It is a bad idea to burn the Quran, a book considered holy to over a billion people, and it’s a sin. Do I really need to say this to a fellow Christian? But Pastor Terry Jones wants to publicly burn copies of the Quran this Saturday, September 11. You can read more here: Pastor Wants to Burn Quran
I know he is trying to illustrate some important things. He is trying illustrate the western value of free speech, usually lacking in the Islamic world. He is trying to illustrate religious freedom here in the west and the lack of it in the Islamic world where Bibles have in fact been burned. He is trying to draw attention to the violent threats that have continued to emerge related to his plans.
Intentionally giving offense is wrong – I do not deny that there are problems in the Islamic world. But I also know that it is wrong to intentionally and grievously give offense to the religious traditions of others. Proper discussions, even debate about religious differences are healthy and part of evangelization. But ridicule and offensive practices directed against others is not of the Christian faith. Scripture says: Always be prepared to give an account to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that is in you. But do this with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).
Further, to tempt others to sin is wrong. It is a true fact that Pastor Jones’ plans have incited anger and threats. There are many in the Islamic World who have, in fact, a violent sense of their faith. Their view is morally wrong. But to needlessly incite that anger is also wrong. Knowing that there are violent tendencies in sectors of Islam, it is wrong to inflame those tendencies and draw others to anger and violence. In effect Pastor Jones is tempting others to sin. He may have a right to do this but it is not necessary for him to do this. This compounds the sinfulness of the planned book burning.
It is also wrong to endanger the lives of others by reckless behavior. It is a strong likelihood that hundreds, possibly thousands may die if rioting occurs. It is easy for us to say, “Well they shouldn’t get so worked up about it….see the problem is theirs.” That is a debate for another time. But this action is sure to inflame passions. General David Petraeus has warned that our troops will also be endangered by these reckless plans. He has urged Jones to back down. Pastor Jones says he will “pray about it.”
Pastor Terry Jones is gravely misled if he thinks Jesus might tell him to do this. Jesus had a different notion: You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? (Matt 5:43-47)
We need to have an on-going discussion with the Islamic world about religious freedom and about the violence in growing sectors of Islam. But buring the Quran, a book they consider sacred, is no way to further such a discussion.
I’d like to know what you think of this. I hope all of us will be careful in this discussion to make necessary distinctions and maintain a respectful discourse. Issues such as this inflame passions. Further, it is helpful to see this issue not merely as a referendum on Islam. There are areas for appropriate concern when it comes to Isalm and how it interacts with the non-Islamic world. But a primary issue for us here should also be, is what Terry Jones plans to do what a Christian ought to do?