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Pastor Terry Jones, of the «Dove World Outreach Center» in Florida.
For several days now (I was writing this on 2010-Oct-06), the Media has been talking about some Protestant Pastor, Terry Jones, of the «Dove World Outreach Center» in Florida, USA. This Pastor apparently invited people to burn the Koran this September 11th.
At first, I was against the idea of burning a Koran. But after having read several articles, and having reflected, and slept on it, and listened to Priests and other Catholics, and prayed, I changed my mind.
Let's start with "non-reasons", i.e. what absolutely can't justify the burning of a Koran:
2.1) Hatred of Muslims is not acceptable. We must not hate our neighbor. Jesus clearly says: "Love one another" [Jn 13:34], and "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you" [Lc 6:27-28], etc. Hatred of Muslims is not acceptable, especially on the part of Christians!
2.2) The sins of some Muslims doesn't give us a free pass to do evil. Yes, it's true that some bloodthirsty criminals claim that Islam and the Koran justify their actions. But nevertheless it remains that two wrongs don't make a right.
2.3) There are some good things in the Koran. I'm the guy who likes to carefully read texts written by my opponents, in order to find all the assertions I agree with. I'm certain that there are some true assertions in the Koran, and I certainly don't condemn those assertions, on the contrary. I agree with whatever partial truths can be found in Islam. (See among others Nostra aetate, #3.)
2.4) Insulting people to gain some advantage is not acceptable. Yes, History unfortunately shows us that by insulting certain categories of people, it's possible to become famous, or make money, or get elected, etc. But the end never justifies the means.
2.5) I want to adore God, not insult Him. I'm absolutely not an Atheist, and I want to love God with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my strength. I especially do not want to insult God!
2.6) Regular events to insult people are bad. Yes, it's normal that people who adore the Holy Banana will not agree with the religious beliefs of those who adore the Holy Pumpkin. But as far as possible, the disciples of the Holy Banana and those of the Holy Pumpkin should try to peacefully co-exist. A large and regular event, for example "Let's all gaily squish some Holy Pumpkins!", doesn't make sense in my opinion. (On the other hand, if somebody decides to eat pumpkin pie, nobody should threaten to kill him!)
The same Word of God, underneath in a Missal respected for a lifetime,
and on top in a «Prions en Église» thrown away every week.
After having eliminated the "non-reasons" to burn a Koran, let's examine a few reasons not to exaggerate the importance of this whole issue:
3.1) Where is the Vatican when the Word of God is burned every week in our churches? Being one of the rare persons in the Province of Quebec to publicly complain about the fact we throw away the Word of God, every week, and in almost all Parishes, I find it a bit ridiculous that the Vatican (and Quebec journalists) are silent about this aberration, while screaming blue murder when someone threatens to burn a Koran [Communiqué Concerning "Koran Burning Day", Vatican Information Services, 2010-Sept-08].
3.2) Where are the Leftists who are always harping on "freedom of expression"? In the USA, when an "artist" puts a Crucifix in a bottle filled with his urine, and he calls it "Piss Christ", he gets Government grants! And many Leftists would "man the barricades" to defend such "freedom of expression". It would be instructive to make a list of offending gestures, for Christians on one side, and for Muslims on the other, and then to compare the behavior of the Media.
3.3) Burning a book isn't killing someone. I totally agree we have to avoid insulting people as far as possible, but "insult" and "injury" are not the same thing. Using the word "violence" to describe the carbonization of a book, is verbal inflation. (Even threatening to kill someone doesn't qualify as "violence", in my opinion, although you could metaphorically call it "verbal violence".)
3.4) There were suicidal assassins before Terry Jones, and there will be some after. A religion can be more or less compatible with terrorism. Before claiming that Islam is "The Religion Of Peace (TM)", we have to go check the facts: the actual content of the Koran, the personal life of Muhammad, the recent and less recent history of peoples having been influenced by Islam, etc.
3.5) Are there really that many people who respect the religious feelings of Muslims? I live in a province where a large number of French-Canadians constantly uses blasphemous language, where even members of my own family have ridiculed me because I thought The Da Vinci Code was insulting to Christians, where even private Catholic schools don't have the right to teach Catholicism, etc. The Québécois people might have qualities, but respect for the religious feelings of others certainly isn't one of them!
