceived as a profound insult such as burning the Qu’ran really necessary here?
Obviously, I am not saying that discipleship means avoiding doing anything that might be considered offensive at all times; Jesus himself used language that insulted the high priests at his trial.
But Jesus was also concerned about offending others needlessly. For example, he instructed Peter to pay the temple-tax so as “not to give offense to them” (Matt 17:27).
It seems “loving” your enemies means not going out of your way to offend them. Jesus teaches, “bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:28).
In fact, Jesus specifically teaches us to “make disciples of all nations . . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Is this action going to help accomplish that? Or is it going to simply reinforce misinformed views about Christians in the West? Is it truly teaching as Jesus taught? Again, I think not.
Rather than inflammatory speech and offensive acts, how about a reasoned defense? Islam, for example, teaches that Jesus did not die on the cross. Can we have an honest and open historical dialogue about that? Which religion’s teaching—Christianity’s or Islam’s—best fits the historical evidence?
Perhaps that kind of thoughtful debate can actually help further the dialogue. Somehow, however, standing by a bonfire chanting “Burn, baby burn!,” seems a less effective means to that end.
In sum, then, the action is un-Christian because it fails to really proclaim the message of Christ in a way that, I think, is truly Christ-like.
3. It is dangerous.
Clearly, this is likely to incite violence; reprisals are sure to come. When a military leader who has vast experience working in a largely Muslim region tells you that your action is going to put troops in harm’s way—we’re not even talking about civilians who are not trained in defending themselves!—it’s time to listen up.
Indeed, there’s precedent. Just not long ago violence followed the publication of cartoons depicting Mohammed. There was also the violence that erupted after a speech by Pope Benedict. (Some Muslims attempted to show that in fact Islam is a religion of peace by acting out in violence--yeah, that made sense.) So we’ve been down this road before.
4. The affair reveals a double standard.
While I stand by everything I have said above, it also reveals a ridiculous double standard in the press when it comes to religion.
Day after day, year after year, Christianity is mocked in many and various ways and no one complains. In fact, if the mocking is done well in pop-culture—if it really makes people laugh—it is hailed as great comedy. Jesus is depicted in all sorts of ways offensive to Christians; priests are routinely maligned as child-predators; icons sacred to Catholicism are defaced or disfigured.
As a matter of fact, in the last two years alone I knew two Catholic churches which were vandalized in such a way that the police clearly identified the acts as “hate crimes”. But there was little or no press.
Tolerance is demanded for every variety of expression of faith it would seem except Christianity; and it especially feels like its open season year-round on Catholicism.
I think it is wrong for a number of reasons for the church in question to burn copies of the Qu’ran. I condemn it in the harshest language. But where are the same anguished, outraged commentators and anchors when Christianity is maligned?