Monday, April 04, 2011

Book-burning 101


Terry Jones, Pastor of the ironically named Dove Worldwide Outreach Center, has set off a firestorm of rioting worldwide after he burned a Qur'an on March 20. He threatened to do so last fall but was talked out of it and said it would "never" happen. Yet, here he was again. His church staged a mock trial and found the Qur'an guilty of "crimes against humanity", including the promotion of terrorism and "the death, rape and torture of people worldwide whose only crime is not being of the Islamic faith".

They then made a display of setting it on fire as the small congregation - and a crowd of media and curious on-lookers - gathered around and watched. (Video posted to You-tube of course).

There are so many directions to go with this story that it's hard to know where to start. First off, let's look at what Jones' used as his justification for this book-burning. According to a blog on the church's web-site, their Biblical basis for doing this was from the book of Acts 19:18-20. Does this passage teach us to burn offensive materials? No. What it does is give us an account of what some people did whose lives had been transformed by the Gospel. They brought their scrolls, and they burned their own scrolls, demonstrating that they recognized their sorcery was wrong. The public impact seemed to come from the public sacrifice of these monetarily valuable materials by the people who owned them! Huge difference.

The early church did not take someone else's sacred book and deliberately provoke a community, which is what Terry Jones did. This was a display for the media, pure and simple. If this was a church growth stunt, sadly, it will likely have some effect. There are enough fringe people out there who will flock to his church. It just goes to show that anyone can draw a crowd. I obviously don't agree with the Qur'an, but you don't change someone's mind by trying to enrage them. I think in carrying out this act, Smith and his congregation actually violated scripture. 1 Peter 3:15-16 says "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander."

There are a lot of people speaking out against their behaviour, but it's not their "good behaviour" and it's not slander. Terry Jones was wrong.

However, it does open up another discussion. Does it make any sense to answer Jones' claims that Islam is a violent religion by attacking innocent people? If Jones was wrong for burning a Qur'an, then those who attacked the UN compound and killed 12 people are certainly more wrong. They are unwittingly proving his point. That's not the end of it either. Riots have spread, and still continue, with the death toll rising to 20 at this writing. What is the justification for this? There can be none.

The apologists for Islam must continue to answer for this seeming propensity to violence. These protesters are likely some of the same people who danced in the streets when the Twin Towers fell on 9/11, claiming thousands of American lives. It's sad that the "Christians" in Florida are being hateful, and it's sad that adherents of the "religion of peace" felt it necessary to kill to prove their point. It's also sad that some will launch into the usual claim that "all religion leads to violence," and start singing "Imagine." What gets pushed to the side in times like these is truth.

We should be able to discuss and debate without resorting to the extremes apparent in this story. There is such a thing as truth, and it does matter. Whether you're a Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Atheist or Agnostic, stop being rude and let your argument stand on its own merits. As someone said, "If we throw mud at each other, we'll both get dirty and we'll both lose ground." I like Ravi Zacharias' approach to this, so I'm going to conclude with a video clip from him. These are some of the reasons that I'm still a Christian.



Related Posts:
Remember My Chains
Book Review: "What Good Is God?"
What Is A Christ-follower?
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