Burning the Koran: Gen. Patraeus Speaks

To burn or not to burn?  That is the question.  If it was up to Gen. David Patraeus, the U.S. Commander in Afghanistan, the answer would be a resounding NO!  However, it is not up to the General.  In fact, Gen. Patraeus and the brave men and women of our Armed Forces stand on the front lines of freedom, securing our rights (sometimes with their lives) that we currently enjoy in the United States, including the right to build mosques near Ground Zero and the right to burn copies of the Koran.

For some inexplicable reason, Gen. Patraeus thought it necessary to comment on the plans of a small Gainesville, Florida church — the Dove World Outreach Center — and its pastor, Terry Jones, to burn copies of the Koran on September 11, the 9th anniversary of the attack on this country by Islamic extremists.  Although I do not doubt for a minute Gen. Patraeus’ concern for the troops and his belief that the Taliban and other Islamic radicals will exploit this insensitive and un-Christlike act, I do not fully understand why the General would want to give even more publicity to a 50-member church and their fringe pastor that no one had heard of before last month?

When I first read about this staged event, I was tempted to write about it, but then I thought, “It’s not worth giving this guy any more free publicity.”  Now, in what is arguably beyond Jones’ wildest dreams (or prayers), THE Commander in Afghanistan has weighed in on this controversy by condemning the planned book burning.  No one that I know would condone or endorse such behavior, even if it is legally and constitutionally protected by the First Amendment.  The idea of burning books or record albums (I’m dating myself), while “inspiring” to the cult-like followers of this Jones, in reality turns off those in our communities that we should be trying to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with.  If a pastor thinks that Muslims are going to hell, wouldn’t it make more sense to build bridges than to burn books?  It should go without saying that what Jones’ and his followers are planning is not only reprehensible, but likewise the opposite of outreach, if by outreach you mean reaching out in LOVE to those who are not followers of Christ.  Not sure that burning Korans is the ideal way to git ‘er done in the Muslim outreach department!  Just a thought.

Condemning the Dove World Outreach Center and Jones is easy.  What’s not so easy is determining what actions Americans can take that WILL NOT offend or enrage the radical elements within the Muslim world.  Koran burning — right out.  Cartoons depicting Mohammed — can’t do it (well you can, but no one will publish them).  Saying that “Islam is a vile and wicked religion” — ask Franklin Graham if that one will fly.

No reasonable person would dispute that burning Korans is idiotic and highly offensive, not to mention counter-productive for Christian dialogue with our Muslim friends and neighbors.  However, what disturbs me about General Patraeus stepping into it, is the mindset that it reveals when it comes to how we as a country will deal with Islam.  President Bush, who I generally agreed with, said that “Islam is a religion of peace.”  I believe many Americans — rightly or wrongly — have grave doubts about the truthfulness of that statement.  Helping to raise doubts about the “peacefulness” of Muslims worldwide, especially in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, who oversees the effort to train Afghan security forces, made comments that were particularly eye-opening:

Allegations of mishandling the Quran have interrupted Afghan security training at least twice this year, Gen. Caldwell said.  In one instance, a Quran fell to the ground when an American officer opened a locker during an inspection of Afghan trainees’ barracks. The rumor quickly spread that the officer had thrown it to the ground, angering the trainees at the camp. “He quickly apologized, but rumors took off like wildfire,” Gen. Caldwell said. “It was so hard to get the misperception turned around we stopped all training for the rest of the day. (read full article here)

Apparently, on accident, a Koran fell on the floor when a locker was opened for inspection.  Although I cannot understand how this would have been the American officer’s fault, he “quickly apologized.”  Apology accepted.  Case closed.  Let’s move on.  Right?  Wrong.  No, instead all he** broke loose.  Let’s put this into context.  If an Afghan officer opened a Christian’s locker and his Bible accidentally fell on the ground, would there have been an apology?  I think we all know the answer to that question.  Furthermore, if said apology was given, would the Christian soldier have started a rumor which led to complete and utter chaos?  I think not.

It’s easy for Gen. Patraeus to say that the Koran burning on September 11 will be used by the Taliban and other radical Muslims to stoke the fires of hatred of the United States:

It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems. Not just here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community.

But, let’s be realistic.  Whether or not the Dove World Outreach Center follows through with its “action” to burn Korans, Islamic extremists world-wide will use any and every excuse and no excuse at all to vilify Western culture in general and the Judeo/Christian worldview in particular.  Even if the action is innocent, there will be many who are more than willing to fan the flames of anti-Americanism worldwide, especially in the Muslim world.  Why?  Because we are in a war with Islamic extremists.  Are all Muslims extreme?  Of course not.  But, if the burning of Korans by a publicity-seeking pastor of an insignificant 50-member church in Florida results in world-wide rioting and propaganda videos, then we have a far more serious problem with the “religion of peace” than either Gen. Patraeus or George Bush might care to admit.

