Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Burning books

Jealousy and strife are ruining Welsh non-conformist Christianity reports one headline, bishop expresses sorrow after vicar jailed for sham marriages says another and in Florida a local church pastor plans to burn copies of the Koran on the anniversary of September 11th.

It doesn't look good for the church.

The first two stories sadden me, the third frankly appalls me. That a pastor can actually believe that burning books is an appropriate act of remembrance beggars belief. Where is the grace in that? I saw a brief interview with him where he talked about not backing down in the face of radical Islam. "When do we stop backing down," was his argument. When we run out of grace apparently would seem to be the answer.

This is the kind of defiance that caused the American and UK governments to "declare war on terror". They concluded that the only way to deal with the perceived threat was to enter the same world and use bigger, more sophisticated weapons. No desire to ask why, just a drivenness towards retaliation.

It won't do.

This pastor seems to be working from a theology of retaliation. To do something that is guaranteed to incite a violent response.

What happened on September 11th was terrible. There are no other words to describe it. But burning the Koran is not an appropriate response. When people burn our flags, our pictures, even our Bibles, let's not become like them in retaliation, but let's show them a different way. Forgiveness and grace are not signs of weakness but signs of a deeper strength, a conviction that violence (and burning books is an act of violence) is not the answer.

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