As the anniversary of the September 11 attacks approaches, we are faced with a new threat to any hope of peaceful resolution to the challenges of religious plurality in our world. The Dove World Outreach Center, a self-proclaimed “New Testament Church – based on the Bible, the Word of God,” plans to burn Qur’ans this coming Saturday “in remembrance of the fallen victims of 9/11 and to stand against the evil of Islam.”
Like many of my colleagues, I plan to read from the Qur’an during our Sunday morning worship service at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Smithton as a show of support of our Muslim brothers and sisters across the globe. But, after watching a CNN reporter interviewing the head of the Center, I must ask myself where are the same questions from the Christian majority of this nation? The silence of religious leaders, if to do nothing more but to ask them not to commit such a misguided act of desecration, is deafening.
To Terry Jones and the members of the Dove World Outreach Center, please do not go through with this planned action. Frankly, the threat alone of your protest has already accomplished its mission. But, do you not understand that to a Muslim, the paper containing the holy words of the Qur’an has the same import as the steel and stone of the World Trade Centers? By burning this sacred text, you are no better than those who flew planes on that fateful day. And no matter how you read your sacred texts, this is not how Jesus taught us to live in religious community with others.
I know you will cite the angry outburst at the Temple as the lesson that Jesus offered for the occasional need to “make an example.” Do you not see that your action is not the same? Jesus did not defy the Pharisees by burning the Torah. He did not defile the idols of the Romans. Yes, he got angry, showing his all-to-human side. I put it to you and your congregation that that is the actual lesson of this incident – that his singular act of intemperance was so unusual, that even Jesus was not immune from feeling the hurt and betrayal of religious leaders gone astray.
And, from that lesson, we should learn that violence accomplishes nothing but breeding and spreading more violence. Religious leaders, please reach out to Terry Jones and his congregation and implore him to cancel this event. Encourage him to find more productive venues to express his opinions and make his points heard. Stand on the side of love for the hundreds of millions of Muslims who do not support terrorism and who will be devastated by this planned act of mutilation of their holy text.
Instead, join with me and others who this Sunday will explore the writings of a religion that also honors the contributions of Abraham and Jesus to our religious heritage.