Playing With God: Terry Jones, Christian Radicalism and 15 Minutes of Fame

religious hatredAs our nation seeks to grapple with the vestiges of terrorism over the last decade, a new xenophobia has spread over the country tied to belief  in God and belief in right. We assume God is love and love is right, but religious demagoguery has twisted what both God and right stand for. People who call themselves “men of God” are now playing with God and playing with spiritual emotions in very dangerous ways.

A global crisis of a different sort blew over last week when a radical Christian propagator (I can’t even call him a preacher), Terry Jones, said “God” talked him out of burning 1,000 Holy Qur’ans. Jones, head of a church in Gainesville, Florida, with 50 followers (some published reports put the numbers as low as 25), gained national attention by calling for a “Burn The Qur’an” day to supposedly bring attention to the threat that “radical Islam” continues to pose to the United States.

It’s often the smallest dog that has the loudest bark and wants to pick the biggest fight. But what happens when a person of false belief mixes that falsity with a xenophobic patriotism that assaults the religious sensibilities? God warns us of false prophets bearing false witness. Our nation’s fear of foreigners almost borders on insanity. But does one man’s fifteen of minutes of fame bring the public discussion on religious radicalism full circle? Does one man’s Christian fanaticism represent all in the religion?

Defaming Islam and stereotyping Muslims is a popular practice in American society these days. The critique has been extreme and inflammatory. In this most recent case, it almost caused a global catastrophe that even President Obama and head of the U.S. battle forces in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, were forced to acknowledge.

Jones heightened the conversation of his twisted scheme by planning to hold the Qur’an burning on the ninth anniversary of the September 11th attacks. When it appeared that no other faction of the religious right brought into the plan, Jones continued to milk a desperate, all-too-willing 24/7 news cycle by tying it to the story of the Islamic Center being built two blocks from Ground Zero. His radical threat then became a demand to move the mosque or he and his flock were going to move ahead with the desecration of one of God’s holy books.

Only after calls from Obama to Muslim Imams did Jones call off the burning. He said that promises “were made” (which proved unfounded) and that God had spoken to him (a likely reality given what he was facing; God is a warner). Now it’s time to reflect.

The attempt to engage in an act of provocation to incite fringe-element Islamic radicals was viewed by nearly everybody as sacrilege and insane. How can a person who calls himself a respecter of God’s word, a man of goodwill and a saver of souls. disrespect another belief system in such a vile way? How could Terry Jones feel so free to evoke God’s name for an act of evil?

He said his patriotism was “God-inspired.” He is clearly a Christian fanatic and Christians won’t claim him or lay claim to his vile threat. They say he doesn’t represent all Christians. What radical Muslims did on 9/11, so much so that many now equate terrorism with Islam, was not reflective of all Muslims either, but that didn’t change the story, and you can’t convince the American people of that. A Muslim is a terrorist and a terrorist is a Muslim, as far as some are concerned.

Do Christians now feel fear or embarrassment to be Christians? Terrorism has been equated with Muslims the past nine years because the terrorists who destroyed the lives of so many Americans on that fated day said they were Muslims and acting in the cause of Islam. Every believing Muslim scholar has refuting that claim. But nowhere in the world has global anti-American sentiment ever centered on burning Bibles.

Muslims are respecters of believers, and respecters of all of God’s revelations. Christians should be also. We got a good look at what Christian radicalism looked like last week, thanks to partisan journalism and shock media realities. But the crisis wasn’t a publicity stunt. Everybody took it very seriously except the cowboy that set the duel at sundown.

Religion without sincerity, reason, or spirituality is not a good look no matter who wears this evil jacket. Evil things happen when people play with God and use political motive to desecrate his word. That was almost the case last week. But the love of God prevailed and the respect of Islam was elevated above the Christian fanaticism. I think we’re all glad the good ole boy didn’t burn those Qur’ans. American would be facing a different reality because of the act of a fool playing with God. Thank God He is in control of all.

Anthony Asadullah Samad

Published by the LA Progressive on September 17, 2010
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About Anthony Asadullah Samad

Dr. Anthony Asadullah Samad is an author, scholar and the co-founder, Managing Director and host of the Urban Issues Forum. Dr. Samad's most recent book is entitled "Saving The Race: Empowerment Through Wisdom". His national column can be read in newspapers and cyber-sites nationwide. His weekly writings can be read at www.blackcommentator.com. For more information about Dr. Samad, go to www.AnthonySamad.com.