LET’S BURN SOME HOLY BOOKS
September 13, 2010 6 Comments
American Pastor Terry Jones (of Dove World) announced that he would have a public Koran burning ceremony in front of his church on Saturday 11th September 2010, on the 9th anniversary of the attack on the twin towers.
On September 9th he announced that he was cancelling the event, but then changed his mind on Sept 10th, thus keeping the media frenzy alive. On Sept 11th itself, he finally announced that he would cancel the Koran burning, and instead would fly to New York to try and meet with US Muslim leaders, now that he was such a globally important power broker.
This is the same Pastor Terry Jones who wears a 45 calibre pistol strapped to his hip, and who sent 2 children of his congregation to school with T-shirts saying “Islam is of the Devil”, and when they were sent home from school said that he didn’t care as “… spreading the church’s message was more important than education”. The same Pastor Terry Jones that was fined for falsely claiming a doctorate whilst spreading the gospel in Germany, and who is being investigated by state authorities who question the church’s tax free status, because he uses child parishioners to work in his furniture business.
For someone who had a congregation of about 50 (now 30 after some quick departures), he has managed to get the most incredible amount of free media coverage and notoriety because of his extreme reactions to Islam. The whole question of how to relate with the Islamic community has become the single most contentious religious issue in the US today, and when coupled with the plans to build a mosque/community centre just 2 blocks from ground zero and the fact that a recent poll showed that 18% of Americans (31% of Republicans) believe that President Obama is a Muslim, it has become the most contentious political issue as well.
This flood of media coverage has managed to attract other like-thinking “great minds” from around the world, and instead of just a local idiot burning a few books, it has become a rallying point for extremists from both sides of the divide causing fury, demonstrations and US flag burnings in Muslim countries everywhere.
This hitherto insignificant lunatic (whose own daughter has just declared is insane and needs help) has had direct public appeals and statements from power-lords like President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, Secretary of Defence Gates and General Petraeus as well as other local and global political and church leaders, in reaction to the planned Koran burning ceremony, and has created a deluge of press and television around the world. Jones’ arrogance built to the point that he announced at one point that he would call off the Koran burning exercise only if he got a personal call from President Obama asking him not to do it, or if he got a personal sign from god.
Why couldn’t we have just left him in his obscurity in Gainesville, Florida and let him burn a few books in isolation? Based on the published state of his church finances, he would have struggled to buy just a handful of second hand copies hence creating a fire that would hardly have singed a marshmallow, but with all the visibility and resultant outside support the number to burn had become 200, and the planned fire has inflamed the world.
But should we really care?
If the word of god is so powerful, the burning of a few bits of paper that it is written on should have little effect, in the same way that flag burning has had no effect on the power and well-being of the US.
As Jones even considers the United Methodist Church just a few blocks away as being “… lily-livered, yellow-bellied Christians …” for running an inter-faith prayer service on September 10, I don’t understand why he had limited himself just to the Koran. He could have gotten even more press and media coverage (and probably support) by deciding to simultaneously burn Jewish Torahs, Hindu Bagvadhgitas, Buddhist Dhammapadas and the religious writings and holy books of all other religions that he doesn’t agree with, and that he believes should all convert to his version of Christianity or be damned for eternity.
This would have at least gotten him his own talk show in the US, and kick started yet another TV ministry to make millions in the name of god.
I would not be surprised if this still happened anyway.
Jones, a hotel employee before discovering god, follows a long line of book burners, such as the destruction of the Libraries of Alexandria (burned by Julius Caesar in 48 BC) and Baghdad (destroyed by the Mongols in 1258), the book burning in China’s Qin dynasty (221-206 BC) and the destruction of Mayan codices by the conquistadors and priests in the 16th century. More recently, the Nazis organised a countrywide action in May 1933 to publicly burn upwards of 25,000 books considered un-German.
German author Heinrich Heine (whose books were amongst those burned by the Nazis) wrote in 1820 in his play Almansor “Where they burn books, they also burn people”.
We can add to this a new quote that in our world of instant global communication and instant celebrity … “He who threatens to burn books will become world famous”.