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About Howell Scott

I have been a Southern Baptist pastor for the last fourteen years. Before entering the ministry, I was a practicing attorney in my homestate of Florida. I have been married to my wife, Brenda, for 18 years and we have three sons, Stephen, Jacob, and Andrew.
This entry was posted in Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech, Freedoms, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Burning the Koran: Gen. Patraeus Speaks

  1. Bennett Willis says:

    Never underestimate the ability (and determination) of some to spread rumors–especially when it is to their advantage. You may recall the riots among the British forces in India when the rumor was spread that the grease used on the rifle bullets was pig fat. Somehow we are always willing to believe the worst about someone we “don’t like.”

    Maybe it is a maturity issue. Maybe it takes a few thousand years before your belief matures to the point that you don’t have a potentially deadly demonstration every time you are “offended.” Maybe Islam simply has not been around quite long enough. Christianity has done a lot of bad things in the name of their religion and various “branches” of Christianity have done a lot of bad things to other “branches” of Christianity. But we have largely stopped. Maybe in a few hundred years Islam will also.

    But my experience is that if you irrationally dwell on the things that are offensive to you, you will become ever more offended.

    It seems to me that the General is behaving responsibly. If you do not condemn things that go on, you run the risk of being labeled a supporter of the things. After all, look at what many say about the lack of condemnation of 9/11 by “all Muslims.”

    • Howell Scott says:

      Bennett,

      Sorry for the delay in responding, but have been sick most of the day. Feeling better this evening. I don’t believe that you are comparing the two, but the lack of condemnation over 9/11 and the burning of Korans by a fringe 50-member church are not in the same universe. There is a certain segment of Islam that is radicalized and does not need any reason to hate America. I suppose the question for the General and others would be, “What can or can’t we do or SAY that would lead to radical Muslim extremists being offended?” What I see coming, and there are already moves afoot in the U.N., is for it to be illegal to say anything that would be offensive to Islam. If I were to preach as message on a Sunday morning in which I said anything negative about Islam, would that be allowed? One should never go out of their way to be offensive — as in the case of the Koran burning — but the Gospel and the message of the Cross is offensive. Where, if anywhere, will the line be drawn as to what we can say or write about Islam? Opposing the burning of Korans is an easy one. What concerns me are the ones down the road that will not be as easy. Thanks for your perspective and for stopping by. God bless,

      Howell

  2. Bennett Willis says:

    I was not trying to equate the Koran burning (should it take place) with the 9/11 events, but the emotional responses that some groups make to the events seem quite similar.

    I have no sympathy for those who “whip a crowd into a frenzy” to promote their agenda, but it works in a variety of cultural sub groups.

    • Howell Scott says:

      Bennett,

      I didn’t think you were equating the two. I agree that there are those in various groups (including Christianity) that can use emotion (both positive and negative) to whip crowds into a frenzy. In this particular case, I don’t think that it takes much (if any) overt acts to whip up radicalized Muslims into an anti-American, anti-Christian and/or anti-Jewish frenzy. What is problematic about the response to Terry Jones and his “church” is the appearance of government intimidation to shut down his protest. I think what he is doing is idiotic and un-Christlike, even if it may be protected by the First Amendment. My greater concern is with where the line might be drawn by government leaders and others as to what can and cannot be said and done that would not be offensive. Franklin Graham saying that Islam is a “vile and wicked religion” got him disinvited from the Pentagon’s Prayer Breakfast. How much do we have to massage that message for it not to be offensive? If I preach that those who are outside of Christ (including Muslims) will not go to heaven, am I being offensive? I believe that we will have to face issues of free speech and religion in this country in the days ahead and I predict that the results will not be pretty. Thanks again for giving your insights. God bless,

      Howell

  3. Marty says:

    My objection is not with the political response from prominent officials. My objection is to the widespread media coverage of some whackjob preacher and his deceived flock in Florida. This is a perfect example of the lack of responsibility of the media. If they thought about it, or cared, they wouldn’t have printed the stupid story in the first place. People only have the forum others are willing to give them.

    • Howell Scott says:

      Marty,

      I didn’t touch on the media coverage (read “manipulation”) of this story in my post, but one has to ask the question, “Why would the media give this much free publicity to some whack-job “pastor” and his “church”in Florida?” What is the motivation behind this? It is easy (and right) to condemn the buring of the Korans, but what will not provoke the radical Muslim extremists into rioting in the street? There’s no question that there is a double-standard going on in this case in relation to the Ground Zero mosque. And of course burning the flag is perfectly acceptable to the leftists in power in this country, but not the Koran. I think what this “pastor” is doing is idiotic, although it is protected by the First Amendment. However, my concern is where do we draw the line. If I were to preach that anyone who does not trust Christ as personal Savior and Lord (including Muslims, Mormans, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Atheists, etc.) will not go to heaven, will that be allowed? If you look at speech codes in Europe and on American college campuses, there are many who say they believe in the First Amendment, but who by their actions and restrictions on speech, even offensive speech, show that they do not believe in that most fundamental freedom. If a fringe “pastor” and “church” in central Florida can cause such an uproar, what about a larger church who speaks out against Islam? Ask Franklin Graham if speech is still truly free. I’m afraid that there is a much bigger agenda at play in this case. Time will tell. Thanks for commenting. Hope ya’ll are doing well. God bless,

      Howell

  4. Pingback: Gen. Patraeus & Koran Burning Redux | From Law to Grace

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