A Burning Question

Laughter in reference to this topic would be found inappropriate by many, but I could not but laugh when I read LaShawn Barber’s recent tweet:

Say a Muslim cleric decided to burn BIBLES on 9/11, and the whole world went BALLISTIC. I’d probably die of a joy-induced heart attack.

Why would she have a heart attack? Well, I’m thinking that she would be joyfully surprised that so many people considered burning the Bible to be a horrible thing. You see, that’s not generally how it works. Remember when a number of Bibles were destroyed in Afghanistan? Here’s the story:

Bibles in Afghan languages sent to a U.S. soldier at a base in Afghanistan were confiscated and destroyed to ensure that troops did not breach regulations which forbid proselytizing, a military spokeswoman said.

The U.S. military has denied its soldiers tried to convert Afghans to Christianity, after Qatar-based Al Jazeera television showed soldiers at a bible class on a base with a stack of bibles translated into the local Pashto and Dari languages.

Do you remember how many Presbyterians and Baptists went on a worldwide protest/killing spree after this happened? Yeah. None.

Speaking as a Christian, I think I understand one reason for this lack of outrage. I do believe the Bible is a sacred book; however, I believe God to be entirely capable of protecting the Bible without my assistance. Am I made sad when Bibles are willfully destroyed? Sure. But that’s where it stops. The Bible is a physical representation of God’s word. The words themselves are “forever settled in heaven.” Suffice it to say that followers of Islam hold their book in a different regard–though many of them consider Korans which are not written in Arabic to be of lesser worth.

There is little question that the organization (I hesitate to call them a church, in the classic Christian sense) which is holding the book burning is doing so to draw attention to itself. Insofar as it is drawing attention to itself rather than God, the zeal is misguided. Paul, when he spoke to the Greeks, didn’t attack all of their false gods (of which there were many). Instead, he chose to redirect the attention of his audience to the true God. There is something to be said for understanding the context of the time and place in which one finds oneself.

That said, these people have a right under our First Amendment to do what they will with books they own. Those who would talk about book burnings and how this takes us back to (pick your totalitarian regime) are missing one very important point. Neither the state nor a state-sponsored group is responsible for this book burning. While we might consider these actions foolish, selfish and even hurtful to the cause of Christianity, they are choosing to destroy their own property.

I realize that you’ve probably seen the following rough statement/argument in several places, but it does bear repeating. If a group of people can be incensed against the citizens of a country of 300 million by the actions of 30 of that country’s citizens–actions which have been disavowed from the President on down) then we really should be reconsidering the use of the sobriquet “the religion of peace.”

The fact that there are so many thousands of stories, posts and conversations about this topic should allow us all to see that we are indeed at crucial point in our cultural development. In a society where we supposedly separate the state from the church, what in the world are we doing treating Islam with a level of sensitivity which has not been shown by our same officials to Christianity in more than a generation?