Reverend Terry Jones is the pastor of a small church with big ambition. While his flock only numbers 50 he calls his ministry "Dove World Outreach Center." Located in Gainesville, Fla., Jones decided he would like his name and his ministry to forever linked with book burning.
In his case, the book he intends to burn is the rambling monologue dictated by Muhammad, the founder of Islam, also known as the Quran. The burning is planned for September 11, the anniversary of al-Qaida's attack on America. Jones says it will "send a message to radical Islam that we will not tolerate their behavior." But what message will he really send?
Well, if he is a publicity seeker, Jones has succeeded. His picture is all over the TV. World leaders are denouncing him. Across the Islamic world, jihadists are chanting "Death to Christians," as they burn the American flag. He is currently a household name.
But what is he doing for the Christian beliefs he allegedly has made his life's work to advance? Is he representing the values and message of Jesus?
Jesus was outspoken about how to respond to evil. In Matthew 5:38-40 Jesus says: "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well."
Saint Paul in Romans 12:14-20 makes the same point: "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse... Live in harmony with one another... Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord. On the contrary: 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
We believe Rev. Jones has the right to burn a Quran. We live in a free country, and it is legal to burn just about anything if you own it. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of Jones to burn the Quran. It also guarantees the right of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf to build his Victory Mosque near Ground Zero on private land.
Neither of these two actions is prudent and necessary. We agree with Sarah Palin and believe this book burning is "insensitive and an unnecessary provocation -- much like building a mosque at Ground Zero."
Palin continued in her Facebook posting: "I would hope that Pastor Terry Jones and his supporters will consider the ramifications of their planned book-burning event. It will feed the fire of caustic rhetoric and appear as nothing more than mean-spirited religious intolerance. Don't feed that fire. If your ultimate point is to prove that the Christian teachings of mercy, justice, freedom, and equality provide the foundation on which our country stands, then your tactic to prove this point is totally counter-productive."
Jones remains defiant, "As of right now, we are not convinced that backing down is the right thing." If he won't listen to Sarah Palin, Gen. David Petraeus, Pope Benedict XVI, or any of the other world leaders calling for him to stop, then let's hope in the days before 9/11 he reads his Bible, prays and reconsiders striking a match that could start an uncontrolled fire.
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