More Burning Anger


Today, the President admonished Pastor Jones, encouraging him to “listen to those better angels” who recommend not burning the Quran.  There is a united consensus among leaders in America that Pastor Jones should not burn the Muslim books.  Political leaders, religious leaders, media elites have uniformly condemned the act.  I heard this morning that some–including Franklin Graham–have called to plead with the pastor to stop the burning plan.  With these leaders, I agree.  The burning is an unnecessary offense.

But we must not lose perspective.  If he burns a thousand copies of the Quran, he will not have conducted an offense as egregious as a single murder.  Murder is what Muslims are proposing in response.  I hope our outrage will produce strong condemnation for those who murder in the name of Islam.  If murders do unfold–which President Obama seems to think they will–they should be condemned by the same religious, political, and media leaders who have so roundly condemned Pastor Jones.  Indeed, let us hope there will be outrage by Muslim leaders, too, since the murders will be committed in the name of their religion.

The truth of the matter is that no one is outraged when Bibles are burned.  It is settled policy in Saudi Arabia that Bibles are confiscated and burned (or shredded).  Bibles were burned earlier this year in Iran.  I don’t remember the religious tolerance outrage in those instances, and I cannot believe any leader would have considered Christian violence an acceptable response to the Bible burnings.  So, why give Islam a pass?

When cartoons of Mohamed ended with Muslim rioting and people killed, we were expected to apologize and not do that any more.  When Pope Benedict gave a speech in Germany concerning the reasonableness of not murdering in the name of religion, Muslims shot a nurse in Africa in protest.  Another news story today reports that Muslims are threatening to kill a woman in Tennessee because she is opposed to the building of a mosque there.  At what point do we say to Islam, you may not like our liberty, but you better not kill our people?

I am not bothered by those who condemn Pastor Jones.  He is being given way too much attention for his publicity stunt.  I pray that Christians in other countries will not suffer because of his foolishness (though they likely will).  What I am bothered by (besides the threats of murder) is an acquiescence to violence if it is done in the name of Islam.  Those who murder in the name of Islam ought to be condemned much more severely than Pastor Jones is being condemned for burning the Quran.

Isn’t the murder of 6 Christian doctors in Afghanistan more horrendous than burning the Quran?  Why so little outrage about that?

Burning Fears (Again)


I am posting below an e-mail I received from Barnabas Fund, a Christian organization based in the UK which supports and encourages persecuted Christians.  I post it because it makes a great follow-up point from my post yesterday.  I really only made the first part of an important point in yesterday’s post because I wanted to force people to think about what is happening.

As this post from Barnabas Fund indicates, there will likely be violence as a result of the burning of the Quran.  I agree with the conclusion of this post, that the action of Quran burning is “an unnecessary, offensive gesture” which will endanger the lives of brothers and sisters around the world.  I do believe that the Gainesville pastor has the right to do what he is doing, but having the right to do something does not make it the right thing to do.  He surely must recognize that he may be culpable for causing unnecessary conflict and, possibly, contributing to suffering.

Yet, to reiterate the point from yesterday’s post, I urge us also to reserve some ire for the Muslims who feel justified in killing as a response to free speech actions they don’t like.  I don’t mind if folks condemn Pastor Jones, but his actions are not the same as murder.  Murderers should be held to account, regardless of whether they were offended first by a book burning.  Burning the Quran does not justify Muslim murders.  I hope we will be clear enough to say that to Muslims.  I do believe that the pastor is unnecessarily provoking and offending Muslims, but I do not agree that they ought to kill innocent by-standers as a result of being offended.  There is something about this dynamic that is making the pastor’s point.  There is an irony in the Islamic ire.

Here’s the e-mail from Barnabas Fund:

Qur’an burning: “an unnecessary, offensive and dangerous gesture”

Barnabas Aid statement on the proposed burning of Qur’ans in Florida

A church in Gainsville, Florida, USA, the Dove World Outreach Centre, has announced that it will burn copies of the Qur’an on Saturday September 11 to mark the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The stated purpose of this action is to raise awareness of the ideology and teaching of Islam and to warn against its dangers.

