So. Burning the Qu'ran now, are we? (Or Koran. Whichever.)

I would like to start by saying that I don't mean to sound flippant... but that would be a lie. Yes, I do mean to sound flippant. I think the preacher who is doing this is simply trying to get attention for himself (which is why I won't be linking to anything about him or providing specific information); and that he didn't think ahead far enough to anticipate that real people somewhere else may pay the price for his attention whoring; and now suddenly his little scheme looks to be generating negative backlash by painting him as someone willing to sacrifice American soldiers (and maybe non-combatants) for his own agenda.

Still, my head-slapping annoyance at this joker (whom I have trouble saying anything polite and charitable about, or even thinking about without profanities) might be the result of some knee-jerk bias on my part against people who freaking burn books.

So, as teeth-grittingly as it makes me feel to do so, I decided to sit down and try to have a reasonable discussion with myself (and anyone else who wants to join in, I guess you're welcome, too... {wry g}) over the question of whether it might actually be a good thing to buy up copies of someone else's religious scriptures (especially when that religion has managed to contribute some positive things to world culture) and burn them.

And as much as I don't like to admit it, there might be grounds of some sort for doing so. Of some sort. Some.

Actually, the topic is rather deeper than my knee-jerk "NO!"

To give one example off the top of my head: some interviewer asked the preacher "WWJD?" Is this really what Jesus would do? He answered, "Absolutely, no doubt." Which was interesting because the preacher was much more reluctant to answer the more provocative question, "Do you not have even a twinge of conscience about doing this?" Yeah, he clearly did, because General Petraeus had made it clear that even the threat of doing this was inspiring pre-emptive hostile rallies in Afghanistan, and guess who was going to get the blame for that if it escalated?

(I will take a moment here to opine that if this fellow really wanted to impress anyone with his faithfulness in burning a bunch of Korans, he should take up money or convert his own finances into cash for the purpose, and ship himself to Afghanistan or someplace like that with his collected books, and burn them in a marketplace himself. And then stay there the rest of his life, in that village, without demanding troop protection, to deal with the results of his actions. I still wouldn't agree with his choice to do so, but I'd respect it infinitely more.)

Now, my immediate reply to the question WWJD in regard to burning a pile of Korans (or even one of them), is "NO!" That just isn't the sort of thing Jesus did in the canonical Gospels. It's more like the sort of thing He refused to do when tempted by Satan.

But then the logical nit-picky corner of my mind pipes up with, 'Hey, remember when you ranked Keith Parsons a solid edge of a win in his debate back in the 90s with William Lane Craig, because among other things WLC flagrantly schismed the Persons of the Trinity by denying that Jesus would do something KP correctly attributed to God in the OT? WELCOME TO IRONY THEATER!'

Yep; sauce for WLC's goose is sauce for my gander. Because, while book burning per se wasn't something done in the Old Testament, the Lord--which for an orthodox trinitarian theist like myself means Jesus--did in fact instruct people to destroy the religious elements of other people. Bust idols. Burn groves. Etc.

Granted, this was done in the context of cleaning out their own house; although that also includes the context of invading where someone else was living and taking that land over. (That's apparently What Jesus Would Do, too, or at least order done.) But still, yeah, that could be said to apply to burning copies of the Qu'ran in a Christian country (or at least a Christian community).

So why am I so against such a thing?

Because I also remember things Jesus said (and which were said in the OT, too) about living in peace with one's neighbors, and loving your neighbor (including your enemy) as yourself, and doing unto others as I would have them do to me, and not judging or condemning lest I be condemned (insert irony again here as applicable!), and about being harsh on myself first and foremost and the logs in my own eye rather than burning the mote in the other guy's eye (or... well, words to that effect anyway...)

Also, book burning (and things of that sort) strikes me as being spiritually weak, rather than spiritually strong. Allowances might have to be made for that weakness, but it doesn't reflect well on the weak one. (Though naturally the weak one would think of such an action as being strong--that's part of his weakness.) I was taught justice and fair-play, including from the scriptures; and I was taught (also from the scriptures) that justice and fair-play are not ultimately optional, even if they result in painful short-term losses.

Book burning does not seem to me to be fair-play. At best it's a concession to the weakness of the one doing the burning. Fair play would be moving to Afghanistan or Iran or anywhere like that, and being a missionary there, winning hearts to Christ--and living, or dying (or wishing for death), with the consequences. That's what spiritually strong people do, people spiritually stronger than myself, in my experience as a Christian. Burning books, safely in Florida no less, is what spiritually weak people do, because they aren't worth anything better (or not yet anyway).

I could write a bunch more on this topic, pro and con. But I'd rather open up the floor for comments on this topic from other Cadrists and guests.


Jason Pratt said…
Registering for comment tracking.
Layman said…
The pastor should never have made this a church project.

That being said, how does one small church of under 100 members make headlines like this? The reaction seems to be way out of proportion to the event. One church among thousands, less than 100 Christians out of tens of millions, and we have a U.S. General telling this one church what they should do?

On a whole, if Gen. Petreus is correct and this one small church's actions can imperil national security, that tells us much more about segments of Islam today than it does the United States or Christians in America.
Weekend Fisher said…
On the planned book-burning: My main concern is that Jesus' name is bound to be dragged through the mud -- and that the mud is likely to stick for a long time.

