So what do you think of Rev. Terry Jones?
Jones is the pastor of the Dove Outreach Center (a church of around 50 members) near Gainesville, Florida. This is the guy that wants to hold a book burning party and as mundane an idea as that may seem, he doesn’t want to burn pornography or even evil Rock-n-Roll lyrics. Instead, his church has been in the news for organizing what they call “International Burn-a-Koran Day.” This has caused a furor in the U.S. and around the world. General Petraeus, the commander of NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, has asked that this not proceed because of the risk that it will add to those who are fighting in parts of the world where Islam is the predominant religion. President Obama has asked that this not proceed and Defense Secretary Robert Gates has made a personal call to ask that this event be cancelled. So far, Rev. Jones has only conceded to “postpone” the event.
Admittedly, there are a host of political and practical reasons for stopping this. Under our constitution such activity is undoubtedly legal, but this media furor has left me asking a different question, “What’s the point?” I understand that, theologically, the Dove Outreach Center subscribes to a Pentecostal view which sees the world in a spiritual war between good and evil. What I don’t understand is what they hoped to accomplish by burning a pile of Islamic holy books. If their intent was to anger Muslims around the world then it worked. If their intent was to gain notoriety for their small church, then I suppose their plan worked but I wonder if this is the kind of attention that they intended. In particular though, I wonder how staging “International Burn-a-Koran Day” was supposed to gain ground in this spiritual war between good and evil.
Paul said that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12) it seems obvious that “you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar” but beyond that, insulting pagan believers is not what has been modeled for us as followers of Jesus Christ. Paul didn’t tell the idol worshipping Athenians that they were stupid nor did he try to destroy any of their statuary. Instead, he complimented them on their religiosity and then told them about the one true God. Jesus didn’t curse sinners and disparage their false religions, instead he loved them, invited them in and shared meals with tax collectors, prostitutes and others considered by their society (and their church) to be outcasts and untouchable. Jesus had compassion on these people even though doing so came at a significant cost to himself. In fact, Jesus condemned the church of his day because of their lack of compassion for others.
As far as I can see, the battle plan for spiritual warfare that Jesus left for his followers was both counter-cultural and counter intuitive. Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5: 44) Jesus built relationships with lost people by showing them mercy and my being kind, loving and compassionate. Paul won a hearing for the good news of Jesus Christ by being civil and by demonstrating respect for those with whom he disagreed. The way I see it, our battle is with evil, not with Muslims or anyone else. We are at war with Satan, but not with people. The path to victory laid out by Jesus is not the path of hatred but a path of love, mercy, kindness, compassion and respect.
There are a host of political and practical reasons why Rev. Jones and his church should reconsider “International Burn-a-Koran Day” but far beyond any of those reasons lays this one:
I just don’t see Jesus in it anywhere.