Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Free Speech

You’ve got to love how free our society is. Compared to many other countries, our freedom of speech is incredible. When I try to explain how our constitution works to my little second and third graders I say that if I wanted to go out on the street corner and yell as loud as I can that our president is a knucklehead – I could.

In many countries you would be MIA for a while for doing just that. Maybe even missing forever. Not in our country. We have a freedom of speech that allows us to rant, or lie, or tell the truth as we see fit. And, unless we slander no one can stop us. Hey, what’s not to love about that, right?

Terry Jones

Then you hear of this guy Terry Jones of Dove World Outreach Center of Gainseville, FL. He’s going to build a bonfire and burn a whole bunch of Korans, the Muslim Holy Book. I heard him rant nonsensically on the radio yesterday. What it all comes down to is his need to inflame and incite. What it comes down to is his need for attention. He is going to commemorate a hate-filled act (the bombing of the Twin Towers and the Pentagon) with a hate-filled act of his own.

(Youtube link to an interview of Jones by Anderson Cooper)

A deposition obtained by CBS News from a court case last month raises question about how much Pastor Jones even knows about his controversial cause. According to the deposition, Jones and his wife learned much of what they know about Sharia Law - the sacred law of the Muslim religion - by watching videos on YouTube.

"Do you know where Sharia law came from?" Jones is asked.

"Not really, no," he replies, "I think there's experts that say it came from the old Mosaic law. But no."

Attorneys also asked Jones how many Muslims he knows personally.

"I don't think I know any personally," he says, "I haven't interviewed any." Jones also says he has not attended any interfaith discussions and that he believes that such discussions are part of "our problem."

Gen. David Petraeus warned Tuesday in an e-mail to The Associated Press that "images of the burning of a Quran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan — and around the world — to inflame public opinion and incite violence." It was a rare example of a military commander taking a position on a domestic political matter.

Jones responded that he is also concerned but is "wondering, 'When do we stop?'" He refused to cancel the protest set for Saturday at his Dove World Outreach Center, a church that espouses an anti-Islam philosophy (Yahoo News)

So Jones plans to desecrate the Koran and acts like he does not understand the insult and the violence and hatred that may follow. I am grateful to live in a country where these actions are covered by our constitution and our right to free speech. But we can't yell, "FIRE!" in a crowded building, right? Isn't creating a violent situation for innocent people just about the same thing, only worse?

My question is, where does his right to free speech end? Doesn’t my right to live in a peaceful, tolerant, accepting society offset his right to free speech? Even a little? Will innocent people

Image: Terry Jones

die at the hands of radical Muslims because of Jones’ attention-seeking, self-important foolishness? Won’t the action of burning another religion’s sacred holy book fan the flames of hatred on both sides? Isn’t this something that will play right into the hands of the radical Muslims trying to paint a world in which Christians and Jews and Muslims cannot coexist?

Is Terry Jones really a Christian if he pretends that this hateful act is his right – his responsibility? Who did Jesus hate? At the end of his life, when he knew that he would soon be tortured to death, Jesus said to his disciples, Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples – when they see the love you have for each other. (From John Chapter 13 in Eugene Peterson’s The Message)

This is the red-letter stuff. As close as we can tell these were Jesus’ words – translated of course. There were no exceptions, as in love one another except for those with different color skin, or those who talk funny, or those from a country far away. There is no exception in that new command that says, except those who believe differently than you do.

Love one another.

Love one another.

There is not much room for wiggle room in that statement. Is there any doubt what that new command means?

Love one another.

This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples – when they see the love you have for each other.

I am not trying to “out-Christian” Terry Jones. The guy is a minister. But the State Department and General Petraeus have asked him not to burn the Koran. Members of his tiny flock have quit over this. Churches from all over the country, indeed, all over the world have asked him not to do this hateful act. He does not speak for all Christians. Not by a long shot.

I hope to God that he sees reason and gets his attention fix by changing his mind instead of following through with his evil plan.

Love one another. Why is that so hard?

1 comment:

Chris Hass said...

A protest who's only purpose is to anger and further divide. Jones reminds of the crazies from Westboro Baptist Church (Topeka, KS) who travel around the country protesting at the funerals of homosexuals to ensure that the families understand that this was God's punishment. I guess there will always be people we will not understand.

Speaking of free speech. I read a really good book a few years ago titled Silence in the Mountains. It was about the thirty year civil war in Guatemala and the effects it still has on the country. There are so many people there who had many family members "disappear" (a technique taught to them by the Americans) and are still afraid to speak out about it for fear of retaliation. It was very sad.