Barnabas Aid condemns the proposed action, for the following reasons:

  1. Barnabas Aid is fully committed to making known the aspects of Islam that result in injustice and oppression of non-Muslims, not least the persecution of Christians. But we believe that the biblical and Christ-like way to do this is by speaking the truth in the power of God’s love, and by extending that love to Muslim people even when they are hostile to us. In that context it can never be justified to destroy a book that Muslims regard as sacred, however firmly and profoundly we may disagree with its contents.
  2. The effect of the proposed action on Christians in Muslim-majority contexts is likely to be extremely serious. Already Muslim militants in Indonesia have promised to kill Indonesian Christians if Qur’ans are burned in Florida, and the history of anti-Christian violence in the country suggests that this is not an idle threat. Barnabas partners in Iraq have expressed concern at the probable Muslim backlash against an already beleaguered Iraqi Church. And Christians in numerous other places who live in daily fear of potentially deadly attacks will at once be placed in much greater danger. It cannot be right to exercise our freedom to protest in a way that puts at risk the lives of our brothers and sisters, for whom Christ died.
  3. There is a further risk that Christian minorities may be divided among themselves as churches with links to the West come to be unfairly associated with the action taken in Florida and its destructive consequences. It is important for Christians under pressure to be united, as their division serves only to weaken the Church and increase its vulnerability to Muslim attacks. It is therefore wholly inappropriate to undermine that unity for the sake of an unnecessary, offensive and dangerous gesture.

For these reasons Barnabas Aid urges the Dove World Outreach Centre and its supporters to refrain from burning Qur’ans on the anniversary of 9/11. It invites all Christians instead to join with us in prayer for our persecuted brothers and sisters throughout the world, and that the hatred and violence that endanger them may be overcome by the grace and love of Christ.

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo
International Director
Barnabas Aid
September 7, 2010

Contact us at info@barnabasfund.org or call 01672 564938 (from outside the UK phone +44 1672 564938).

Burning Fears


According to this article, Pastor Jones is still planning to burn the bible of Islam at a service commemorating the 9th Anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. 

I have a couple of simple observations.

Pastor Jones has a right to burn the Quran.  He lives in a nation which prides itself on freedom of speech.  Clearly, he has the right under free speech laws to do what he is doing.

We should be glad that we are free to express ourselves in this way.  To the extent that we are outraged at Pastor Jones, we are probably displaying either a fear of retaliation or an ingrained liberal bias.  Free speech is not about allowing only the speech we like. It is about allowing precisely the speech we don’t like.  Telling Mr. Jones he cannot do this would violate his freedom to express his religious and political views.  Even repugnant views are expressible under our free speech laws.

Many who are outraged that he would burn the Quran are not likewise bothered by the many folks who burn Bibles and desecrate Jesus, Bibles, flags, effigies, etc.  So, why the intense concern over the burning of a Quran?  My guess is that the concern is a tacit acknowledgement that we are afraid that Muslims will become angry.  Therefore, we think it best not to outrage them.  Is this not itself an admission that Pastor Jones is on to something?

He claims that we have for too long placated the violent Islamists.  Instead, he says we should assert our freedom and warn the Islamists not to become violent in retaliation.  I can just imagine someone reading this and thinking Pastor Jones is just plain crazy.  I might be easily convinced of that conclusion myself.  Nevertheless, Jones is pointing to a double standard we have grown comfortable with embracing—the double standard of excusing violence in the name of Islam.

Think of it this way.  If a group in San Francisco held a Bible-burning bonfire of the vanities to voice their displeasure with Christian opposition to gay marriage, few people would notice or care enough to protest the profligate pyro-technicians.  Certainly, there would not be riots in Jakarta or Paris or London or New York.  And if there were rioting in New York which ended with innocent bystanders being killed, we would go to the rioters and hold them accountable.  We would not go to the Bible-burners in San Francisco and act as though they were responsible for causing the deaths.

We do have a double standard.  I think the double standard is evidence that we secretly believe what Pastor Jones is saying, even though we dare not say it ourselves.  We believe that a vocal majority of Muslims are violent against anyone who disagrees with their religion.  If violence in Jakarta ensues, we will be even further persuaded, albeit also appalled by Pastor Jones.  We may wish to condemn his actions, but we will still take notice of the violence in the name of Islam.  At the end of the day, this is Islam’s problem: Violent backlashes tend to characterize Islam in the world today (whether the offense is cartoons, Papal speeches in Germany, or Qurans burning in Florida).

I don’t want to give the wrong impression here.  I don’t think Pastor Jones is doing the right thing.  As a pastor, I believe that we are to speak always with grace, seasoned as it were with salt.  The salt of our seasoning is the gospel of grace through Christ.  We are not called to salt the earth with incendiary rhetoric.  Rather than extending a flaming torch, we should offer a rugged cross. But I do think a message is being revealed through the reactions of others.