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Why Christians shouldn’t burn the Quran or the NIV Bible

News is rippling around the Internet regarding the Quran burning plans of Rev. Terry Jones and his Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida. Reverend Jones (who will henceforth be referred to as TCMUO for The Completely Messed Up One) has announced that they plan to symbolically burn the Quran on September 11, in order to demonstrate their displeasure with our accommodating foreign policies and to confirm their conviction that Islam is of the Devil. The plan has generated such a response that their church website has crashed. Unfortunately, it appears that their plans have not.

Now burning books out of protest is nothing new. In fact, the Nazis did it regularly during the Gestapo. So for anyone interested in burning books, the Nazis can serve as a good role model for you.

In fact, Christians have typically burned more of their own books than those of other religions. Check out this one church, aptly named Amazing Grace! They burn the NIV and other “satanic” versions of the Bible.

Ninety-nine percent of Christians with a heart beat and a half functioning mind know that this is completely ridiculous stuff. (Although, I must admit I am attracted to the idea of using the KJV version more often as I’ve really been looking for a new way to say ass more often in church.) Nevertheless, the impact of a few, including TCMUO, can have an enormous effect on others.

Here are just a few reasons why Christians should do everything they can to encourage, TCMUO and his wacko amigos to stop. And if they don’t stop, we need to use all means necessary to let everyone know that we are completely opposed to this stuff.

1)  Loving God and loving our neighbor sums up the commandments.

Because of these words, Christians are called to a higher standard than anyone else. Loving our neighbor means many things, but most poignantly it means we don’t trash his/her religious faith and burn his/her holy books. That’s sort of love your neighbor 101. But I kinda think TCMUO missed that class. (oops was that not loving?)

2)  Christ said to love our enemies.

Muslims are not our enemies. In fact, I think they are our neighbors. According to Jesus there really are no “enemies.” However, he invokes that terminology (Mt 5:44) because he knows there are some people who cannot eradicate it from their vocabulary. For those people I include this point. The end result is the same: Love is our calling which means (note the repetition) we should not seek to offend by burning holy books.

3)  The Golden Rule

The golden rule is do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It’s a practical way of articulating what it means to love others. So, if we don’t want anyone burning our holy books then maybe (just maybe) we shouldn’t do it to them.

Those are my top three reasons which are more theologically based reasons. Here are three more “practical” reasons why.

1)  It deepens the "us" versus "them" divide.

After 9-11 I remember a TV shot of some Muslims in Palestine dancing that the thousands of Americans had died. I remember it because our TV networks showed it over and over and over again. They did this, of course, because viewership (and advertizing rates) skyrocket around such controversial themes. However, at the end of the day, it was really just a few folks (side note: as a traveler to over 70 countries I have become completely convinced that idiocy is everywhere!).

At the time, I had many friends and colleagues living and working in predominantly Muslim countries. Ironically, every single one of them told me that their Muslim friends expressed sorrow and pain for them. I even talked to some tourists in Pakistan who said everywhere they went, people came up to them saying how sorry they were.

But it only takes a few of “them” to act like fools and for “us” to be fooled by our own media. The same thing is happening and will continue to happen in the other direction. Right now, Muslim Imams and others are justifying anger and hatred toward Americans and Christians because of TCMUO. That’s downright painful.

When you read Jesus he played to the “us” versus “them” scenario a lot. However, he always made “us” the bad guys and “them” the good guys. It was a powerful rhetorical tool that eventually got him killed. After all if he had talked about how bad the Romans were (like everyone wanted him to) then he probably would have achieved the “king” status others were expecting.

Interestingly, the parable of the Good Samaritan which symbolizes what it means to love one’s neighbor plays extensively on the “us” “them” categorization tendencies that we still have today.

2)  It confuses nationality and religious boundaries.

In what can only be considered unfortunate, there is a lot of confusion over who “us” and “them” really are. Us is sometimes Americans and other times Christians (side note: these are not the same things!). Them is sometimes Muslims and other times Arabs (side note: these are not the same things!).

As news of the Quran burnings spreads around the world like a wildfire (stupid pun intended), there is increased confusion over this. We, Americans, become a bunch of fundamentalist Quran burners in the minds of many. I’m not sure our non-Christian fellow citizens will like that either.

Apparently, a lot of the reason TCMUO is burning the Quran is to protest weak foreign policy (I suppose two wars totaling 16 years of combat is not enough?). That just starts the religious-political fusion and confusion.

Christians need to proclaim that we are not the same as Americans and vice versa.

3)  An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.

Apparently Ghandi said, “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.” I know this because I’ve read it on some bumper stickers. Regardless of whether or not he said this it is a true statement and is consistent with the teachings of Jesus to turn the other cheek.

