Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Igniting a riot

I have been reluctant to add more attention to the stated plans of one Pastor Terry Jones (not formerly of Monty Python) in Florida to hold his "burn a Koran Day" on September 11th. Unfortunately, the story is already world wide.

It is bad enough to see someone parading a form of public stupidity that conjures up images of Hitler and his fanatical followers. No one who burns books can look intelligent, nor can he present good public relations for any cause. In addition, we know from the riots over newspaper cartoons that mocked Mohamed, in Denmark back in 2005, that Jones will accomplish what he sets out to prove; namely, that radical Islam is dangerous. That is, this irresponsible "pastor" is going to get innocent people killed in Muslim countries.

We have been told that American forces will be placed under additional strain and subjected to additional dangers. It is true. It is true, also, that unarmed civilians of both sexes and of all ages in parts of Nigeria, in Egypt, Pakistan, Iran, Indonesia, and other countries, will be subjected to additional dangers. For it is certain that mass killings of Christians will result, targeting innocent and defenseless people who have absolutely nothing to do with Jones and his book burning.

I suppose their deaths are a price that Jones is willing to pay.

His brand of courage seems to be no different from that of terrorist masterminds who, unlike real men of valor, "fight" their battles as cowards. I hope Jones will find his fifteen minutes of fame to be worth the sorrows he will bring on helpless Christians, his brothers and sisters in foreign lands.


John A. Hollister said...

News reports need to be taken with a grain of salt, but one article today quoted a member of Mr. Jones' former congregation in Cologne, Germany as saying Mr. Jones was terminated as that group's pastor because he was using the congregation's funds to pay for his personal expenses.

If he is, in fact, an embezzler, that would certainly support the notion that he is a mountebank on the make, willing to to do anything to get publicity and, therefore, possible new members for his 50-person denomination.

I would go a step further and say that ANY time there appears to have been fast-and-loose treatment of church funds, that is a red flag that should give every serious churchman and -woman pause.

John A. Hollister+

AFS1970 said...

This is a combination of two comments I posted over at another site, simply because i read that one first this morning. I admit to being conflicted over this scheme, but I can not fully condemn it either, least of all for the reason that is will somehow make Muslims become violent, because they already are.

The Quran is just a book. For us as Christians to see it any other way is to risk denying the fullness of scripture contained in the Holy Bible. Thus to see burning the Quran as any different than burning any other books is not a position that I can accept. Now every age has had it book burners and all have attempted to burn the ideas in the books not so much the books themselves. All have failed at this task, so it is in essence a fools task.

Why is burning the American flag considered free speech but burning the Quran off limits? At the very least there is a double standard being applied here.

The elephant in the room that lots of folks are dancing around is that we can not keep riding the bandwagon that Islam is a religion of peace and still be afraid that a book burning by a relatively obscure preacher will cause "problems" for our troops, for Christians in the middle east or for our citizens on our own soil. Just as we are asking ourselves what would Jesus do? We also have to say that in that very spirit, if Islam were truly a religion of peace they would simply turn the other cheek in the face of this Pastor's demonstration.

Not allowing Pastor Jones his fifteen minutes of fame sadly buys into the PR image of Islam as a peaceful religion, an ad campaign that is too often recited from our own pulpits. Is this demonstration anything more than a publicity stunt? No. Would it have gone on relatively unnoticed if the media had ignored it? Yes! How many acts or statements by Pastor Phelps can the average person name other than his funeral protests which are always captured by the news media? None.

Matthew M said...

AMEN! And may God have mercy on his soul (after sufficient punishment!)

Fr. Robert Hart said...


Nobody is able to forbid Jones' act of free speech, because it is constitutionally protected. That is simply not the point. The point is, he is indirectly murdering Christians in other countries who cannot defend themselves. He is also endangering Americans based on their nationality. The Danish newspaper cartoons have taught us already that this is so. By what right does he risk any life other than his own?

Also, no one can stop the press from giving him the fifteen minutes of fame, or infamy, that he seeks. The press is also protected by the same First Amendment that gives Jones his freedom. They too have a right to be irresponsible, a right they are eager to exploit.

Burning copies of a book is, indeed, a fool's errand. It only gives publicity to the book, and so creates more sales of newer copies. What. therefore, is to be gained from lighting this fuse of violence? What makes it worth the cost?

AFS1970 said...

I am not saying that anyone here is trying to deprive Pastor Jones of his constitutional rights, but the double standard being used by the media and the public is alarming to say the least.

I agree book burning never accomplishes it's stated goal. As a matter of fact to build on your statement about increasing sales, the books being burned have to come from somewhere, so is buying a Quran for the purpose of burning it really helping your cause? I would say it is not.

