Updated September 10:
Fortunately, Rev. Jones in Gainesville announced yesterday, September 9th, that he is no longer planning his stunt originally schedule for September 11. I’m thankful for that, but the event is still very much being discussed in the news. I updated the blog slightly from its original post. I thought about taking it down but I thought it still contained some worthwhile thoughts and decided to leave it posted, with some modifications.
The words were deliberate, intentional and hard for him to say. The Indonesian pastor had carefully thought about the acrostic he had devised, in English even! I-S-L-A-M. He gave the word new meaning. To him it now meant: I- Sincerely Love All Muslims.
For some that might not mean much. For him it meant plenty. He had lived with the hatred, even the fear. He had witnessed the awful persecution. I had spent a couple of days touring parts of the world’s largest predominantly Muslim nation. What I had seen was enough to make me shrink with fear, enough to make me stern with anger. Here was a church that looked like one of its main walls had been bombed. It wasn’t a bomb, although in Indonesia that is far from unheard of, it was rather an angry mob that had attacked the church on a Christmas Eve. Their stones had broken the windows, and their sticks and clubs and damaged the wall, breaking it almost in half. Every week the small church still gathered in the vandalized section. A constant reminder of the price they pay for following in Christ in a nation where most follow a different prophet.
I toured the island of Halmahera, where few Americans have been, and met with a village of mostly women. A boatload of Christian leaders had left that village for a Christian conference and was never heard form again. The government had been no help. There had been no storms and no traces of the boat or men were ever found. The women who spoke no English spoke the words to me that even I could understand, “Al Qaida”. I met other women who had been forced to undergo brutal female circumcision as a rite of forced conversion by Muslim extremists. They bled and tried to clean their wounds in the salty sea near their village.
I helped dedicate a new church that had been rebuilt in one village. As I sat on a makeshift stage the village leaders pointed to the nearby jungle that sloped down gently from the hills. “From there”, they said, “From there they came one evening.” Islamic extremists, convinced they were doing God’s work, descended from the hills, part of Al Qaida’s network, and torched the church, burned homes and killed many Christians in that village. The church was rebuilding (there was still no roof, no windows) and facing a frightening future with a courage rooted in unbending faith.
I had spent a few days hearing the stories, seeing the rubble, feeling the pain, watching the tears, he had spent a lifetime. He could have, maybe should have, been filled with hatred and bitterness, but instead he understood. He understood that most Muslims were trapped in their circumstances, victims of a culture captive by blind religious thought. As a follower of Christ he knew they were trapped in darkness and needed the light of Christ. He had friends who had been killed, family members who had been persecuted. He lived under constant threat for even his own life. Still he smiled at me: I Sincerely Love All Muslims.
Maybe that is why the Gainesville pastor who was prepared to burn copies of the Koran on Saturday, September 11 angered me so. A global controversy was created when Rev. Terry Jones, a Pentecostal pastor who has maybe 50 members in his rural church, made plans for his church to publicly burn copies of the Koran, the holy book for all Muslims. It was stupid and it was wrong. It was a deliberate provocative act designed to offend and anger Muslims. It worked.
It became a world wide story. It would have endangered our troops and harmed the work of believers around the world. Look, I’m not afraid of offending someone. I certainly don’t buy in to the politically correct dogma that Islam is a religion of peace or that all religions are basically the same. Nonsense. Islam has bred violence because at its heart it is a violent religion. It was founded by a terrorist. Check it out, Mohammed acted like a terrorist. He used violence and fear as a way of spreading his misguided religious message. He was responsible for hundreds, maybe thousands of deaths. Most of the wars today involve Muslims, and most of them are Muslims fighting Muslims.