Frankly, the cycle of violence continues and gets faster because both sides feel completely justified in their actions. Watching the Quran get burned will justify acts of violence against Christians who had nothing to do with it. The cycle continues with Quran burnings justified because some wacky Muslims killed some innocent people. Round and round we go on a not so merry go round.

Before we move on, it should be noted that there is a biblical verse that speaks positively about burning books, namely Acts 19:19:

Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.

(note: out of fear of having my blog burned I have used the KJV version. Unfortunately, this verse did not contain the word ass.)

This is a verse used by book burners to justify the action. However, this is very different than contemporary book burning. The books (referred to as scrolls in the satanic NIV version) that were burned were books that were owned by the burners and were a part of their previous personal religious practices. This means they burned books that they themselves used in a previous religion. (note curious arts is like witchcraft or sorcery)

Thus the act of burning the books completed the transformational conversion from their pagan religion to faith in Christ. That is comparable to, say, a former Hindu burning his idols at home, not to say, a bunch of fundamentalists in Florida led by TCMUO burning the Quran!

Despite these obvious reasons why Christians should oppose the Quran burnings there are a couple of reasons why we need to allow it:

1)  Freedom of Speech

Burning the Quran is a constitutionally protected act. So long as it does not accompany proclamations to incite acts of violence (which is a possibility), this should still be a legally protected act. Along with burning the NIV study Bible!

Freedom of speech is very important something we should protect. It is a powerful mechanism in preventing human oppression (even if it causes some in the meantime) and is a fundamental component of a free society. Besides without it, we couldn’t make jokes about our presidents which is the main reason Communism didn’t work.

2)  Freedom of Religion

If a religious person wants to burn books and pronounce someone else the devil, they should be allowed to do so (so long as this is not to incite violence as previously stated). But that doesn’t mean we all just sit there and watch it.

Part of a free society is the right to oppose a certain act without legally forbidding it. Ideally, I would be in charge of determining what morons can be spokespeople for a particular religion, but that would take a lot of time and a free society means that people can practice whatever religion they want, regardless of how wacky (this is something we are doing quite proficiently in America!).

So, where does this lead us?

Here is what I propose:

1)  Let the Muslim world know that we love them and are appalled by this ridiculous PR stunt. 

2)  Let the Muslim world know that this is really the act of a small marginal dysfunctional group that is totally rejected by mainstream believers.

3)  Let the Muslim world know that we stand for freedom of speech and freedom of religion and that they are welcome to live their faith in our country. But unfortunately that means TCMUO can as well. And it’d be great if the predominantly Muslim countries could join us in promoting religious freedom.

4)  Let us pray for peace. For Christ came and preached peace for those far away and those who were near (Eph. 2:17).

Comments

Thank you for this well considered article which sets out a Christian perspective that I share. Somewhere though there is a need to step beyond that and to come to an understanding of how the mainstream Islamic communities understand their faith and how they regard the west. Let me offer a few pointers:

* The Islamic attitude to their scriptures is utterly reverential to an extreme. Their scriptures are held to be the EXACT authoritative words of Mohammed and they have copies going back very close to their original. Their entire attitude to scripture is utterly different from that held by any Christians I have ever met. Burning Islamic scriptures is orders of magnitude more offensive to Muslims the world over than, say, burning the stars and stripes - YES REALLY.

* The nature and discipline of the attitude to their scriptures among young people, is utterly different to what we observe among our young people in the west. Scriptural religion is a big subject that sits centre stage in the zeitgeist of their communities. Especially with the demographics of many Middle Eastern countries it becomes easy to see how the fanatical element can catch light.

* The normal Islamic attitude for many Muslims is that Islam is the only true religion. Not in some pluralist sense of being part of each individual having their own subjective take on things but rather in an absolute objective way. It is normal within families in many of these countries that if a brother or sister left their muslim faith they would expect to murder them (without effective sanction from the state).

* Muslims tend to understand Christianity on the basis that the western countries are Christian countries - so they will seriously denigrate your morality and belief system on the basis of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton and ... Rev. Terry Jones. Note that Islam has a perspective that involves politics and judiciary being part of it's religious remit. The pluralist society is something that most Muslims in the west have grasped and understood but elsewhere they have most certainly not.

* The muslim understanding of our freedom of speech and pluralist society is of a weak and confused society awaiting the enlightenment of Islam. Second and third generation migrants to the west find themselves caught in the midst of the crossfire of misunderstandings.

* We tend to understand Muslim countries as being unified internally and externally. Internally there is usually a highly pressured arm wrestling between the religious extremists and those who want a civil society. We should not intervene - nor should we make things worse by crass stupidity. We must manage our own extremist fanatics and hope they manage theirs.