On Islam: Most people are steadfastly, resolutely uninformed (or even misinformed) about Islam.

I fully expect there to be a fatwa for this so-called pastor's life (if not for his whole mis-led congregation), much like the fatwa on S. Rushdie's life, and for the same reasons / on the same interpretive principles. And Petraeus is right to expect retaliations; he's more familiar with the culture there, so he has a better understanding of their sense of justice.

And while it's perfectly true that the reactions may tell us more about Islam than about Christianity, I suspect nobody will think any worse of Islam. In their heart of hearts, even the critics know that Jesus is the real deal, so they don't much care if the other religions behave worse than us. But us, they care very much if we behave badly (any of us, even those ignoring Jesus' teachings while still claiming his name). I think our part as Christians is to stand up against this strongly and unambiguously.

My comment's long enough already but Jason, one of these days, you & I are going to go the rounds on your suggestion about Jesus (re WLC/Parsons debate or whether it applies here, as the case may be). At any rate, I think your "NO!" is the correct and healthy response that springs from following Jesus. (Which is to say, the real Jesus we know from the gospels, not one that a debater with a proclaimed anti-Christian agenda tried to convince a Christian he was obligated to accept, with the strategic goal that the Christian would then reject emotionally a picture of Jesus that he had been sold by an atheist in order to cause exactly that reaction, that basic loss of faith in Jesus' goodness). It may be Parsons' atheist view of Jesus that has lived on in your mind and caused you to hesitate and second-guess yourself about the "NO!" which was ringing very clearly in your mind when you concentrated on the Jesus you know.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF
Jason Pratt said…

Actually, it's the Gospels' portrayal of Jesus which has lived on in my mind that leads me to occasionally forget Jesus did (or was credited with doing and/or requiring) a bunch of things in the OT that might fit right well with the notion of faithful Judeo-Christians burning another religion's artifacts (and which I ought to keep in mind as also being "the Jesus I know"). Thus leading to some self-critical introspection on my part in favor of attention-whoring preacher guy and against my first inclination to grit my teeth at his publicity ploy (and sort of wish he was fired into the sun for dragging Christianity down into the mud of technical barbarism as well as for leveraging the lives of American soldiers and non-combatants while he sits safe in Florida.)

And regardless of what the proper explanation is for that apparent discrepency, of which I can think of several, speaking as a dedicated trinitarian theist in regard to the apologetics of another dedicated trinitarian theist, I don't think I'm obligated to appreciate a defense from such an apologist that involves schisming the Persons of the Trinity. That's a defense a unitarian might try with some plausibility (though I still wouldn't recommend it, even on terms of unitarian theology).

Be that as it may. {g} If I write an article on that someday (on my list of things to do), I'm sure it'll be at some other forum I help author, and not here where I try to be more broadly ecumenical in my main post topics.

Which gets back again to self-critically coming up with as much credit for that goombah as possible. (Teeth-gritting as that feels for me to do.) I could think of some other pros in favor of him burning a pile of Korans; but I'm curious what other Cadrists think of him first, and I don't want to take all the good arguments for it (such as they are {grit}{grit} {lopsided g}) in case anyone else wants to use them for purposes of discussion.

Metacrock said…
Jesus only did iconoclastic stuff in his own context, not against foreign groups. One thing Protestants in America forget, or ever knew, is that Jews have never been on a rampage against other cultures. When the OT condemns idolatry it never says "they are idolaters becuase they are foreign and untrustworthy."

We don't have the kind of continental relationship between God an America that God had with Israel, even though a lot of Americans want to pretend we do.

The chruch is not called to degrade or make war on other faiths or destroy stuff.

In Romans Paul says something to the effect "ok you are not idolater do you rob temples?" I think he's saying don't let your sanctimony become a cover for doing a greater evil.
Jason Pratt said…
Anne's brief open letter yesterday on her own blog was pretty good, btw. {g!}

(The only thing I would add is that love of my neighbor is why I was, and am, trying to tamp down on my constitutional annoyance against what he's doing, and trying to look at it from any kind of even partially Biblical justification.)

I'm glad to see Christians across all the ideological spectrum coming together (sometimes from different directions and for different reasons) to condemn this action. I'm not entirely sure what message this will send--frankly the radicals are going to use any stick to beat us with, it's merely a question of how they choose to disrespect us (not unlike the New Atheists, ironically {wry g}). But I hope the more sober moderates, even where (for religious or non-religious reasons) they disbelieve or oppose Christianity, will come away understanding us (and maybe even appreciating us?) a little better.

Apologiatron said…

Interesting perspective. How come you guys dont post much on the main Cadre page anymore?
Jason Pratt said…
I've never posted at all to the main page (only here on the journal), so I can't answer that question. {g}

It's probably just that we've moved our posting efforts somewhere else, though. The journal is a lot handier in several ways, including for feedback; plus we're all busy on other projects. I've been a guest author for since Sept 08, for example. Or 07. I forget. Probably 08. I'm too lazy to go check right now. {lopped g} Anyway, I've written a huge amount of material there since then, but that's time and energy I'm not spending here.

The other guys have similar issues. Eh.


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