On the other hand, among the people whom I personally know and who are guilty of this kind of disrespect, many are those who almost choke with rage at the thought that somebody might offend Muslims a tiny bit. Is this because they respect the religious feelings of Muslims, or are we simply observing that violent intimidation works?
3.6) The idea that "all religions must be respected" is silly. See Section 2 of Must We Respect All Religions?
3.7) If something is so sacred, why does that religion leave it lying around? Imagine a new religion, a religion that considers some pebbles to be "sacred". Except the disciples of that religion would scatter those pebbles in the street, and if some pedestrian stepped on one of them, they would threaten to kill him! Would you consider that rational and socially acceptable?
Now, compare that to the Catholic religion. There is something considered very sacred by all real Catholics. It's called many names, like "consecrated Host", or "what used to be a piece of bread before Transubstantiation", or just plain "Jesus Christ". Where can you find such consecrated Hosts? Not at your local shopping mall, sitting there on a shelf like any other product! To get your hands on a consecrated Host, you would need to break into your local Catholic church and pry open the kind of locked safe in which They are stored (technically called a "Tabernacle", and Catholic law requires them to be "inviolable"). Even if you came during a religious ceremony, you'd have trouble getting access (if the Priest realizes you are not a Catholic, or that you have bad intentions, Catholic law requires him to avoid giving you a consecrated Host). In other words, for a sacrilege against a consecrated Host to happen, a Priest has to commit a big sin, or a layman needs to go inside a Catholic temple with a big crowbar, or a big lie.
Left: John Paul II kissing the Koran. (Source)
Right: Benedict XVI receiving the Koran with pleasure. (Source)
The basic laws of Logic tell us that either Jesus is God, or He is not. The Catholic Church says Jesus is God, the Koran says He is not. If Jesus really is God, then we have to go teach it to the whole world! If Jesus is really God, then it's a scandal to treat the Koran as if it were the Word of God.
These days, Popes kiss the Koran and go pray in mosques. Even the Vatican press release, quoted here above, makes a mental restriction. What makes it deceitful isn't so much what it asserts, as what it fails to say. After having said that we must, as far as possible, avoid insulting people, it should have added something like: "... but of course, burning a Koran is not a sacrilege, since the Koran doesn't contain the Word of God."
Are we now in a situation where keeping silent would be verging on causing scandal? As far as I know, Pastor Terry Jones dithered so much that I ended up burning my Koran before him. And from what I read, many "Christian" churches in Florida decided to have readings of the Koran during their services this September 11th, to "show their solidarity" with Muslims. Come to think of it, I can't remember an official declaration by a recent Pope that clearly asserts the Koran is not the Word of God.
I sent the first draft of this text to some good Catholics, for their comments. Some expressed objections:
5.1) "You'll prevent Muslims from converting to Catholicism!" The Koran says Muslims who convert to Catholicism must be killed. [2:217; 4:89, etc.]
5.2) "Jesus wouldn't have done that!" Did Jesus give a kiss to the money changers in the Temple, to encourage universal Peace and Harmony? (Hint: Mt 21:12.) Did Moses give a kiss to the golden calf, to encourage inter-religious dialogue? (Hint: Ex 32:20.) Did saint Thomas Aquinas give a kiss to the Koran, to show the Templars their approach was anti-Evangelical? (Hint: Summa Theologica, IIa-IIae, q. 188, a. 3, "Whether a religious order can be directed to soldiering?") Did Pope Saint Pius V kiss the Muslim warships to welcome them on October 7th, 1571, during the Battle of Lepanto? (Hint: see the reasons for the institution of the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary).
5.3) "You are going to increase violence against Christians!" First, the reactions of a Muslim are the choice of that Muslim. Don't insult Muslims by claiming they are mindless slaves under my control. Second, I chose a religion which encourages me to pray for those who persecute me. That was my choice, but it's a choice also available to all Muslims. Third, have you ever spoken with Christians persecuted by Islam? Do they want us to shut up, and cave in to all the demands of the Muslims? Or do they rather want truth about Islam to be known, whatever the cost may be, so that their sacrifices may not be in vain?
