Terry Jones and his friends at Dove World Outreach Center are having a rough time. About 2 weeks ago, they gathered on church grounds and did what they’ve been threatening to do for almost a year: burn a Koran. In an article from the New York Times, we find out things haven’t gone so well for him and his church lately. Membership is dwindling, he’s broke, his neighbors don’t like him and, according to him, he has a price on his head. His actions have caused rioting in Afghanistan and, so far, over 20 people have lost their lives. You’d think he might be a little repentant, even humble about it all. Not Jones; he says he’s saddened by the deaths, but he’d do it all over again, given the chance. Unfortunately, he feels no culpability for his actions, saying “Did our action provoke them? Of course. Is it a provocation that can be justified? Is it a provocation that should lead to death? When lawyers provoke me, when banks provoke me, when reporters provoke me, I can’t kill them. That would not fly.” Maybe I’m wrong, but the provocations I get from banks and lawyers aren’t quite as incendiary as, oh I don’t know, BURNING SOMEONE’S HOLY BOOK!!! Some people just don’t get it; part of loving your neighbor is respecting what they believe.
In Jones’ office, a “Braveheart” movie poster adorns one wall. His Bible is always close at hand and he says both of these provide the support he needs to spread the message that Islam and the Koran are instruments of “violence, death and terrorism.” Excuse me, but if you’re a follower of Christ, shouldn’t the message you’re struggling to get out be “Love God and love your neighbor”? Maybe if Jones was more interested in one of William Wallace’s (almost) contemporaries, he’d have a different take on this. Julian of Norwich was a 14th century Christian mystic who wrote several works on God’s love for us. Julian believed God loves us and wants to save us all; I think that would include Muslims. The amazing thing about this is that she wrote all this during the Dark Ages; a time that, with its plagues, wars and persecutions, makes the current era look like heaven by comparison. The fact that she was walled up in a cell in the church wall and never left makes it even more amazing to my eyes.
I wish I could say it was just the fringe groups like Dove World Outreach who engage in sending these hateful messages, but I can’t. How many of us like bumper stickers on cars that advise the owner will do violence to thieves that are right beside ones saying “Jesus is the answer”? How many of us have supported wars, all the while going to church and praising a God who specifically commanded us to not only turn the other cheek, but to love our enemies? How many of us secretly or openly liked what Jones & Co. did while teaching our children the story of the Good Samaritan? How many of us want to defend ourselves our faith instead of truly following Christ and giving up everything except love? That’s not an easy path to take. Pretty straight and narrow, if you think about it.