* Externally Muslim countries don't trust each other much; EXCEPT when non-muslim countries invade - at which point all bets are off. In the 1930's many young men went, from all across Europe, voluntarily to fight fascism. In the 1940's many of Irishmen volunteered to fight with the British and Americans against fascism. Thank the Lord for both those groups. However, it is a similar integrity guided by Islamic scriptures that draws men from across the muslim world to fight to get the unbelievers out of muslim lands.

* Similarly, the Muslim concept of Jihad is primarily and fundamentally their equivalent of the spiritual warfare that the Apostle Paul talks about. The taking up of arms is a fanatical interpretation that shouldn't really be projected onto broader muslim communities.

If we can communicate that Terry Jones et al, are the fanatics that we are obliged to contend with rather than any reflection of wider society then I suspect muslim communities will understand that as comparable to their own experience!

Am drawn to say all this, having lived among a large Muslim community in the East End of London. Back in the day, I shared my apartment with guys who reached out to the Muslim community and in some cases went on into the Middle East to share their faith.

Much though I have a distaste for Islam; I believe we need to treat muslims, locally and internationally with dignity, prayer and kindness rather than brutish ignorance.

Thanks for the great post. I think you are right on. I also like the explanation of why Muslims are more offended by Koran burning than Christians are by Bible burning. At first glance, I felt like the Muslims should just ignore it, but again, this is a case of low functioning people offending similar people elsewhere (and the beat goes on and on and on...)
Why the media is inflaming this situation? If the book burning can potentially cause violence, then why doesn't the media ignore it? If no one paid this guy attention, the issue would disappear. The media is giving a hateful person a huge microphone and fueling the fires of hate.

Mr. Russell,

Thank you for posting your thoughts on the Qur’an burning situation in Florida. I enjoyed reading it. My plan here is to read through your post again, and make comments on how my thoughts may be similar or differ slightly. Let’s see how it goes…

Paragraph #1 (Paragraph beginning “News is rippling…”):

Let me come back to paragraph #1 a little bit later, after I have laid out a little foundation of how I am thinking.

Paragraph #6 (Paragraph beginning “Loving God and loving our neighbors sums up the commandments”):

I agree and so does the Bible. (Matthew 22:36-40)

Paragraph #7 (Paragraph beginning “Because of these words…”):

Re: “Loving our neighbor means many things, but most poignantly it means we don’t trash his/her religious faith and burn his/her holy books”:

Let’s put aside the latter part of this comment. It doesn’t seem like we need to dwell on the fact that burning something that others perceive as cherished is not a loving act.

But, let’s look closer at the earlier part of the statement “…it means we don’t trash his/her religious faith…”

To “trash someone’s religious faith” would be defined differently by different people. To some it may mean to belittle, make fun of, ridicule, humiliating and taunting the followers into shame or belligerence. To other people, “trashing” may simply be disagreeing with, or not wanting to follow that religion yourself.

People have become (Perhaps always have been) very sensitive about people disagreeing with their religious viewpoint. The word “intolerance” has become a word that quickly brings on anger. If an example of what intolerance means is “I don’t like your religion and I am not going to allow you to practice it! I will burn your religious books!” then I can see why it would upset people. But to many people, an example of intolerance is “I have looked into the beliefs of your religion and I have some things that I don’t believe are true. That is why I am not a follower of that religion. I believe that parts of the teaching of the religion have consequences that can be harmful to the followers and even others. I would appreciate an opportunity to engage in a dialogue to explain my findings to you, and maybe you could help me to understand some things that I may have misunderstood”. To me, the latter is an example of how civilized people handle disagreements. I think it is better to discuss differences rather than ignore them, but discuss them without animosity or belligerence.

Paragraph #9 (Paragraph beginning “Muslims…”):

Re: “According to Jesus there really are no “enemies.”

I will be the first to admit that I don’t know the Bible as well as I should. I certainly don’t know it as well as I would like to. Admittedly, I didn’t go searching the Bible for verses to back up your statement, but I have no recollection of reading that. What does come to my mind is that we need to be in a relationship with God, and that is what God wants for us. Satan (One of God’s creations*) does not want us to have that relationship. Satan attempts to deceive us all and has much success. This purpose (against God) that Satan has makes him an enemy of God. If his purpose is to prevent us from having a relationship with God, that makes him an enemy of us as well. People that are deceived and wittingly or unwittingly are helping to deceive others are in alliance with Satan and therefore enemies of us. The Bible teaches us that we do not want to hate and destroy our enemies. We want to love them, so as to share the Good News of God with them, so that they may understand, accept and be saved themselves. This will eliminate the enmity between us and allow them to enter a relationship with God, as is God’s desire.

*God gave Satan free will, just as he gave us free will. Along with free will comes the ability to make wrong, self centered choices.

