We have been held gripped in suspense as a saga unfolds in Gainesville, Florida. The story of Terry Jones, pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center, has enthralled the media for the last several days, as he declared today, September 11, "International Burn a Koran Day" and threatened to do just that. Clergy, military commanders, diplomats, and heads of state have weighed in. I, personally, have been glued to the cable news networks as this international crisis unfolds.
Well, that last part is a lie. Actually, all I've done is read the periodic updates to the news story on the CBC Web site as the nefarious conflagration went back and forth like a ping-pong ball.
At first, it was on. Then it was off, because Jones had received assurances from the Ground Zero mosque imam that the location would be changed.
Then it was on again, because Jones decided the imam "clearly, clearly lied to us." (No, really. Taqiyya, anyone?) He issued a two-hour ultimatum to the New York imam to contact him and set up a meeting to find a "peaceful solution" to this issue. Yes, that's right: Jones demanded a meeting to negotiate a solution to a crisis he personally precipitated and could unilaterally call off.
Now, it's off again, and apparently Jones took a night flight to New York to try and meet with the imam, Presumably, he is still seeking his "peaceful solution."
Whatever. Jones has accomplished nothing of value. He has attracted attention to himself and his church, of course, although that hasn't exactly been positive: their now-offline Web site affirmed support for hatemongering Westboro "Baptist" "Church" in Topeka, and (The Smoking Gun snagged a copy of their in-house school's handbook, which is bizarre, to say the least. Jones' stated intent gave the perpetually outraged "Arab Street" yet another excuse to seethe against the West and came within a hair's breadth of causing an international incident. And, frankly, who told him that burning books would leave a positive impression with his audience?
Terry Jones has derelicted his duty as a minister of the Gospel. First, he has taken the name of God in vain. Each successive step in the last week's flip-flop has supposedly been undertaken after prayer or hearing the voice of God. Sorry, but God is not that fickle. The Bible says that God has "no variation or shadow due to change" (James 1:18); on the other hand, the same author does have something to say about double-minded and unstable men (1:8).
Second, Jones has given needless offense. Paul became "all things to all people" (1 Cor. 9:22) because he did not want to cause unnecessary offense to those whom he wished to reach with the Gospel. He respected their taboos; the Gospel itself was offense enough (1 Cor. 1:23). Iconoclasm in the Bible is neither used as a form of political protest, nor as a means of presenting the Gospel. When Paul visited Athens, though he was upset by the many idols in the city, he did not smash them. Rather, he used an idol dedicated to an unknown god as an object lesson, preaching to the Athenians about the true God whom they did not know.
Pastor Jones has squandered an opportunity to preach Jesus to Muslims. Instead of the decent man who treats them respectfully and answers their questions about his hope in the Prophet Jesus with confidence, now he will be the crazy old kook who tried to hold a mosque hostage by threatening to desecrate a book they deem holy. Worse, this has ramifications that go well beyond the city limits of Gainesville: world-wide protests have already happened by Muslims who don't distinguish between the acts of a lone kook and those of the entire "Christian" West. Jones has probably made life much harder for Christian missionaries everywhere. For this act of supreme boneheadednes, I hereby award him the DIM BULB du jour.
A special 40-watt honour has to go to the media, who kept this circus running, until finally realizing yesterday that it was a non-story.
I like James White's idea when this story first broke: instead of "Burn a Quran Day," have "Read a Quran Day" - and having carefully read it, know better how to proclaim the Gospel of salvation to its followers who so desperately need to hear it. Let the only scandal be the scandal of the cross.