It never ceases to amaze me the people who proclaim to be representatives of God but are so willing to unleash hate. As disturbed as I am by such behavior, I am even more disturbed that there are people willing to follow the lead of such individuals and extend that hate even further from its origins.
Such is the ministry of Rev. Terry Jones and his Gainesville, FL church. In what can only be accurately described as an incendiary act, on Saturday evening, September 11, Jones and his church will burn copies of the Quran, the holy book of Islam.
There are few acts where you can get the Vatican, the White House, the State Department, the Justice Department, military leaders, as well as religious leaders from across the spectrum, all in arm-in-arm agreement, but Rev. Jones has done it. The universal disdain and condemnation for their Saturday program has been impressive, but despite the fervent pleas to not ignite fires that will go far beyond Gainesville, Rev. Jones has decided to go forward.
Jones’ despicable act is not the first such incendiary act the world has seen. The name of God has literally been invoked to justify book burnings, torture, suicide bombings, murder and other wretched crimes. No religion is immune from such insanity either.
What makes Jones so important now is the timing of his act, coinciding with the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and it comes in the wake of the Ground Zero mosque controversy. As TIME Magazine’s cover story recently asked, “Is America Islamophobic?”
That’s a fair question to ask when there has been so much demonization going on about Islam and its believers. While I think the Ground Zero Mosque should be built somewhere other than the currently selected location, I found some of the rhetoric used against the proposed mosque went beyond any type of reasonable dialogue; it became outright bigoted. As distasteful as I may have found the language of those railing against the mosque, it is the actions of people like Rev. Jones who portray themselves as holy people that I see as more dangerous. Jones fundamentalist zeal, like the torturers of Abu Ghraib, has become additional fuel for Al Qaeda and Islamic terrorist crowd recruitment and sympathy.
While every person within U.S. borders is afforded the rights and privileges that come with the First Amendment freedoms of expression, those rights come with responsibilities. Using one’s position of authority – be it elected, appointed or self-anointed – to light fires of hate is a threat not just to our civil society but to our own humanity.
Political ideologies, religious practices and other belief systems built on hate tend to be self consuming and eventually die out but unfortunately not before they consume others in their wake.
The Rev. Jones’ of this world can proclaim their revelations all they want. That is their constitutional right. It is worth noting that his ministry is one that plays to the cameras, much like that of the military funeral protesters at Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, KS. In both cases, these self-professed Christians proclaim a faith of rage and hate, and while I am not a perfect Christian, I’m more than comfortable stating true faith is built upon acts of hope, forgiveness and loving one’s neighbor as one’s self.
It is also worth noting that there is no hope when flames of hate are unleashed. There is just ash, angst, and empty rage, and no future or heavenly kingdom can be built upon such ground. Any belief system that does perpetuate such hate, be it Rev. Jones’, Ayman Al-Zawahiri’s or some other warped ideologue, is destined for the ash heap of history. History has proven that time and again, and I’m confident that when Rev. Jones’ time comes for final judgment, he will have to answer for that which he has destroyed and look back with a sense of emptiness of what he could have built instead.
Until that time comes, I ask you to join me in a simple prayer for Rev. Jones and his Gainesville congregation for Saturday night.
Pray for rain.