I have been reading with some concern the news that the non-denominational charismatic Christian church Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida has plans to burn copies of the Qu'ran on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks. The event is likely to spark worldwide protests by all sorts of people, not the least of who happen to be Muslims, and General David Petraeus suggested that American troops might be put in danger by this act of religious belligerence.
Church member Fran Ingram, posting on a blog on the church website, offered the following reasoning for the upcoming book burning:
We are using this act to warn about the teaching and ideology of Islam, which we do hate as it is hateful. 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.Setting aside all the other issues related to why this is an idiotic idea (and setting aside my despair at the growing irrationality of a rising number of anti-Muslim Americans), I would like to focus on the last clause in Ingram's statement: "we want them to come to a knowledge of the truth." I suspect that if members of the Dove World Outreach Center were really concerned about saving the souls of adherents of the Islamic faith, they could begin by adopting a less confrontational approach. Every faithful Muslim who hears of this abominable act of religious bigotry will be disturbed by the news, and I highly doubt that angering the people you want to persuade of the righteousness of a cause is an effective method of "outreach."
There is also an element of conspicuous and deliberate antagonism here that as a Christian I find reprehensible. Instead of leading by example - in the manner of Christ Himself - the folks participating in the book-burning are sinking to the very level of inflammatory zealotry that they supposedly deplore in the actions of the radical Islamic extremists who attacked the World Trade Center. Sure, it is only burning books and not thousands of dead civilians, but the sentiments are eerily similar between the book-burners and the 9/11 terrorists: each despises those whose creeds they hold to be heretical.
On a side note, my Lebanese neighbor (whose family happens to practicing Muslims) came by my house this evening to ask if he could borrow my 3/8" power drill, as his was broken. When I walked over to the house to drop the tool off, I saw that they were installing a set of vertical blinds. I ended up spending an hour drilling holes, hanging vinyl blinds, and chatting with the Yussef family about the weather and the excellent fattoush Mrs. Yussef has been dropping off each night (this is Ramadan, if you were unaware, and practicing Muslims share their nightly feast with their neighbors).
So, getting back to the point, I pose the following question. Which practicing Christian do you suppose made a better impression on "heathen" Muslims: me, by loaning my drill and time to hang some vertical blinds, or folks like Fran Ingram, whose idea of "outreach" involves the immolation of the book considered to be most sacred to people of the Islamic faith?
And for the misguided zealots who plan to burn books next week: I pray for your lost souls. I highly doubt that God looks upon your actions with favor, and I suspect that one day you will be called to account for your recklessness and bellicosity in the name of Jesus Christ.