Terry Jones, pastor of Dove World Outreach Church in Gainesville, FL appears to be going forward with plans to host a “burn a Koran” day on Sept. 11, in spite of international outrage. If there’s anything that might dissuade him from hosting the event, it will probably be the concern that his church’s actions might cause problems for American troops serving in the Middle East. As usual, the press coverage of this incident has muddied the waters considerably, making it difficult to see what’s really at stake.
On the one hand, my gut reaction to Jones’ plan is frustration: does he really think this is an effective or even legitimate way to demonstrate the truth of Christianity? Make no mistake about it, I do NOT endorse this kind of action. On the other hand, the criticisms leveled at Jones in the national press hardly constitute rational discourse. Most of them boil down to “I thought Christian were supposed to love everyone?! How can you be so hate-filled?”
I support Jones’ willingness to take a stand against the teachings of Islam and against the current culture of unwillingness to think critically about religious truth-claims. I just don’t support the way he’s going about it and, to some extent, I’m embarrassed that he and I are on the same team. I don’t know him, so I can’t say if he’s as hate-filled as many people in the media are saying, but his interest in a public burning of the Qua’ran is hard to square with the idea of a pastor who’s filled with the love of Christ.
Don’t misunderstand me: I’m not saying that being loving means ignoring the truth. In fact, to my mind, ignoring the truth about Islam vs. Christianity (and yes, it is a vs. thing) isn’t loving at all. If I know someone’s headed into a minefield, love compels me to point out what I know will be the result of their path.
But, if anything, the controversy that Jones has stirred up is having the opposite effect of what he intended. Rather than causing people to consider the false and inflammatory (no pun intended) teachings of the Qua’ran, which led some radical Muslim groups to execute the 9/11 attacks in the U.S., the current fiasco seems to be giving Islam a white-wash. Prominent imams are being quoted in international media as saying that Jones is simply ignorant and that the Qua’ran “has some of the most beautiful passages about Christ Jesus throughout, as well as Moses, Abraham and all of the prophets he reads about and says he follows in the Bible” (Plemon el-Amin of Atlanta, quoted on CNN). So there you have it: Christianity and Islam are basically the same thing and only the ignorant fail to see that.
Of course, no honest Muslim actually thinks that Christianity and Islam are compatible. Informed and thoughtful Muslims, like informed and thoughtful Christians, know that the fundamental teachings of the two faiths are contradictory. For instance, Islam rejects the Bible as being hopelessly corrupted and untrustworthy. Islam also explicitly denies the Trinity, the crucifixion/resurrection of Jesus and the notion of salvation by faith, all foundational, indispensable doctrines of Christianity. For its part, Christianity denies the inspiration of the Qua’ran, Muhammad’s status as a genuine prophet and Islam’s soteriology (doctrine of salvation). Since the two faiths clearly contradict on these key issues, they are not compatible worldviews. In such a case, one of three things must be true: 1) Christianity is right and Islam is wrong, 2) Islam is right and Christianity is wrong or 3) both are wrong. This is simple, everyday common sense, but it is utterly missing from the current conversation in the national media.
Also missing are important but inconvenient truths. For instance, Muslim groups have burned Bibles in the recent past yet these events went virtually un-remarked upon in the U.S. media (for a recent example, check out http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/285123/christians_in_gaza_fear_for_their_lives.html?cat=9). More importantly, they went un-denounced by the governments in which those events took place. Yet the U.S. government does not hesitate to denounce similar actions by its own citizens because otherwise this might enrage Muslims around the world. Ironically, the U.S. government doesn’t hesitate to consider building a Muslim Mosque near the site of the 9/11 attacks in spite of the outrage of its own citizens, more than 70% of whom believe the plan is an insult to the victims of the attacks.
As usual, the whole thing’s a big mess and with the media stirring the pot, it’s unlikely that the truth will ever emerge from the mud clearly enough to get a fair hearing.