Lessons From Threatened Book Burning

2010 (c)iStockphoto/wildcat78

Pastor Terry Jones’s 15 minutes of fame has stretched into a reality tv mini-series. If you haven’t heard the latest, Pastor Jones met with an imam who, Jones insists, promised him the planned Islamic center near ground zero would relocate if Jones would call off the book burning. Jones says he agreed and announced he was canceling, but not long after the meeting, the imam claimed he had made no such promise. Jones responded by saying the imam had lied and that the book burning was no longer cancelled but suspended.

I blogged on Jones’s inflammatory intentions recently and suggested he may have had more in common with Islamic terrorists than he realized. I also blogged on the proposed Islamic center near ground zero, contending the most popular arguments against are missing the point. But I think there is something more significant here than either individual incident.

In response to his plan to burn a Quran, Jones claims he and his people have received over 100 death threats, and there is concern around the world of bloody repercussions by Muslims against Christians, and even the American military. So serious were these threats, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called Jones and encouraged him to call off the book burning. And all of because Jones threatened to burn a book.

But I don’t recall hearing of death threats against Muslims in response to plans to build an Islamic center near ground zero. Many Christians disagreed for sure, but they tried to reason and persuade. They didn’t threaten to kill people.

Or look at the response of the Christian community to Jones. Christians from every conceivable denomination called on Jones not to go ahead with the book burning, and they did so publicly. They went on the record to make it clear what Jones proposed to do was not representative of Christianity or its Founder.

But in response to plans to build an Islamic center and mosque near ground zero, Muslim leaders have been silent. I didn’t hear them calling on their fellow Muslims to build at a different place or suggesting love or respect for the feelings of others is required of them by their Islamic beliefs. If they have spoken publicly its been to claim victim status or first amendment rights.

Obviously, there are exceptions on both sides, but my point is there has been a substantive difference between the response of Christendom and Muslims which reveals more about both than the underlying controversies that spawned them.

What do you think? Do you see moral equivalency here or a difference in the responses? GS