Burning Questions

I have been trying to figure out what Gospel text the Florida pastor is thinking about in his expressed desire to burn the Quran as a faith based protest.  (I suspect he is more in love with publicity and notoriety than with the Gospel.)  As Nancy noted even if this is about the attacks on 9-11 St Paul wrote Christians should rending to no one evil for evil.

Besides, I fail to see how burning another faith’s holy writing protects or guards our faith. That is like beating someone up to end violence. It doesn’t make sense in theory or in practice. It also raises another question: do we need to protect God, or protect faith in Jesus? Are not our faith and our deities strong enough to withstand the “assaults” (real or imagined) of those who believe differently? If God, Christianity and Jesus are not strong enough to withstand different beliefs without our protection will they be of any use to us in times of crisis, trial or stress?

In the interest of transparency I must admit that I personally do not react as strongly as others to the burning of a bible or even an American flag.  These, for me, are things – objects – that symbolize a greater truth and reality. For so many adherents of Islam (and some Americans as well) the reality is contained in the symbol – burning the Quran or Bible is an attack on God. For me destroying the symbol does not destroy the greater reality and the truth it represents. I see such burning or defacing of objects as disrespect for others, and for the truths for which the symbol stands, and thus can become a powerful symbol in itself. But I do not feel it necessary to retaliate or pass laws to prevent it. If radicals of whatever persuasion burn a bible or the flag I feel one of the strengths of our system of government is that we allow freedom of expression and indeed allowing it strengthens this system we call democracy.

Our faith and our governance will continue and remain strong and appealing when we allow them to function without feeling the necessity to militantly protect them from differing viewpoints of others. We protect no one and in fact make our selves more vulnerable when we act out of retaliation, bigotry or fear.


About don

The Rev Don Hill is an Episcopal priest, rail fan and writer. He and his wife the Rev. Dr. Nancy Woodworth-Hill are currently Co-Pastors of St Paul's Episcopal Church, Jeffersonville IN, in the Diocese of Indianapolis. They also work as parish consultants in Appreciative Inquiry, strategic planning and spirituality development for parishes and vestries.
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