Burning the Koran and Shooting Yourself in the Foot

There’s probably nothing new I need to add on this whole Koran burning business, but once a blog post starts forming in my head it’s hard to keep it in.

No doubt, you know by now that Terry Jones of Dove World Outreach in Gainesville, Florida is planning to burn the Muslim holy book on September 11 to protest Islam. I’m not going to take the time to provide all the links, but if you google “Koran burning” you’ll quickly discover that everybody and their brother has condemned this event and wants to see it halted: the White House, the State Department, Hillary Clinton, Eric Holder, Gen. David Petraeus, the Vatican, the National Council of Churches, and the National Association of Evangelicals. In fact, is there anyone outside of the 50 members of Dove World Outreach that think this is a good idea?

Of all the ways to voice your opposition to Muslim radicals and the Islamic religion this is about the stupidest. This is not at all like the book burning in Acts 19 where people burned their own books. As Carl Trueman points out, book burnings have a history of doing nothing but making you look like a crackpot Nazi wannabe and making your opponents look more humane and the burned books more interesting. And then there’s the fact that virtually every Christian group is calling on Jones to stop the planned burning, to say nothing of the warning issued by General Petraeus who’s not exactly a multicultural sycophant trying to appease the Islamic world. A non-stupid person would listen to these reproofs (Proverbs 12:1).

The sad irony in all this–and here’s where I pray someone will share something like this with Terry Jones–is that burning the Koran on Saturday will help Muslims more than anyone else. Dove World Outreach is not helping America and they are not helping Christianity. Think of the possible harm from this grandstanding protest:

  • American troops face stronger opposition as Muslims are energized by pictures of the Koran in flames.
  • Missionaries in Muslim lands may be put at risk. It’s one thing when international conflicts put Christians overseas in danger. That’s bad enough. What’s much worse is when the completely unnecessary actions of one pastor in Florida put them at risk.
  • News outlets give hours of coverage to one fringe pastor while the honorable deeds of thousands of churches go unnoticed. I flipped through the morning news (I use the word loosely) programs yesterday and saw that every one was doing something about the burning. There’s no reason a pastor of a 50-person church should get this kind of attention, but since he’s doing something dumb Matt Lauer will pay attention.
  • Muslims extremism is seen more and more as a product of Western aggravation. One of my big concerns is that if the Koran burning takes place and if parts of the Muslim world erupt in violence and hatred, many Americans and Europeans will say, “Well, you can hardly blame them.” No, we can still blame them. Killing people or threatening to kill people is not one of the acceptable responses to your holy book being burned. It’s like telling your little brother, “Touch me again and I’ll clobber you.” The little brother is stupid to touch him, but the older brother is still wrong to punch him. I’m afraid this will be lost on most people who will see pictures of a church burning Korans and ignore the fact that some Muslims may see this an excuse to kill.

So if anyone out there has access to Terry Jones’ email, you might want to send him a link to this post. If he can’t be persuaded by reason, Christian virtue (e..g, “love is not rude”), and an appeal to civility, maybe he can at least see that the proposed book burn is against his own aims. We’d all be much obliged if Pastor Jones decided not to shoot himself in the foot. And such a decision might just help some other people avoid getting shot in worse places.