Paragraph #10 (“The golden rule”):

I think that the Florida pastor is acting contrary to Bible teachings, but I might stop short of using the Golden Rule as an example of that.

Let me try to give a modern day “parable” to try to explain my viewpoint. ~~ Let’s say you are driving home from work after a very hard day. You really are looking forward to getting home (Maybe your child’s birthday and you have ice cream in the back seat). A police officer pulls ahead of you in traffic. With his lights on, he zig-zags through the lanes, bringing traffic to a complete stop. He stays in his parked police car and will not let anyone proceed. This goes on for hours. You can see that a mile ahead, cars are entering the freeway and continuing on with no problems. Anyone that tries to get out of their car and approach the officer is told, over the patrol car load speaker, to get back in their car.

From your perspective, the officer is violating the Golden Rule. You think to yourself “Why won’t he let me go? If it were me, I would let him go. Why won’t he just let me go home?”

From the officer’s perspective, he has strong reason to believe that letting traffic through would put them in harms way. He has strong reason to believe that snipers are positioned and ready to shoot and kill innocent people as they travel on that section of the road. He is not stopping them to prevent them from going home; he is stopping them to prevent them from the dangerous consequences of proceeding. He is doing exactly what he would want others to do if they knew that he was in danger from an unknown situation. Most likely, the officer is doing what you would do if you were in his situation. If you didn’t care about the drivers on the highway, it would be easy to let them go and suffer the consequences. But because you care is why you will not let them proceed. It would not be a loving act to let them go and be destroyed.

Perhaps the Florida pastor feels this way about the Muslims. Perhaps he feels that their religion is leading them to their own destruction. He is probably doing what he hopes others would do for him. Unfortunately, the Florida pastor may not know of any other way and is acting out of desperation (I really don’t know anything about this pastor or his motives).
As I mentioned earlier, I do think the pastor’s actions are contrary to Bible teachings. Specifically 1 Peter 3:15-16.
15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. 16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. ~NLV

Paragraph #13 (Paragraph beginning “It deepens the ‘us’ versus ‘them’ divide”):

I agree.

Paragraph #17 (Paragraph beginning “When you read Jesus…”):

RE: “he always made ‘us’ the bad guys and ‘them’ the good guys”:

I’m sorry but I can’t really comment on this because I do not fully understand what you are saying. Who is “us”? Who is “them”? I guess I would need specific examples to understand what you are saying. Sorry.

Paragraph #23 (Paragraph beginning “Christians need to proclaim that we are not the same as Americans and vice versa”):

That is very true.

After taking a good hard look at Christianity and other religions, I have come to the conclusion that the God of the Bible is the one True God. I have come to the conclusion that the God of Christianity is the God of the Bible. I have come to the conclusion that the god of Islam is not the God of the Bible, nor the one true God.

One thing that it seems to me that Muslim countries may do a better job than us in doing is having a nation under god/God. I know very little about this so I may be totally wrong, but it seems that the Muslim countries laws are consistent with the laws of their god. I believe that American laws are, for the most part consistent with God’s laws, but it seems like many people put the laws of our country above the laws of God.

One thing that comes to mind is the teachings in the Bible concerning our obligations to care for the vulnerable. In our society, two the most vulnerable groups would be the elderly and the unborn. It is easy to say that more should be done for their rights, but when it affects you personally, it is frightfully easy to weigh the personal burden that would be put on yourself. Convenient laws can lead to convenient decisions.

Paragraph #25 (Paragraph beginning “Apparently Ghandi said…”):

It is always better to study the Bible rather than study what other people (Or bumper stickers) say about the Bible.

Back to paragraph #1 (Paragraph beginning “News is rippling…”):

While it is unpleasant to hear of people mistreating others, we really are not sure of their motives. Pointing out his errors and mistakes is fine, but if we mistreat him in return, the problem will only escalate. We should try to treat/respect him the way that we would want him to treat/respect others.

I tend to believe this Florida pastor is an actual Christian. He is a Christian that makes some poor choices, just like the rest of us. I hope he will learn and grow. I am less concerned about the Florida pastor. I am more concerned with the unbelievers. I think we should not dwell as much on what this pastor is doing that is wrong. We should not dwell so much on what he should be doing instead. We need to learn from what he is doing wrong and concentrate on how WE, as Christians, can learn from his mistakes and equip ourselves so WE can go out and do what is right.

Mark, good to read your post, which is thought out with far more detail than mine, but runs along the same lines. TCMUO and others like him confirm to the world that American Christians are nuts. Sad :(

Thanks for speaking out against this unchristian activity. Burning the Koran will not save one soul. The world needs Jesus;

https://www.crescentproject.org/

Crescent Project is a far better course of action to take.

Jon York
Santa Maria, California

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