Light the Fire: The Bad Idea of Terry Jones

Terry Jones, Pastor of Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, has scheduled a book burning for September 11. The book that will be burned is the Qur'an, the central religious text of Islam. Why is he doing it? In his interview with ABC News, he says, "We are burning one book for one particular reason, to warn radical Islam"

Let me say this up front: I don't agree with what he is planning to do.

My reasons for disagreeing with the plans of Terry Jones are twofold:
1) the one given by General David Petraeus,  who insists that images from the event would "undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan - and around the world - to inflame public opinion and incite violence." That wouldn't be good for anyone.

2) the one that comes from my allegiance to Jesus Christ, who taught his followers:
"You have heard the law that says, 'Love your neighbor' and hate your enemy. But I say love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike" (Matthew 5:43-45 NLT).

How does Terry Jones justify such a bad idea? Strangely enough, in his ABC News interview, he cites Acts 19:19 and says, "[W]hat we are doing, you actually find in the Bible."

What?!
Pastor Jones should learn how to do basic biblical interpretation.
Acts 19:18-19 (NLT) says, "Many who became believers confessed their sinful practices. A number of them who had been practicing sorcery brought their incantation books and burned them at a public bonfire..."

So does this passage from the Bible give Terry Jones a precedent for burning the Qur'an?
No.

Here's why:
Who's burning the books?
Some of those who had confessed their sinful practice of sorcery.
Who was NOT burning the books?
Everyone else.

So unless there are a bunch of ex-Muslims, who converted to Christianity, and voluntarily called Terry Jones and invited him to join them on their crusade to burn the Qur'an, I don't see why he thinks he's justified in drawing a biblical precedent from Acts 19:19.

A Better Way Forward
A better way forward is to invite public discussion on the issues where Christians and Muslims can articulate points of agreement and acknowledge points of contention. Granted, that is more likely to happen with moderates, but don't forget that the moderates are the majority in the Islamic religion. Those moderate Muslims are more likely than Qur'an-burning Christians (who are, themselves, on the fundamentalist/extremist end of the Christian spectrum) to convince their fundamentalist/extremist fellow believers to change their ways. And, finally, each of the two faiths are available on the free market of world religion (along with many others), so each faith is open to be questioned and studied, practiced or dismissed.

When it comes to issues of faith and religion, we can do no better than to recall the scene in John 8:31-32 (NLT):
"Jesus said to the people who believed in him, 'You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'"


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1 comment:

  1. Richard B. Hays (Dean of Duke Divinity School) wrote an article for the News & Observer in Raleigh, NC, about this event. In it, he comments, "If they burn the Quran, they will be acting in the spirit of Goebbels. History has taught us where that leads. But if they listen to Jesus, they will learn that his way is not to call down fire against enemies. Instead, his way is to commend the gospel through open statement of the truth - to act in a spirit of patience and generosity, to return good for evil, to pray for those who hurt us. That is the spirit of Jesus."

    See his full comments here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2010/08/13/626362/wwjd-not-burn-the-quran.html (accessed 6/5/11).

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