Quick takes on the cancellation(?) of the Qur'an burning in Florida

Regarding the sensational plans of the obscure Dove World Outreach Center to burn Qur'ans this weekend, my friend Sarah said it best: "[I have] many pressing things to do and feel annoyed that [I] might reasonably be expected to say something in opposition to the incendiary plans of a very, very small group of [my] co-religionists. Which is exactly how [I] suppose millions of Muslims have felt for years."

The more religious and political leaders called upon Pastor Terry Jones to renounce his plans, the more I expected him to dig in his heels -- the sort of people who burn other people's holy books in protest tend to be the sort of people who imagine themselves to be a persecuted minority with a spiritual obligation to stand up for TRUTH in the face of mighty opposition. So I did a double-take when I read the headline this afternoon announcing that the thing was off.

Upon reading past the headline, some reactions.

(1) Hooray! While part of me is a little nervous that he's going to come back tomorrow and say "Psych!", the fact that the book burning is apparently off is good news.  ***EDIT: In the time it took me to write this, Jones has apparently retracted the cancellation, calling the event "suspended" instead.***

(2) This stuff Terry Jones is saying about brokering an agreement to get the Park51 project (erroneously described as the "Ground Zero Mosque") cancelled or relocated is nonsense.

(3) If Jones feels the need to hide behind a nonsensical claim to have brokered an agreement to move Park51 in order to save face as he backs out of his hideous plan to burn Qur'ans, I really don't have a problem with that. I admire Imam Muhammad Musri's willingness to even speak with Jones and his ability listen to Jones in a way that made him feel like his concerns were taken seriously. (As far as Musri and Jones give different accounts of the conclusions of their conversations, I'm more inclined to believe Musri.)

(4) I really hope that Jones decides to quietly disappear, even once he realizes that the Park51 project is going forward.

(5) Even if Jones decides to proceed with a Qur'an burning at a later date, it is a good thing that it is cancelled now. The anniversary of the 9/11 attacks makes the symbolic actions all the more inflammatory (sorry about the pun). Plus, the news media's chronically short attention span makes it possible that, if he tries this stunt again in the future, it will get the attention it deserves, i.e., none.

(6) It is unfortunate that Jones seems to believe that he needed a sign from God to justify cancelling the event. This is a symptom of a way of thinking that is all too common in evangelical Christendom, whereby we abdicate our own moral judgment in favor of what we deem -- often on highly questionable grounds -- to be direct instruction from the divine. Would that Jones had been able to see, and say, "upon further reflection, abundant wise counsel, and much prayer, we have concluded that our previously announced plans to burn copies of the Qur'an would not advance the Gospel to which we are devoted. We have changed our minds." Alas, "we have changed our minds" are some of the most difficult words in the English language.

(7) Nevertheless, since Jones evidently did need a sign from God to justify his change of mind, I am glad he was able to conjure one that he finds acceptable. The original plan to burn Qur'ans was based on ignorance and bad theology. The decision NOT to burn Qur'ans, it appears, was also based on ignorance and bad theology. The key difference is that the original plan was wrong. I am devoted to the unity of orthodoxy (right belief) and orthopraxy (right behavior), but in practice, I think 1 for 2 is a vast improvement on 0 for 2.


Steve Lansingh said...

Latest update is good news: "Florida Pastor Terry Jones, on his aborted Koran-burning plans: 'Not today, not ever. We're not going to go back and do it. It is totally canceled.'"

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