Finding Offence

Apparently a Florida church will be burning Qur’ans on the anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy. The church’s pastor, Terry Jones, is justifying the action as a memorial to those who perished in the tragedy nine years ago, and to send a belligerent warning to extremist Islam.

I find this kind of behaviour quite ridiculous and foolish. In no way does it adorn the gospel. On the contrary, it sends a message of hate and undermines the basic Christian ethic of love. To love others does not mean you must accept their views or agree with them. Evangelical Christianity has major theological issues with Islam and the Qur’an. However, this does not mean that Christians cannot love Muslims. I will in no way be surprised to find Muslims of all varieties taking major offence at this action, and they will be justified in their angst and unease.

If there is any offence to be had, let it not come from the behaviour of Christians. Rather, let it come from the gospel itself: that the Christ died to save sinners.

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14 thoughts on “Finding Offence

  1. Yep, I agree, I just read this in SMH online and was appalled. What do they seriously think they will achieve except incitement of hatred and retaliatory violence? And how do they justify this biblically?

  2. This is what Carl Trueman said…

    “This Koran burning is childish; it will at best only draw attention to the book and fuel curiosity; at worst, it could jeopardise young people serving their country. Christians would be better served spending the time praying for the conversion of their Muslim neighbours and reaching out to them with love and with God’s true word, rather than with a box of matches and acts of counterproductive immaturity.”

  3. I was just about to moan about this online too, but I see you and Carl Trueman have it covered. I expect there’ll be a ‘burn a Florida church day’ before very long.

    We should use people like Terry Jones (who in spite of his comical opinions seems not to be the Monty Python actor of the same name) as poster boys for theological education:

    “Terry Jones. Interprets the gospel as a call to attack other religions. Self-taught Pastor. Train at Moore College, Sydney.”

    “Fred Phelps Sr. Views his gospel calling as a life mission to publicly hate gays. Self-taught theologian. Train at GWC, Cape Town.”

  4. Two points stand out. (1) As many have pointed out, this act is not what Christ would have his followers do. So many who claim to follow Christ do not exhibit the fruits of the Spirit. (2) There is a lot of anger and fear over Muslims in the US. Most of us here in the US assume that Muslims hate and despise Americans. Sometimes fear comes out in aggression. Jones is a reflection of what is in the heart of many, religious or not.

    • Oppose Islam by all means, but American Christian activism is all action and no theory. Terry’s website is all about getting Christians to ‘stand up’, but once on their feet, the rarefied atmosphere seems to make them all dizzy. Just sit down rather, people, before you hurt yourselves.

  5. I’d like to hear more from Jordan Pickering. I’ve never met anybody who could speak for ALL the Christians in another country, and can characterize their Christian activism so comprehensively. Does the fourfold use of ‘all’ in the comments require some sort of qualification?

    My guess is that Jones is foolishly over-reacting to the fact that Muslims are building a mosque on a site where other Muslims killed 3000 people on that date a few years back.

    • In answer to your question, yes. And probably, mutatis mutandis.

      Obviously it’s not possible to speak for all Christians; even in a single homogeneous local church body someone’s not going to fit. But I imagined it was clear enough that we’re talking about the biblicist right-sided ones who have non-specified activism (‘just stand up’) as a stated driving ideology (cf. http://www.todaysbigthing.com/2009/11/10 – a dead serious sermon about not sitting down to pee, because men are supposed to stand up). So all of *that* (rather large and vocal) body then. But thank you for forcing me to make my comments significantly more leaden. I wouldn’t want to offend all Americans.

      • Thanks for the clarification. And don’t worry about being leaden. I suspect that most American Christians (of the left or right) would say that their failing is in offering more theory than action–but I am not qualified to speak for most Americans.

        Virtually every voice heard from the US, from Hillary Clinton to Glenn Beck, condemned Jones’ foolishness. And now the rumor is that the ground-zero mosque is going to be built elsewhere. Who knew the mega-church of Terry Jones wielded such power. I bet he sees 5 to 10 per cent attendance growth in the coming months (though I doubt he can sustain the growth).

          • Jones is just another scam artist: he wants notoriety; he wants power. He’s trying to do it through religion as so many have done before him. And look at how successful he’s been! He has gone from a nobody to an international figure, with presidents and generals paying attention to him, with people rioting and dying because of his words. And he didn’t even have to burn a Koran!

            The real victim in all of this is evangelical Christianity. The media loves to publicize clowns like Jones and present them as representative of the whole lot. He represents at most his group. Nobody else.

        • There *should* be more theory than action. I’m furthermore unconvinced by much of the American theory that I hear too, but that’s a generalisation for another day.

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