Andy Warhol is responsible for giving us the expression “fifteen minutes of fame”. It means that just about anyone can do something, somewhere, some way to earn the spotlight in the media for a short period of time. Terry Jones, the pastor of Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida seems to have successfully captured his time with the media.
Terry Jones was born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Most tourists who visit this city go looking for the birthplace of the successful radio personality, Rush Limbaugh. Jones was pastor of the Christian Community of Cologne in Germany until he was expelled from the church in 2008. Members complained that he was confusing himself with the real Messiah.
Jones moved to Florida where he now leads the Dove World Outreach Center. One might imagine some sort of mega-church complex because of all the publicity but in fact it has a congregation of less than sixty people. Like a school of piranhas, the media has been circling Pastor Jones and his church. Jones seems to be the kind that might measure his righteousness by vehemently offending those on the other side of the aisle. He is quick to identify anyone who is not a Christ follower as ‘the devil’. I guess he missed the memo regarding Soul Winning 101; ‘When attempting to when a soul for Christ it is not wise to refer to them as devils’.
If Jones operational mode is to be master of offensiveness, then he has successfully answered the question, “How might I offend the most people with the least effort?” That’s easy. Invite the media to witness the burning of the book that 1.3 billion people on earth consider most holy. By participating in this one simple act, Jones also did what no politician or president has been able to do in fifty years. He united a polarized culture of politicians on at least one issue. Liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans are clamoring to get on the band wagon criticizing the strange pastor from Florida. President Obama characterized Jones as a ‘bigot’. Sarah Palin called on him to “stand down”. Harry Reid hinted at hypocrisy revealed under the ‘guise of religion’.
The ploy for publicity included a trial of the Koran. This whole event borders on the bizarre. In the words of Jones himself, “The Koran was found guilty then there were four forms of punishment by which the people could choose. Those forms were burning, shredding, rounding and the Koran would face the firing squad.” Here is another memo for Pastor Jones, ‘guilt can only be demonstrated in the human soul that possesses the gift of free will. An object cannot experience guilt nor can it defend itself in a trial.’ His actions hint of insanity but he does remind us of something our government leaders seem determined to deny. Islam has a radical branch that is dangerous and life threatening.
The Coalition of Muslim Organizations accused Jones of being involved in a conspiracy to motivate moderate Muslims to violence. Others have actually suggested that he has been planted by the conservative movement to force President Obama’s hand when it comes to Islamic issues. This is certainly a stretch that gives Terry Jones way too much credit for cleverness. Jones is certainly being used, not so much by political groups in America as by radical extremists in the Middle East. They are using his actions as an excuse to participate in more carnage against Christians and westerners. Jones has positioned himself to be used as a scapegoat. His actions may be foolish and questionable, but he is not responsible for the deaths of dozens of westerners and Christians. Radical Muslims, who seethe in their hatred toward all things Christian, must take ownership for their own murderous acts.
Jones hatred of the Koran is explainable. He believes the teachings embodied in this book are responsible for the loss of nearly 3,000 lives in the attacks of 911. He believes the terrorists who beheaded Daniel Pearl were motivated by the anti-Christian verses of the Koran. Jones’ motivations may be simpler than that. It may be a ploy for fame or money. He may be a bona fide mental case. He might think himself as a type of Moses, a fiery prophet sent by God to wage war on evil. He may feel he is divinely called to be a great defender of God. Again, I am reminded of the words of Sarah Palin recently when she said, “I need NOW’s defense like a fish needs a bicycle.” A last memo to Terry Jones, ‘God doesn’t need men to defend him, he stands alone.”
The conclusion of the whole matter for those who are Christian must boil down to the Golden Rule. “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” Christians are deeply offended when others burn the Bible, although burning a Bible will do nothing to stir up our political leaders. Burning the Koran is not wrong because it is immoral or illegal. It is wrong because it violates the essence of Christianity. Christians are not called upon to agitate our enemies, we are admonished to not “be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12)