Zealots and deviants always reflect poorly on the groups from which they come.
This week, a Christian pastor in Gainesville, Fla., ignited protests among Muslims around the world and brought condemnation from the Obama Administration. His on-again, off-again plan to burn the Qur'an proves that there is no biblical edict to proceed with his initial scheme. If there were, there would be no compromise.
The Rev. Terry Jones of Dove World Outreach Center is an extremist in comparison to many Christian leaders and churches when it comes to Islam. But Muslims who are upset about his plan to burn copies of the Qur'an tonight, on the ninth anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, don't give a hoot about the fact that he lives in a country where the Constitution allows for such freedom of expression.
The ordeal has become a media frenzy. Mr. Jones said he had called the burning off because he believed Imam Muhammad Musri of the Islamic Society of Central Florida had promised that the mosque planned near Ground Zero in New York would be moved.
That mosque was never an issue before a few days ago, and the imam said there was never any such agreement.
Mr. Jones is known for his anti-Islam message. To demonstrate, he said he would burn copies of the Qur'an on church property. Such a fire without a permit is a violation of Gainesville law. As a Christian, Mr. Jones is supposed to render unto Caesar what's his.
More important, though, is the effect that the news about his plans has had. This week, in a rally outside a mosque in Kabul, Afghans burned U.S. flags and an effigy of Mr. Jones, and chanted “death to America.” Late last week, Muslims in Indonesia — the fourth most populous nation and home to the world's largest Muslim population — protested the church's plans outside the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta.
Americans should shudder to think what would happen if the Florida church proceeds.
The U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, said it would endanger troops in Afghanistan and U.S. citizens throughout the world.
“Images of the burning of a Qur'an would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan — and around the world — to inflame public opinion and incite violence,” he told the Associated Press in an e-mail. “Were the actual burning to take place, the safety of our soldiers and civilians would be put in jeopardy and accomplishment of the mission would be made more difficult.”
If violence in Afghanistan gets too far out of hand as a result of the church's Qur'an burning, it could upset the Obama Administration's plan to pull out troops. The lives of soldiers and other Americans on international soil could be lost because of Mr. Jones' foolishness.
Even after he talked with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Mr. Jones defended his plan. He has not made clear, though, what he expects to gain by burning copies of Muslims' holy book.
One of the most treasured liberties for many Americans is the freedom of religion. However, liberty without some boundaries can lead to destruction. Mr. Jones' performance is a perfect example of that.
Moreover, with liberties come responsibilities. He is behaving irresponsibly by putting the lives of our weary troops and other Americans in danger.
His claim that he is acting out of obedience to God has apparently not been weighed against other biblical directives, such as the Apostle Paul's remark on the believer's freedom.
“Everything is permissible — but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible — but not everything is constructive” (I Cor. 10:23, New International Version).
This, Mr. Jones, is not constructive. These actions have done more to spark violence and discord than to bring any benefit to the cause of Christianity.
Rose Russell is a Blade associate editor.
Contact her at:firstname.lastname@example.org