Watch the World Burn

A man in Florida plans to burn a book, and the whole world ignites.
Here’s the story as I see it after reading four articles and watching several news programs.

Rev. Terry Jones has a church of about fifty people in the state of Florida. They had planned to burn about two hundred copies of the Quran on the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The main reasons for doing this seem to be that Jones and his congregation believe strongly that Islam is an evil religion, and also that God told them to do it. This story has spread like wildfire all over the world. The Vatican, the president, Hillary Clinton, many evangelical Christians, Gen. David Petraeus, and most other people have condemned the plan. This story has sparked much discussion about the limits of free speech. At the time I posted this, Jones had decided to cancel the book burning since he believed that his action (or lack of action) would result in the movement of the controversial Mosque near the site of ground zero. Muslim leaders report that no such arrangement has been discussed.

I’m going to ask a few questions related to this story and then answer them.

Did God tell Rev. Terry Jones to burn the Quran?
Jones claims to be a Christian. This means that he believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God as revealed in the Bible. It also means that he is part of the body of Christ. The body of Christ is a term used to identify followers of Jesus from every nation and sect. Christians are not meant to live and operate alone. They are meant to live in community with each other. This means many things. Some of which include: struggling together, teaching about life and God, encouraging each other, expressing the selfless love of Christ, and when one goes astray by engaging in something opposed to the way of Christ, rebuke. What you saw this week was rebuke from the body of Christ. Burning Qurans will not spread the good news about Jesus Christ. There is a good chance that Jones’ main motivations were hate, anger, and fear. God did not tell Terry Jones to burn the Quran.

Should Rev. Terry Jones be allowed to burn the Quran?
Yes, he should be allowed. Though the act of burning Qurans would undoubtedly anger Muslims around the world, freedom of expression in the United States of America should be preserved. If Jones were somehow stopped by our own government, what would that mean? It would mean that freedom of speech was compromised out of fear. We can already burn the flag in protest. The Supreme Court ruled that it would be unconstitutional to prevent someone from burning the flag. So, would it be right to sacrifice our freedom because burning a Quran is offensive? How many acts of free expression are offensive? What makes this one special?

Can Christianity and Islam ever be reconciled?
I have often heard that Christianity and Islam are both religions of peace and fundamentally the same. The problem is that they are not the same. They are fundamentally different. I am sure any true Muslim would agree with this because they would not accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior just as I wouldn’t accept Mohammed as a true prophet of God. For Christians, Jesus Christ is everything. An honest Christian and an honest Muslim understand that their faiths are incompatible. This does not mean that they can’t tolerate each other, or that it is impossible to live in peace, but it does mean that they have to face the fact that they believe fundamentally different things about God and the world. Based on my understanding of human nature and history, I’m afraid it is unlikely that the people who have those COEXIST bumper stickers will ever get their way.

What does this story show us about the world in which we live?
Relations between Christians and Muslims, and the U.S. and the Muslim world are tenuous and volatile. When a tiny church threatening to burn a book causes this much of a response, you have to see that tensions are high. The issue of the Mosque at Ground Zero reveals the same thing.
It is also incredible how connected the world is. We are no longer separated by oceans and mountains and deserts. Boundaries are dissolving. And people are freaking out.
Oddly enough, this story reinforces the truth that one person can make a difference.
Each of us stands before a global audience.

2 thoughts on “Watch the World Burn

  1. After the Nazis burned heaps and heaps of books in 1933, amidst brutal raids and, of course, followed by the Holocaust, Heinrich Heine wrote, "That was but a prelude; where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people also."I mean…just sayin.

  2. Fascinating read David. I like how you approached it at a different angle on the same subject. I like how the religious tolerance debate after today's new was, tolerate Islam just not people who don't tolerate Islam. I also like on the news how a bunch of people in the Middle East were going crazy burning the American flag when Terry Jones hadn't even burnt a single book. Love double-standards. Love pre-emptive burnings.

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