Sunday, September 12, 2010

to burn or not to burn - how should Christians respond

So, the Reverend Dr. Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center (DWOC) in Gainesville, Florida decided not to burn Qur’ans on 9/11. Even after Jones stated “We will definitely not burn the Quran, not today, not ever", about 600 protesters gathered in Afghanistan where Afghan security forces opened fire, killing two [1]. If the Qur’an burning was a publicity stunt, it was a huge success. Jones, who pastors a church of about 50 – the average number of people in line at WalMart at any given time – became world famous as fast as you can say “Death to America, the Great Satan”. He flew to New York City to appear on NBC’s “Today Show”, received a personal telephone call from General Petreaus, and a public request by President Obama to reconsider. If he never intended to burn one Qur’an, he received the notoriety so many long for.

The website for the DWOC advertises a book by Jones entitled “Islam is of the Devil” and other similar items for sale [2]. DWOC first stated the Qur’an burning is an act of love: “We are using this act to warn about the teaching and ideology of Islam ... We do not hate any people, however. We love, as God loves, all the people in the world and we want them to come to a knowledge of the truth. To warn of danger and harm is a loving act" [3]. While that may be true, the method used to convey this “warning” is offensive and counterproductive for showing God’s love to others.

What should be the response of Christians to other public acts designed to shock and draw attention, such as waving signs stating “God hates fags”? General Petreaus warned that burning Qur’ans “would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan – and around the world – to inflame public opinion and incite violence” [4]. Conversely, others have correctly noted there were no Qur’an burnings on September 10th, 2001. To be fair, where were the riots and threats of violence when a crucifix was placed in urine and called “art” [5] and when Christian churches were burned in Sudan? [6] Jesus gave us direction when he stated, “whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” (Matthew 5:39).

Numerous Christian leaders have, not surprisingly, denounced the Qur’an burning. Though too numerous to mention, a few include: Franklin Graham, Pat Robertson, Joel Osteen, Southern Baptist Convention, Focus on the Family, the Vatican, and even Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin. An inter-faith group including Baptists, Jews and others met with Attorney General Eric Holder to also denounce the Qur’an burning. This is commendable and, at as well, we strongly repudiate the methods employed by Dr. Jones as inappropriate for followers of Jesus Christ.

So, how should Christians respond to those with different beliefs? What about those who actively seek to harm us? Jesus said, “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you …Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.” (Luke 6:27-31) Everything we do must be motivated by love. Paul famously wrote, “if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3). Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan and the vast majority of true Christians hold to those values. A very small sampling - of many - Christian organizations who have no plans to burn Qur’ans; rather, have actively worked to help meet the physical needs of those in dire situations in predominantly Muslim nations include: Samaritan’s Purse, World Vision, Compassion International, Lutheran World Federation, Catholic Relief Services, Operation Blessing, Joyce Meyer Ministries, Episcopal Relief & Development, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, and many others. Christians are admonished to “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” and “never pay back evil for evil” (Romans 12:14, 17). That is our response.

[1] CNN wire staff, “2 killed in Afghan protest over Quran burning”, posted 12 Sept 2010,
[2] Dove World Outreach Center website, accessed 7 Sept 2010, < >
[3] Joshua A. Goldberg, writing in The Christian Post, “Christian Leaders repeat calls to halt 9/11 Quran Burnings”, 6 Sept 2010.
[4] Rahim Faiez and Robert H. Rei, “Thousands of Afghans in anti-Quran burning protest”, Associated Press, 11 Sept 2010.
[5] < >
[6] “A Rebirth of Hope”, accessed 12 Sept 2010,