By now most of you are aware of the plans to burn copies of the Koran on the anniversary of September 11, 2001 this upcoming weekend. Rev. Terry Jones of Dove World Outreach Center and his congregation have achieved international notoriety when they announced their plans to publicly burn Islam’s sacred scriptures. While there has been a minority of quiet supporters for Jones and his church, the overwhelming response from the media, political entities and heads of state has been one of outrage and condemnation. Rev. Jones is a U.S. citizen and as a U.S. citizen he has the legal right to express his opinions as long as he does not break any laws in the process of expressing his views. There is nothing illegal about what he plans to do. The bigger question is, as a professing believer is this something that he should do?
There are a number of practical consequences that will no doubt befall the United States should this weekend’s spectacle take place. A number of Muslim clerics and commentators have decried this act of Christian “intolerance” as “savage and barbaric”. There have been threats leveled at all “Westerners” if the holy book of Islam is desecrated. There will certainly be a price exacted upon troops serving in both Iraq and Afghanistan for what Muslims perceive to be an assault upon their religion. The specter of violent riots and protests throughout the globe are a distinct reality. In fact, in a news article posted in Toronto’s Globe and Mail, it has been reported that Interpol has sent out such an alert to its 188 member countries. U.S. embassies around the world are preparing for possible retaliation.
Another negative outcome of this will be a further marginalization of the Christian voice in North America. Rev. Jones will become a poster-boy and stereotype for all that is wrong with Right Wing Fundamentalists. The media, already heavily biased against anything Christian will use this as a shining example of Christo-Fascism and the threat it poses to decency and order.
We believe that Islam is a spiritual as well as a cultural threat to Western civilization. The long-term goal of Islam is the export and implementation of Sharia law throughout the world. This is a discussion that needs to take place among members of our society. But the discussion needs to be informed, intelligent, honest and candid. Tragically, this kind of discussion has only taken place in limited circles with political correctness acting as a muffler for any meaningful dissemination. As a culture, we have literally become the frog slowly stewing in lukewarm water, as our leaders allow the opponents of Western society to gradually turn up the heat. As a frustrated American Christian, Rev. Jones sees this threat for what it is and is acting out his convictions in the public arena. While his basic assessment of Islam maybe correct, I cannot in good conscience condone his method for expressing his opinions. While burning books may be candid it hardly moves the discussion to a higher level of discourse informing the public of the inherent dangers posed by Islamic incursion.
The Bible is clear on how we are to deal with enemies of the Gospel. The Christian is to love his enemies and to do good to those who would harm him. 1 Peter chapter 3 is but one of many statements that articulate how a follower of Christ is to conduct his or her life in the face of opposition. In the middle of the chapter at verse 14 we read, “But even if you should suffer for righteousness sake, you are blessed. And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled. But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” I find it difficult to categorize Rev. Jones actions as doing good.
The driving force behind how Christians should engage culture should always be based upon sound biblical principles. The apostle Paul has made it abundantly clear that war we wage is not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers in the heavenly places. Such a war is outside the bounds of political activism and cannot be resolved through the use of gas and flame no matter how sincere Jones’ convictions might be.
For the Christian living in North America generally and for Rev. Jones in the United States specifically, under the providence of God, we live in societies that have known an unprecedented level of prosperity, freedom and privilege. It has not always been so. If one examines the history of the Church, the true Church has more often than not found itself in countries governed by despots and tyrants that were not sympathetic to notion of religious pluralism. It has been rare that Christians had an equal voice at the governing table and rarer still that Christians could openly vocalize their concerns. I fear that Rev. Jones has forgotten the nature of the battle and has confused “Old Glory” for the Glory of the Gospel.
Can any good come of this? Of course! While their maybe some or even many retaliatory strikes by Muslims against Westerners; and while the Gospel has been given a black eye; we need to remind ourselves that God is supremely in control and can use even the misguided rants of fallen human beings for His purposes. Should there be violent outrage expressed by followers of Islam, then perhaps some might begin to question the popular myth of Islam being a noble religion of peace, tolerance and acceptance. Perhaps Islam would be seen for what it is. Hopefully then, we can resume an informed, intelligent, honest and candid discussion.
Heinz G. Dschankilic