Rev. Terry Jones of Gainesville, Florida is grabbing some cheap and easy face time on otherwise slow news days with his self-planned “burn a Quran day” scheduled for the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Rev. Jones and his 50 or so mis-guided followers are only proving to pile reason onto the axiom that “some churches are small for a reason.” At the same time they have Floridians–Christian and non-Christian alike–scratching their heads again with wonder as to why all of America’s religious clowns seem to locate in Florida.
In two weeks I’ll travel to Indonesia, the largest Muslim nation in the world. It will be the fourth of six trips that I will take in 2010 to a place where both the people and the work of Compassion First are always received warmly–by Muslims. It is also a country–boasting the fourth largest national population at 240 million–where Christians live in concert, peace and mutual respect with Muslims. This coexistence isn’t just a matter of moderation either. The Christian church in Indonesia is avidly evangelistic and growing at a near China-like rate. As a nation, it is also not devoid of Muslim radicals bent on acts of Jihad that get carried out against the innocent. Unfortunately, those are the only days that Indonesia hits the U.S. news cycle and we’re reminded, with tones that are negative, that they are the largest Muslim nation in the world. Even so, Christians live amicably with the masses of Quran abiding moderate Muslims and harbor no collective desire to see them harmed.
Several months ago, I posted a story about the growing movement of Muslim/Christian reconciliation taking place in Indonesia. It is an effort that is being spearheaded by a Pentecostal Christian woman and a conservative Muslim Imam and Quranic boarding school Director. I describe them as such because these are not believers who are moderated in their faiths. They are both respectively passionate about what they believe, so much so that they have committed themselves to lifetimes of religious service; neither could ever be described as milquetoast, liberal or compromising as it might pertain to their core beliefs. In public, they are bringing Christian and Muslim leaders together to forgive the past, commit to mutual understanding and to reconcile with one another. The bigger people in this effort are the Muslims as they are the ones, while the vast majority, that lived in the shadow of Dutch/Christian imperialism that stretched well into the last century. There is much to forgive.
The growth and effort of radical Islam is disturbing, but it needs to be isolated and called what it is. Religious hacks like Rev. Jones need to be appropriately identified as well. I’m certain that he’s going to carry out his ill-advised plan to burn copies of the Quran, even after General Petreaus’ genuine plea for him not to do so. So it goes with those that burn things, whether books, bras or bridges, it seems it is the one lighting the fuse that usually ends up the most vulnerable and exposed. Unfortunately, in this case, the reverend is making a statement that is leaving the rest of us vulnerable.
Last, it lends to both the idea that leadership vacuums are often filled by the wrong people and the reality that the pulpit is often a magnet for narcissists. Both are the case where Reverend Jones is concerned.