Defending the Faith

Terry Jones is the pastor of the Dover World Outreach Center in Gainesville, FL. His church has scheduled a Quran burning ceremony for this Saturday, 9/11.

This week, many across our country are going to be using Saturday (9/11) as an occasion of remembrance of the tragedy that has simply come to be known as “9/11”.  The group that’s perhaps causing the biggest stir in their remembrance is a Christian church down in Gainesville, FL.  The Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville plans to mark the anniversary of al Qaeda’s September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington by burning copies of the Muslim holy book, the Quran.

On Monday, U.S. General David Petraeus, stationed in Afghanistan, issued a statement criticizing the Florida church and suggesting that such a public demonstration “could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort in Afghanistan.”

Apparently the outrage has already started to surface.  Thousands of Muslim Indonesians have begun to protest outside the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta.  Unrest is naturally growing in the Middle East regarding the situation as well.  And American Muslims are obviously not happy either.

As far as Christians in the U.S., there are mixed opinions.  The National Association of Evangelicals is urging the church to cancel the event, warning it could cause worldwide tension between the two religions.  Likewise, an armed Christian organization that had pledged to protect the Dove World Outreach Center withdrew its support from the Quran-burning last week when the media backlash started to hit.

I’ll be honest, I have mixed opinions myself.  At first glance, almost everything about Terry Jones and his Dove World Outreach Center smacks of crazy deep south extremist.  However, upon further examination, it does appear as though he’s done his homework.  If you check out his website (http://www.doveworld.org/) and note, in particular, the confessions made by Islam scholars about what the religion truly teaches, I’m sure you’ll find this to be true as well.  As “extreme” as Jones (author of Islam is of the Devil) may appear, he’s at least informed.

Jones was attacked by Rick Sanchez, host of the program Rick’s List, on his CNN show recently and Sanchez demonstrated the very misinformed understanding of Islam that much of America also demonstrates.  Jones suggested that Islam is “leading people to hell” (which the Bible would support), is “a deceptive religion” (which converts from Islam would support), and is “a violent religion” (which history would support).  After each of these comments, Sanchez contended, “You believe this.” A clip of this is  @ http://bit.ly/a4bcSd

Sorry, Sanchez.  Although it’s true that I cannot quantitatively prove that followers of the Muslim faith are in hell, I can easily prove, at the very least, that Islam is both deceptive and violent.

For starters, despite the presence of the Muslim faith in American culture, studies repeatedly show that the majority of Americans are unaware of what the Muslim faith really teaches.  Common unknowns?

  1. Islam teaches that Jesus was not only NOT the Son of God but that he also did NOT die on the cross – teachings that categorically remove Muslims from any biblical possibility of salvation.
  2. Although touted as a religion of “peace”, Islam is peaceful only to Muslims.  Others, infidels, are the enemy.  If people deny Mohammad or his teachings as from God, their blood is to be shed, their property seized, and their women captured.
  3. Viewing women as second-rate citizens is not restricted to extensive coverings.  Wives are considered slaves to their husbands and are to be whipped if obedience needs to be taught.

If any of this is indeed unknown to the American masses, then perhaps Islam is more deceptive than one might first think.

As far as Islamic violence, without chronicling the entire history, let me put it this way – there is currently not a single “Christian” country in the world where you can be persecuted if you practice another religion.  However, there are many “non-Christian” countries where if you practice Christianity, your life could be in danger.  Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran all fall into this category.  And their religion?  Islam.

Burning the literature of a group that (on the books) advocates bloodshed to those of different beliefs and violence to women doesn’t sound as insane as our increasingly tolerant (i.e. “stand-for-nothing”) country might initially believe.

Perhaps most bothersome of all to me in this, however, is that an American general is attempting to guilt a church out of practicing what it believes because it could mean danger for the army.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that part of the reason that we have armed forces – protection of our 1st Amendment rights to practice freedom of religion?

I appreciate and pray for our armed forces.  And I certainly don’t want any unnecessary harm to come upon them.  However, if this follows through, the setting of a precedent for the U.S. armed forces or government telling churches what they should/should not be advocating is more than a little scary.

