What is it that causes a person to burn what is sacred to others? The Nazis did it with books in the 1930’s. Anti-American mobs do it overseas when they burn American flags. The Taliban did it in Afghanistan when they dynamited the ancient statues of the Buddha in the Bamyan Valley in 2001. A church in Florida is planning to do it next month when they burn Qurans.
The Dove World Outreach Center, a non-denominational church in Gainesville, Florida, is planning to commemorate the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks by burning Qurans. They are calling it "International Burn-A-Quran Day." Pastor Terry Jones explained his motives. "We feel, as Christians, one of our jobs is to warn." The goal of the event is to give Muslims an opportunity to convert, he said.
It is one thing to discard books or objects that are part of your own past that you want to leave behind. In Acts 19 Christians believers burned their own occult books as a way to make a psychological break with their past. If people want to destroy their own property, then that is their business.
But publicly destroying other persons’ sacred books and objects just to make a statement is a different matter. It does not bring about any good. If Pastor Jones really thinks this is going to cause Muslims to convert, then he is delusional. It is obviously going to give propaganda ammunition to Al-Qaeda, which recruits members by portraying the West as at war with Islam.
What is it in a person that needs to destroy that which is sacred to another? I think it is fear – fear that “the others” may be right. Book burners are afraid of the ideas in the books. The flag burners are afraid of what the flag stands for. We seek to destroy that which we fear.
That means that the members of the Florida church are acknowledging their fear of the Quran. It is really a testament to their own spiritual weakness and insecurity. They are afraid the Islamic holy book holds power that they cannot withstand, so they must destroy it.
In a backhanded sort of way, the Quran-burning event is a compliment to Islam. But the Muslims will not see it that way. If you think Muslims got upset when a cartoonist in Denmark drew a caricature of Muhammad, wait until you see their reaction to videos of Christians burning Qurans in the United States!
We seem to be entering a dangerous era of religious extremism in our world. Religious intolerance is increasing around the globe, and along with it comes the persecution of minority religions. It did not take the Nazis very long to go from burning books to burning Jews.
The National Association of Evangelicals has condemned the Quran-burning. “The proposed burning of Qurans would be profoundly offensive to Muslims worldwide, just as Christians would be insulted by the burning of Bibles,” an NAE statement said. In other words, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”
Perhaps the best thing we can do is to ignore the book-burners. Why give them the media attention that they desire? It only adds fuel to the fire and continues the cycle of extremism. The best way to extinguish a fire is to cut off its oxygen supply. If the media would just ignore the religious crazies in Florida on September 11, the world would be a lot better off.
Photo is a burned Quran found in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in January 2010.