However I reject any claim that Pastor Jones burning even a single copy of the Quran is causing directly or indirectly the murder of innocents in any way. One of the many gifts God has given us is free will, which includes the free will to break his commandment not to Murder. Should I or anyone else elect to break that commandment the blame rest squarely on our own shoulders as no one can make you murder anyone. The courts do not accept this as a defense except under very narrowly defined justifications which usually have to do with saving a life. We did not accept the just following orders defense from the Nazi's at Nuremberg, so how can we accept from Islam that they killed people because someone in a place they have never been to burned a book?

If we, as rational human beings, allow this line of reasoning, how long before it will be the victims fault for making the criminal hurt them in any number of crimes?

Fr. Robert Hart said...


You are confusing two things. You are confusing motive with justification of a crime.

If a violent man kills an innocent person, nothing justifies it. Now, if I point a violent man at someone, and knowingly set him off so that he kills an innocent victim, nothing justifies that either. I have become an accessory before the fact, equally guilty of murder. And, that is why Jones will be equally guilty of murder when rampaging mobs kill the innocent and helpless Christians in their respective countries.

Anonymous said...

Dear Father Hart,

I hope you will pursue your analysis further. Could one follow the 'causal' analysis with respect to the real exercise of fallen free-will in a fairly infinite regression? I.e., something from someone aspiring to provoke someone else plausibly likely to be provoked, does not compel the intended provocatee (or whatever the proper term is) to be provoked, or to act on his in some sense finally self-indulged being-provoked in a particular way.

Yet it does seem at the very least 'inconveniens' to risk, much less indulge in, what is probably (highly) provocative (to one habitually easily provoked).

But what rule of thumb is there for avoiding likely provocation, where (for example) a constant, elaborate, occasion-seeking is involved on the part of the apparently more-than-willing provocatee?

Lewis's imagination of the dwarves offered food on the deeper, higher side of the stable door in 'The Last Battle' comes to mind. How far may exquisite touchiness rule?


Fr. John said...

All of this points up that Islam has a long way to go before any one can say it is a religion of peace. Of course at the root of this, as well as the "Draw Mohamed" Face book controversy which wrecked the life of the little girl who thought it up, is the lesson that any perceived insult to Islam and its prophet may bring great harm to one, or maybe even many if General Petreaus is to be believed.

Fr. Hart is correct when he says that such an act as burning the Koran would almost certainly result in the deaths of innocent people. Where he errs is in assigning the blame for those deaths to the Pentecostal preacher. The truth is we all share in the blame for allowing a state of affairs like this to come into being.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I have not erred in this matter at all. If he had followed through (which now, we see, he won't- he has backed down) his actions would have made him guilty along with those who would have reacted to his intentional provocation.

Fr. John said...

And we are blameless for not insisting on the same level of respect and rightly pointing out that the reaction predicted by Petreaus and his ilk are a surrender to the most base form of intimidation? Also consider the roasting the general would be getting now from the so-called "mainstream press" if he had offered similar admonitions to some leftists who wanted to burn the ha-jib in public. I can hear it now, "how dare a uniformed military officer presume to tell a political group about how to exercise their first amendment rights."

I guess the Muslim Barbary pirates would have attacked people at random if they had perceived someone had offered an insult to their religion.

"Thousands for defense, not one cent for tribute."

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Fighting the aggression of pirates and deliberately provoking an ox known to have gored in the past, just for the hell of it, are not the same thing.

Fr. John said...

And also of interest:
Holy book burnings spark hypocrisy
Chad Groening - OneNewsNow - 9/9/2010 3:55:00 AMBookmark and Share

BibleA pro-family organization says it's hypocritical for high-ranking officials in the Pentagon to condemn a Florida church's plans to burn Qurans when U.S. military personnel burned Bibles last year in Afghanistan.

Pastor Terry Jones told reporters outside his church in Gainesville Wednesday afternoon that he remains unconvinced that "backing down is the right thing" to do regarding the planned burning of Qurans on Saturday. That protest has drawn objection from Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. and NATO commander, who says images of burning Qurans will be used by extremists to inflame public opinion and incite worldwide violence. (See earlier story)

related video buttonEarlier today on ABC's Good Morning America, President Barack Obama criticized the event, calling it a "stunt" and warning it could become "a recruitment bonanza for al-Qaeda." Other notable Obama administration officials, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have also condemned the planned Quran burning.

But Bryan Fischer, director of issues analysis at the American Family Association (AFA), thinks it is the height of hypocrisy for the U.S. government to condemn the church, considering the fact that the U.S. military incinerated Bibles that were sent to Afghanistan in May 2009.

