Much has been said lately about the possible Koran burning planned by the Dove World Outreach Center and its pastor Rev. Terry Jones. Much of the outcries against this man and his church and its apparent grab for national attention are completely justified and entirely appropriate. The several interviews I have heard from him lead me to believe that this is a man who is merely trying to draw attention to himself and his church – not to the Gospel or to anything associated with the work of Jesus Christ.
You see, I don’t think that anything this man is doing has the spark of the divine in it. It certainly is not my kind of Christianity. My kind of Christ is the one who says through Paul, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18) My Jesus is the Jesus who says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:44) It would do well for this pastor to look up (and for you if you wish to have something to say on the issue to those who support this book burning) the entire eighth chapter of the Book of Romans. These are words designed to admonish those who want to take revenge, who want to stir up the ire of enemies, who feel that blood is the only way to solve problems.
This is not so. I can only conclude that this man is in it for the controversy. He often says that he and his congregation are, “considering this seriously,” or that they are, “praying hard on the issue,” but I can only conclude that it is not God this man is hearing from. When he is warned by generals on the battlefield that this could inflame tensions and cause unrest in the Far East and Middle East, this pastor merely says that he, “takes it seriously” but I am not sure he really does. I suppose it is no surprise that a man who does not heed the Word of God would not listen to fellow human beings who would advise him this is a bad idea.
This is a man who puts signs in front of his church calling Islam, “of the Devil.” This is a man who tells media reporters this is a “first amendment issue,” this is a person who uses the actions of a set of maniacal radicals to justify radical action on his own part. Let me be among those who stand up and say, “This is NOT my Christianity!” My Christ spoke in love to those he disagreed with. It is true that He was no stranger to talking about Hell and condemning sin, but He was also someone who preached with a great deal of power about being a living example of faith. He was one who told parables that admonished the believer living in sin who pointed out the sin in another man’s life. “Straighten out your own life!” was His message to us. This man’s life seems only consumed by his own agenda, not living the principles of peace and love that Christ taught.
I also find it slightly disturbing that this man’s church is known as a, “World Outreach Center.” What kind of outreach does this man really think he is doing for the world? From much of his statements he seems to show contempt for the rest of the world - for pretty much anyone outside of his own congregation. I would prefer that he NOT try to export his brand of Christianity throughout the world, he would be doing Christ no favors.
Here, however, is where my own opinion may get slightly controversial. Not only should we as people of faith or peace be decrying this act of clear belligerence, we must also raise our voices together to decry the reaction of those who would seek to use this as an opportunity to kill, maim, or bully others. While what this man does is truly reprehensible and totally anti-biblical, it is also our responsibility to say that those in the Islamic (or any other) community who want to use this as a reason to harm others that they are equally responsible for their actions. No man is responsible for another man’s actions. Christ was pretty clear about that too. We must be careful when we say that someone should do or not do something because it might inspire people to violence. In doing this, we become a people who abet violence, who make excuse for those who commit it; we become inherently complicit in the violent act – because we in a sense endorse it by claiming its inevitability. We need to all be better than that. We need to decry violence of all types, regardless of who burned what, or drew what, or said what. We need to inspire others to be better than this supposed minister; we need to join hands across this world in prayer for this man and for his misguided actions. We need not be a world of violence. We need not be a world of retaliation. We need to be the people Christ called us to be – a people who live in peace with all of our neighbors, showing love in the face of hate, showing peace in the face of violence, being the best of humanity.
Let’s turn our hearts around today.