Terry Jones leads a small church in Gainesville, Florida. The church plans to burn copies of the Quran on Saturday, to mark the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks. Everyone from President Obama to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari weighed in on the memorial event. There are grave concerns from American elected and military officials regarding potential Islamic repercussions around the globe. I find it fascinating that a small group in a sleepy university town can create such and international uproar. Perhaps this is a product of on-demand news on a slow news day.
I have a couple of thoughts, opinions mostly, about the upcoming weekend event. If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you already know that I’m not a fan of picketing, boycotts, or book burnings. These actions are classified as attention grabbers and publicity gimmicks. Serious studies indicate religious boycotts don’t work and typically fuel sales of boycotted items and retailers. In reference to a book burning, what is your intended or planned result? What do you expect to gain from the activity? There’s really nothing to gain but some fuel for barbeque and the nightly news.
Here’s my thought, I’m not sure if stomping your foot and screaming, “I’m mad and I’m not going to take it anymore” is really all that effective. It’s too short sighted, boasts of self, and just stirs the pot. If you seriously want to engage Islamic culture with the Gospel let’s earnestly investigate avenues and means with which to do so. This requires some serious homework on our part, let alone a move to doing ministry outside of our comfort zone. Sorry to say, I think we look for an easy way (like a book burning) rather than a serious methodology. The problem is most American Christians don’t take enough time to learn about their own faith, how can we expect them to investigate the faith of another to intelligibly dialogue about comparisons, contrasts, and truths. Western Christians are ignorant regarding the basic tenets of the Christian faith. We confuse tradition for truth and opinion for fact. You must know what you believe before you can think about engaging others about their beliefs. Maybe a class on basic Christian beliefs followed by a course in faiths of other kinds might be in order. Perhaps a course contrasting the differences might be worthwhile too. Let’s look at other meaningful options instead of book burnings.