Bryan Fischer (Amer. Family Assn.)"There's really a staggering level of hypocrisy and double standard here for the military to burn the Holy Bible and then complain when a pastor's going to do the same thing to the Quran," Fischer contends. "You know, if the military was going to be fair here and even-handed, they would count up the number of Holy Bibles that they incinerated in Afghanistan, and then they would allow Reverend Jones to burn the same number of Qurans."

The AFA issues analysis director believes the whole incident illustrates the difference between Christianity and Islam. "When these Bibles were burned [in May 2009], the Christian community did not riot in the streets; we did not threaten violence against anyone," he points out. "[But] when even the threat of Qurans being burned takes place, it's like we're dealing with Armageddon [or] with World War III."

In a OneNewsNow poll conducted in May 2009, more than 60 percent of respondents said -- in reaction to the decision by the U.S. military to destroy the Bibles -- that "if it had been the Quran, this never would have happened."

AFS1970 said...

Well the publicity stunt is canceled. This makes me more sure that it was never about principles in the first place.

However something over on another site happened that was interesting. Someone posted that the media who blew this out of proportion would be responsible for violence committed in response to this demonstration. As much as I am no fan of the Mainstream media, this is the same as blaming Pastor Jones. At some point we are going to have to realize that the only person responsible for a crime is the criminal.

The flip side of the free will that allows me to break commandments (and secular law for that matter) also allows me to follow them. I read things in the news every day that do not make me happy. None of them inspire me to violence. Because I choose not to be a violent person. Islam chooses to be a violent religion.

welshmann said...

To all:

The Apostle Paul said he had the right to eat meat, but he would refrain from doing so if it caused another to stumble. The liberty we have in Christ is not to be squandered on personal desires. That is Christianity 101. The pastor should know that.

I've learned from Fr. Hart and others the necessity of reading the Bible within Holy Tradition. By extension, this controversy demonstrates clearly why the American Constitution must be read in light of the Christian principles that gave rise to it.

Secularists can only wring their hands and beg the pastor not to act; they have no legal power to stop him, and they have already denied in the strongest possible terms any moral authority exists to bind the pastor's right to act beyond the written word of the Constitution itself.

In reality, the Founders assumed that the liberties recognized, not conferred, by the Constitution would be exercised by people who would be guided by Christian assumptions when deciding when and how to exercise those rights.


charles said...

What PC non-sense. The best way to support the troops is to fight a dual war at home and abroad. Given the 1st amendment and incorporation clause forbids discrimination between religious beliefs (even Satanism), the former is not an option. Therefore, why fight a half-war? We can't fight Islam by our own rules, so it's already a lost cause. Bring the troops home, and stop wasting money.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

AFS1970 wrote:

At some point we are going to have to realize that the only person responsible for a crime is the criminal.

Certainly the criminal is responsible. But, is he really the only responsible party? Why then would we have laws about accessories? Furthermore, inciting a riot is a crime. Even though it plays upon the violence of others, it does so in a manipulative and calculated way.

Fr. John said...

"Let justice be done, though the heavens fall."


You are correct that these no win wars we are "fighting" are a major drain on our economy and much worse a waste of the lives of our brave soldiers.

Apparently the strategy of the Western powers is to seduce the Muslims with fast food and pornography until, like American "Christians" they are so desensitized by television that no act can outrage them or rouse them to action. Like modern day Methodists and Presbyterians they won't even know what beliefs separate their churches, and even better wouldn't care if they did. We can all look forward to the day when happy and sedate Muslims would look upon the burning of the Koran as signifying nothing and not worth bothering about.

It might just work.

If Muslim objections to the man in Florida are an indicator of the strength of their beliefs, what does that say about our indifference to the burning of Bibles? Or maybe the Muslims are idolaters and we are not.

Fr. John said...

And this:

Anonymous said...

At the risk of giving Moslems inflammatory ideas, are no Moslems - or only a tiny, benign minority - dismayed at the burning of Bibles?

If so, is that because there is a general (if not astute) presupposition among (contemporary) Moslems that Jews and Christian have grossly and extensively corrupted, falsified, etc., the texts of the Torah (etc.) and the Gospels (for both of which I believe there are words in the Koran)?


Fr. John said...

You are correct. They may, and do, say that our scriptures have been corrupted, and deliberately so by evil priests. We may not respond with a similar charge concerning the Koran without endangering our lives.

As we are not able to argue this with them on an intellectual level without setting off a riot, we cannot enter into any type of truly meaningful discourse with them.

It remains to be seen how they may be safely dialogued with, let alone converted to Christ. Opportunities for martyrdom abound.

Fr. John said...

Here is the story of how one person wrecked her life by drawing a cartoon concerning Mohammad.