The planned Qur'an burning on the 9th anniversary of 9/11 by the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida is making headlines this morning. While I don't understand the motives and plans of this church, and I am concerned about the threat of government interference in free speech issues, I want to voice my firm opposition to the plan.
I am a conservative evangelical Christian who has worked amongst Muslims and has lived in Muslim countries for many years. I have read a translation of the Qur'an (in English and French) and respect the many people who sincerely and faithfully follow a faith that has many parallels to my own. I have many Muslim friends, and even though I don't share their faith, I have learned a lot from them. I disagree with many aspects of Islam, but I see many who live with integrity.
In any case, this is not a way to go about winning an argument with Islam. It is, instead, pouring fuel on an already hot fire. It is inflaming passions in a world that is already a tinderbox. Mr. Jones says he and his church are trying to highlight the evils of Islam and stand up for something. I do not believe that this will help anyone. I do believe it will cause harm and damage to the cause of Christ. I believe these kinds of actions are motivated more by fear and ignorance than by love and knowledge.
One unintended byproduct of this book burning will be the blackening of the reputation of Christians all over the world. Whether you like it or not, many Muslims paint Christians with one brush, and even though many know that you are just one individual, one church, they will inevitably associate all Christians with you and your actions. This will bring disdain on Christians and on the church around the world.
The leaders of the US are expressing their concern for US troops if this burning goes ahead. While it is impossible to say what could happen, and I am concerned for the troops, I am more concerned about Christians around the world living in Muslim-majority areas. What is going to happen to believers in places like Iran, Nigerian, and Indonesia on Sept 11 and the days following? Will believers be killed and more churches burned? Tensions are already high in some of these countries. If any are martyred for their faith, their blood will be on your head, Mr. Jones. And do you realize that this burning comes on the heels of the great religious festival of Ramadan? Muslims are often more spiritually aware and sensitive during this time.
No matter how you look at it, burning anything these days, whether flags, books, or buildings, is seen as an act of violence, of hate, of anger, even of racism and prejudice. Now that this has gone public with all the world watching, that is how it will inevitably be seen. You say you love Muslims, Mr. Jones. Prove it. How do you love them? How will you show that love? This act will be interpreted no other way than as hate. Where is the love your faith requires?
Even worse, I am concerned that the name of our God will be profaned amongst the nations as the result of the actions of the Dove World Outreach. You do not need to defend God's honor, Mr. Jones. He is fully capable of doing that Himself. And if you read your Bible, you will know that He is fully aware of the world situation and is Himself in control of it. He will have His way in this world.
While Jesus vigorously challenged the religious authorities of his day and was very angry with them, he was an insider to the culture. He knew their thinking in and out. He was one of them. Mr Jones, you know nothing about Islam. How can you challenge what you do not know or understand?
For the sake of His name, I plead with you, Mr. Jones, tear up your plans.
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