If I were a pastor of a tiny church and was seeking cheap publicity for my startup, I now know exactly what to do, thanks to Florida Pastor Terry Jones: hold an “international burn the Koran day,” and the news media will do the rest.
Now this is not, of course, to endorse the idea of burning the Koran as a public statement—that, I think, is probably not the wisest apologetic tactic. And now after personal visits from the FBI and promises from Muslim leaders that the ground zero mosque will not proceed, Jones has called off the event. But there are still some lessons to take away.
Think about it: a no-name, insignificant pastor of a tiny congregation of thirty people found a perfectly legal way to get free publicity, and boy did it work! Every media channel streamed with widespread denunciations from the NYPD, the top general in Afghanistan (Petreaus), Hillary Clinton, Attorney General Eric Holder, the FBI, the President, and the Pope, among others. (Pope John Paul II, by the way, actually kissed the Koran when presented with one by an Arabic leader.)
The same liberals who followed Obama in emphasizing Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf’s right to build a mosque near “ground zero” despite the outcry over the sensitivity of doing so, now about-face to emphasize the sensitivity of burning the Koran over the right to do so. In fact, some liberals went out of their way to refute the “sensitivity” argument. Where are they now?
Even conservative leaders joined the chorus of condemnation, but one suspects mainly due to the perennial neocon concern for “our soldiers.” General Petraeus had given an early denunciation: “It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort in Afghanistan.” But then again, so could a vaguely defined and drawn out mission to begin with, right? “The safety of our soldiers and civilians would be put in jeopardy”; perhaps they should have thought about that before ordering those troops into an unnecessary and likely unwinnable occupation of an officially Islamic Republic.
Worse, there was no outcry from any of these liberal leaders when the army itself burned a shipment of Bibles for fear that “it could be perceived by Afghans that the U.S. government or the U.S. military was trying to convert Muslims.”
The standard for military decisions here seems to be the subjunctive: “could endanger,” “if… would be,” “could be perceived.” But if they’re so frightened over what could happen, why didn’t they just stay home?
In response to Jones’ plans, we are shown videos of Islamic riots overseas including burnings of effigies and burnings of American flags bathed in choruses of “death to America”—you know, the stuff radical Muslims do every day. Unlike these displays, no Christians anywhere rioted over the military Bible burnings. No violence, no vandalism, no death wishes. Ever asked yourself why?
Terry Jones himself was also frightened about what Islamic radicals could do, so he tried to raise awareness by burning the Koran. He and his little church have already faced threats and vandalism. They armed themselves via open carry, which is perfectly legal in Florida. So, instead of prioritizing the neoconservatives’ sanctity of the military, or the liberals’ sanctity of diversity, he made an open, perfectly legal, and perfectly American show of the first and second amendments.
ABC News attempted a smear job, calling Jones’ plan “hate” and “theological belligerence.” They note that the pastors are armed—emphasis in the original—as if this was something spooky or shady. I have written about this ridiculous fear of guns at church elsewhere. The interviewer makes noise of this: “Will you be armed?… So, we could see a gun battle out here.”
Being armed is a fundamental Christian and American right for defense of person, neighbor, and property. This interviewer thinks it odd, apparently. Yet I wonder how many times he’s asked that question of a policeman, secret service employee, soldier or bodyguard, etc. who is also legally armed. “So we could see a gun battle?”
Does he live in such paranoia? Does he second guess himself when he gets in his car in the morning: “So I might get in a car wreck out there?”
Joining the chorus of opposition, the liberal Methodist pastor down the road from Jones’ church said.… Well, “liberal Methodist pastor” pretty much sums it up.
What the ABC piece didn’t comment on was the vandalism done to Jones’ church already apparent in the very video ABC shot. His event sign had been spray-painted “NAZI,” his church sign busted, and the cross on the church building busted. What’s odd here? Why not consider who likely would have committed such acts? The implication is “serves him right,” but no, it does not. Most likely the only people who would have reacted thusly would have been radical Muslims or radical leftists—people who by definition don’t care about other people’s property. No comment from the media on that.
So we know who the real reactionaries are. Perhaps Jones is correct to raise awareness. And perhaps we should also publically burn the humanist manifestos and the UN charter and “Earth Charter” next week. Then, copies of The Audacity of Hope, and Dreams from My Father which apparently left out most of the real story about his and his family’s deep and still somewhat secret CIA history. And gee, we can’t wait to see Obama’s “Foreword” to fellow-Marxist Nelson Mandela’s Conversations with Myself.
Jones’ interviewer tries the ubiquitous “WWJD” trick concerning burning the Koran. Jones stood his ground: “Jesus would not run around burning books, but I think he would burn this one.” Indeed, there is something of an apostolic precedent in Acts 19:19–20, where Christians in Ephesus piled and burned their books of black magic publically, and the act caused the spread of the Word of God. Granted, this was done by converts from those arts, but it was still done amidst a culture that revered the pagan books that were burned. There is no mention of a condemnation from Paul over sensitivity or any other concern.
Neoconservative politiqueen Sarah Palin thinks, “Book burning is antithetical to American ideals.” No, Sarah, telling people what of their own property they can and can’t burn is antithetical to American ideals.
So do I support Koran burning? Not necessarily. I would rather people actually read the Koran, and stand ready to “burn” it theologically and historically. I agree with this video, where we learn among other things about Uthman, third Caliph of Islam (AD 644), who allegedly standardized the Arabic Koran amidst variant manuscripts and then burned (scream about that Keith) all the previous manuscripts and copies. This was the first Koran burning.
I don’t care that Jones’ plan was provocative. So is building the mosque near ground zero; so is Richard Dawkins buying ad space on buses to display atheistic taunts; so is Glenn Beck co-opting MLK day; so is Pelosi exposing her gavel on her way to vote on Obamacare while walking past TEA party protesters; so are Michael Moore’s hatchet jobs, or Michael Moore, period, for that matter. Why is it all of the sudden that something may be provocative towards Islam, and so we must back down?
I do care, however, that Christians so often choose these “fireworks” type of stunts in order to make a statement. So often these come from dispensational and premillennial believers who see society in inevitable decay. With the end times approaching, why do anything towards long-term building of civilization? Rather, let’s do something cheap and loud—have a protest march, burn some Korans—to get the public’s attention. Call it Christian shock media. These types are the Howard Sterns and Jerry Springers of the Christian world. Rather than plan, save, engage in hard work, home school, etc. as means of spreading Christian civilization, these guys prefer a “light fuse and get away” school of evangelism.
I do care, also, that the American media have such an openly double standard, but I repeat myself. The whole stink boils down to the fact that the left doesn’t like it, so they attack it and squash it through government pressure. In doing so they created the biggest media furor surrounding a fundamentalist since the Scopes trial. Now this tiny no-name church got the attention of the whole world and the president and FBI begged him for mercy.
I do care that there is probably a more effective way to raise awareness of the dangers of Islam.
Or is there?