File this one under “Maybe not quite as bad as the Westboro ‘Baptist-in-scare-quotes’ hooligans but pretty darn close.” An enterprise called the Dove World Outreach Center, in Gainesville, Florida, is planning to burn Korans on the anniversary of 9/11.
Dove lists ten reasons why it’s appropriate to burn the Koran. You can read the reasons and form your own opinion. As a Christian myself, I find a number of the doctrinal points valid – but not as reasons for burning a text that disputes the Old and New Testaments.
Dove cites, as justification, a passage in the book of Acts that describes converts to Christianity burning the books and implements they had used previously to engage in “magical arts” (e.g., sorcery). The passage is Acts 19:18-20. But the most obvious points about this event are that the converts (a) were already converted, and (b) decided on their own to burn the trappings of their former life.
If a Christian convert from Islam wants to burn his own Koran, more power to him. Don’t do it in fire season in southern California. But there is nothing in the New Testament that would prescribe it as a Christian act to burn Korans – piles of paper with words on them – preemptively. In fact, Christianity is compatible with intellectual freedom for others precisely because it is not a collectivist faith that locates salvation in earthly outcomes. It took the West centuries of predatory monarchy and temporal church organizations to iron this out, and get the mechanical activities of human political organization out of the life of the church. Believing you need, as a Christian witness, to make symbolic statements like this is a big step backward.
It’s not Christianity to engage in gratuitous offense. We all sometimes fall short of the standard in this regard, but it’s another thing altogether to go out of your way to deviate from it. Sometimes it’s necessary to say what you believe is true, even though others will be angry. But it is never necessary to symbolically burn what others believe in that you think is not true. If the others decide they want to repudiate their past by burning things, that’s between them and the local fire chief.
Fortunately, Dove is one small organization. I assume the government authorities will treat Dove’s plan as freedom of speech, as they have whenever Christian symbols have been immolated, covered with dung, and urinated on. Dove has every right under the First Amendment to burn the Koran. But if doing so were to invite retaliation, of a kind that made the US authorities take a reactionary look at one of our most basic liberties, it would be tragic – and I don’t use the word lightly – that what started the whole thing was an un-Christian and unnecessary act.
Cross-posted at Hot Air.