Speaking to his disciples, Jesus once said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).  Realistically, how many steps away are we from Jesus’ words here becoming a divisive statement that is considered intolerant.  You cannot deny that it’s exclusive.  You either see Jesus as God’s Son and your Lord and Savior or you don’t.  You can’t have both.  Islam and Christianity are completely and fundamentally divided on this.  We do NOT worship the same God under different names.  If you take away my right to teach what is and is not God’s Word (albeit extreme, but not dangerous or violent, measures like Quran burning), then we’ve taken a large step to eliminate one of the most important elements of our country’s history – freedom of religion.

Obviously, there’s a part of me that feels strongly about defending Jones and his church.  The other part feels very different about the situation though.  The other part of me feels that what Jones and his church are doing projects a confrontational nature that is not consistent with gospel proclamation.  It’s perhaps a subtle difference, but the Christian church has really not historically, successfully sought to aggressively spread itself as much as faithfully defend itself.  When it has sought to spread by aggression and force (Constantine’s conversion of Rome, the Crusades, European Imperialism, etc.) bad things have happened to the church.  What typically has occurred is 1) there were nominal converts, but they brought their pagan ideas into the church with lasting damages, and 2) eventually this force was seen by Christians and non-Christians alike as incompatible with the message of Christianity, resulting in regrettable scars for the church.

Another thought troubling me is that while it’s true that the Quran is the book that the Muslim terrorists in al Qaeda base their justification of 9/11 on, it’s not entirely fair to base your opinion of a group’s dangerous potential on extremists.  Hitler at times used both Scripture and Luther to validate some of his horrendous opinions.  I wouldn’t like someone judging Christianity or Lutheranism as dangerous on the basis of extremists who profess adherence to it.  And while Islam (on the books) certainly allows for violence to “infidels” like myself, I have never once had a Muslim threaten me here in America.  While I think that Jones is seeking to provide a much-needed thump on the head of America to wake our country up to the dangers of false teaching like Islam, I have trouble viewing the burning of an Islamic holy book as a gateway to winning over their hearts to Christ.

Tacky as it is to reference yourself, this is to me another illustration of the point I was attempting to drive home a month ago in The Love/Truth Dynamic (http://bit.ly/b2R8bL).  Here, Terry Jones, wild mustache and all, appears to be the embodiment of “truth without love”.  Rick Sanchez and much of the American public are the embodiment of “love without truth” (note: “love” as defined by 2010 America as “tolerance”).  Where shall the rest of us stand?

In issues like this, I find myself feeling like most of the world (except me of course :)) is insane – typically one of the telltale signs of someone actually suffering from insanity himself.  So, I’m curious about your thoughts.  Please, tell me what you think about this Quran burning issue in Gainesville and what you think it’ll mean for our country if Jones does or does not go through with it.

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3 thoughts on “Defending the Faith

  1. Karen says:

    I completey agree with what you posted. I just got done writing a similar e-mail to Jones. I have no idea what good it could do but I can only hope and pray. I see America as either joining Jones in his hatred for muslims or joining together in hatred towards Jones. Neither is what God called us to. Where are the Christians who will go and win over the hearts of the muslims? My husband has done missions in a muslim country before and has already gotten to see how little Americans can accomplish over there because of our messed up values (mtv, porn, etc.) and our contradictory “love”. I hope and pray that God will somehow get glory out of this. But how dare I think that God isn’t powerful enough to make sure of that. Maybe I need to turn my prayers away from the 9/11 Jones situation and towards how God can show up powerfully through all of this.

  2. Tommy E. says:

    James, well said. Thanks for tackling this subject. We, as Christians need to speak the truth, but we need to speak the truth in love.
    What bothers me is that while Jones isn’t going about this in a very good way, no one else seems to be addressing the fact that something that hasn’t even happened yet (the book burning) is causing so much outrage and even violence. Doesn’t that right there give us a little insight into the violent nature of some/much of Islam? Books can be reprinted, even after the “extreme” measures of being burned. Is a book-burning cause for threats of violence?

  3. Susan Conn says:

    My thoughts: Listen to your own voice, “telling churches what they should/should not be advocating is more than a little scary”. This country was founded on freedom of religion and that is not limited to Christian religions. Whether you agree or disagree with another’s religious beliefs or accept their holy book, you do not have the right to tell Islamic Muslims what to believe any more than they do you. Many people would argue that Christianity is a deceptive religion that has a well known history of violence and site examples from the Bible as inciting violence, particularly from the Old Testament. Let’s not jump to the conclusion that a splinter group of extremists represents an entire religion. I’m sure you wouldn’t care for the rest of the world thinking that the Ku Klux Klan, who consider themselves Christians, represent you.

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