Burning the Koran does not save souls

It’s been an interesting few weeks, especially in regard to the September 11th anniversary and how best to go about remembering this terrible day nine years ago. Of course, unless you’ve been under a rock lately, you know that a great deal of attention was given to Rev. Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, FL. Jones threated to burn the Koran, which set off a firestorm on its own in our government and in places around the world (I just love the irony of the word “Dove” in the church name as it connects to this story). 

His actions drew oppostion from religious leaders around this country and world, but I find it most interesting that his actions gained him a free trip to New York City to talk with those who are seeking to build the Islamic center near ground zero of the 9/11 attacks.

A Koran was burned however, thanks to a Southern Baptist minister. Bob Old had help from Danny Allen, and the two of them carried out this action. Here is the statewide story. Old is a former pastor, and the Allen says he is an Associate Pastor but would not indicate which church he is serves on staff. Plus, there weren’t that many people except there except the media. Big surprise.

I’ve read the articles on these links and find it hard to understand the importance of covering this story, especially in light of everything else that has taken place related to the Koran story. Old spelled out his rationale, “How can it be an act of hate when what I am doing is trying to save their souls?”

I’ve had the privilege to share Christ on numerous occasions, but I have to say I’ve never thought about burning a book let alone the Koran to get someone to turn to Christ.  And I don’t remember a time when I didn’t say what church I was affiliated with when asked.

Our church is going through the study “Different Books, Common Word: Baptists and Muslims” on Wednesday nights. I had in this mind several months ago but had no idea then that the subject would be so timely, as our nation is wrestling with the Islamic Center proposal and most recently the Koran question. I commend our people for their thoughtful, honest discussion about this, and look forward to the next several weeks.

I am torn between several emotions about this ongoing discussion, but I suppose the main one is that this would be comical if it weren’t so sad and serious. It’s hard to imagine the attention a pastor of a 50 member church  gets for threatening to burn a Koran. He can’t gain attention for doing something constructive, but put a large sign out in front of his building to generate angst and millions of people are affected.

Now there’s two guys in a backyard somewhere in Tennessee with a Koran and lighter fluid who wait for the media to show up so they can have their demonstration. They believe this will further the gospel.

I did hear about one alternative to this action on Facebook. I was asked to sign up as one of many Christians who read the Koran. It’s a nice sentiment, but how about asking Christians to read the Bible? Perhaps we can do both, but I’m focusing on the latter.

The other emotion I’m dealing with relates to our missionary impulse to share the gospel with the whole world, and how this imperative intersects with the Muslim world. We should have interfaith dialogue, but we should also have interfaith witness. I do not believe these two truths are antithetical, but can be part of the same process. I also believe that burning the Koran or any other religious text is hateful and harmful and does nothing to promote the Good News of Jesus Christ.

It would be nice, however, to hear the same outrage when Bibles are being burned. I do appreciate the sentiment that some Christians have in regard to this doublestandard. I don’t expect that to happen though, and my faith is bigger than the words in the text. It rests in the revelation of Jesus as recorded in those Scriptures. And I’m not talking about continuing to retreat from the challenges and questions posed to Christians by those of other faiths or no faith at all. Believers in Christ ought to be confident enough to engage our world with the gospel because “the gates of hell will not stand against it.” 

I’ve been thinking a lot about I Peter 3:15-16: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this will gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”

My suggestion to those two men who don’t have anything better to do than to burn a Koran for a little attention is to organize and conduct a Backyard Bible Club. A Vacation Bible School would be a good option too. Surely we don’t need to destroy another religion’s holy book (one copy I might add) in order to build up our own. There’s nothing loving about it, plus it shows the smallness of those who light the matches. The Bible has stood the test of time without our help, and our witness needs to accentuate the positive truths of the Gospel, beginning with our children.

Following Christ is the alternative to darkness, and the world needs to see some followship in us before we can expect to see followship in them.

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