If we think about it a bit, we realize this problem isn't new. It's just the standard moral dilemma of terrorism: a big bad terrorist threatens to kill (or rape, or chop into pieces, etc.) the innocent hostages if you don't do what he orders you to do (like give him money, or free his terrorist friends whom you've jailed, or kiss a Koran, etc.). The standard answer to that standard dilemma will never change: the more you cave in to terrorists, the more they will terrorize. Yes, it's sad for the hostages, but you're not the one who kills those hostages, it's the terrorists. (Technically, it's once again an application of the Principle of Double-Effect.) No use negociating with terrorists: they are crazy and dangerous.
5.4) "You are going to help Muslim recruters!" Don't worry, I injected a dangerous computer virus into the crucial picture. Muslim recruters (and leftist journalists) will have difficulty using it.
5.5) "Your actions are not sowing peace!" First, those who ignore History, expose themselves to repeating its errors. Go re-read how Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister of England from 1937 to 1940, "sowed peace" for years, by trying to "appease" Adolf Hitler. Caving in to violent intimidation only encourages even more violent intimidation.
Neville Chamberlain announcing Peace for Our Time, because Hitler signed a piece of paper...
Second, why take my word for it? Go yourself try a scientific experiment. Take actions which according to you "sow peace", and go try to live like a good Catholic in a Muslim country, like Iran or Saudi Arabia. Either your Catholicism will tend to disappear, or you will!
5.6) "Good Catholics imitate the Pope. You should be kissing Korans!" I'm having more and more trouble not criticizing some "non-magisterial" acts by recent Popes, despite my original good intentions. Sorry. If I had been Pope, I would have had pictures of me taken while I was playing soccer with Muslim kids, or while I was volunteering in a Muslim hospital, but not while kissing a Koran. I find praiseworthy the efforts you make, when you try to explain those gestures by saying the Pope was just trying to be polite. That explanation would be easier to defend, both for you and for me, if a recent Pope put on his sequin-glittered pants, and sang officially and explicitly that the Koran is not the Word of God.
5.7) "Burning a Koran solves nothing!" Strictly speaking, I agree. Burning a material object, while hiding in a closet, will not change human intellects. In order to change human intellects, we have to act publicly.
On the other hand, since this is a teaching activity, it's not necessary to burn more than one Koran. (If you've noticed, I don't invite people to some "International Burn A Koran Day".) In my opinion, it's only when some essential truths are being forgotten by a large number of people, or when Muslims tend to forget where the line is drawn in a free and democratic society, that a Koran needs to be burned.
5.8) "Don't burn a Koran! It's too dangerous!" Really? Honest, I was very careful. Look at the picture below: I had my big fire extinguisher, a pail of water, and I did this over the kitchen sink, so any flaming bits of paper would do no harm.
5.9) "Don't do it! Those guys are maniacs! They'll kill you!" First (if you're like most people who said that to me), why do you vote for political parties who encourage unconditional Muslim immigration? Why do you vote for political parties who don't impose any conditions to the construction of mosques and to the dissemination of Islam? Why don't you speak up when people around you say Islam is "The Religion Of Peace (TM)"?
Second, don't worry about me. I often drag myself into the confessional, to try to be always in a state of grace. Moreover, I chose not to have a spouse and kids, among others so I'd be able to tell the truth without fearing retaliation. Finally, I pray in advance for God to forgive the sins of my eventual executioners.
When a large number of people risks being dragged down into the darkness of a serious error, it can become necessary to publicly reject that error. For example, if a religion considers it a terrible insult to refuse to sacrifice to its idols, we still have to refuse to sacrifice to idols!
In truth, the Koran is only a book written by a liar. The Koran is not the Word of God, and I can prove it. Yes, some persons will not agree with that last statement, but I invited them long ago to a serene and rational debate on that topic.
Do you think the Koran is the Word of God? Send me your arguments, and I'll answer them carefully. If your arguments are better than mine, on top of giving you money, I'll gladly go kneel down, arms outstretched as on a cross, in front of the mosque of your choice, to publicly apologize for having insulted God.
But if the Koran is not the Word of God, what's wrong with me going to the local bookstore, buying a book that was just sitting there on an ordinary shelf like any other ordinary book, reading it, and then getting rid of it, in the comfort and privacy of my own home?
I'm free. I'm an American, born in the USA. Truth and Freedom, or death!
Stefan Jetchick burning a very ordinary book on September 11, 2010.
Same thing as me, but done much better!
Ann Barnhardt burns a Koran
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