The Slippery Slope Starts Somewhere

After two visits from F.B.I. agents, condemnations from General David Patraeus, President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Attorney General Eric Holder, and a personal phone call from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the “pastor” of a small Gainesville-area church finally backed down from a planned Koran burning event to be held at the church he leads — the Dove World Outreach Center.  Mark this day on you calendars.  For Thursday, September 9 will mark the beginning of the slippery slope whereby anything “offensive” to Islam will not be tolerated by the powers that be in the United States of America.

Let me be clear at the outset.  I believe that what “Pastor” Terry Jones and his followers planned on the 9th Anniversary of the attacks on our country by Muslim extremists — the burning of Korans — is insensitive, idiotic, and un-Christlike to the nth degree.  I do not believe that any reasonable Christian would think that burning Korans would accomplish the Great Commission that Christ has given to His followers to carry out.  I also believe that Gen. Patraeus and Defense Secretary Gates truly believe that our troops will face increased dangers if the burning went on as planned.  And, even if what Jones had planned is legal, that doesn’t make it right.  Ditto the Ground Zero mosque!

Jones, after meeting with F.B.I. agents and with a central Florida Imam, says that he struck a deal to cancel the Koran burning in exchange for the relocation of the Ground Zero mosque.  Of course, the Imam in charge of the Ground Zero mosque project disputes that any deal was struck.  Makes you wonder what was said to “Pastor” Jones, especially by our government officials.  Probably no transcript of the F.B.I.’s face-to-face interviews or Gates’ phone call with Jones will be forthcoming.

And, here’s where things start to get slippery.  Burning the flag of the United States of America is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.  When’s the last time that you heard of a full-court press by government officials to stop a planned flag burning?  That’s what I thought.  Burning books — including the Bible — is “speech” that is legally protected.  Submerging a crucifix in urine and calling it art is not only legally protected, but has been federally funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. (WARNING:  Do not click link if you are offended by this image)  While many Americans, including Christians, are highly offended by the aforementioned activities, there is little, if any, need to worry about world-wide violence ensuing by those so offended.  Protests, yes.  Mayhem and violence, not so much.  But, threaten to burn the Koran, well that’s another story altogether.

The slippery slope starts somewhere.  For those who would dare speak against Islam in any negative tones whatsoever, that somewhere was outside the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, FL.  Koran burning, while it might nominally be protected by the First Amendment, is now off-limits.  I’m sure that Jones or someone else will try this stunt again, but the sled carrying the cargo of what is considered Islamophobia and anti-Muslim “rhetoric” has now started its descent down the steep hill.  We don’t know for sure where the sled will end up, but we can certainly offer an educated guess, based on past experience in this country and in Western Europe.

If Koran burning is on the sled, then negative comments about Islam, such as when Franklin Graham called Islam a “vile and wicked religion,” are on the sled as well.  Well, you can say that, but it will get you disinvited to Prayer Breakfasts at the Pentagon.  What about cartoons that mock or ridicule Islam?  What about television satire like South Park which depicts the Prophet Mohammed in a bear costume?  Oh wait, that was already censored.   Of course, Christianity is fair game, but Islam is different.  And, how about pastors who tell their congregations that they should share Jesus with their Muslim friends and neighbors because without Christ, people (Muslims and non-Muslims alike) will spend an eternity in hell separated from a loving and holy God?  Look to Western Europe to see where the sled has already been.  And, let’s not even get started about Christians living in Muslim nations.

Am I glad that the Koran burning has been called off?  Yes.  It was a stupid and insensitive thing to even contemplate.  However, let’s not lose sight of the fact that the federal government, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Secretary of Defense, put tremendous pressure on a small-church “pastor” to help him decide not to follow through with the clearly offensive Koran burning.  As the sled of what is considered offensive to Islam hurdles down the hill, plowing over the First Amendment as it goes, it is not a question if something else will be seen as offensive, but merely what will be seen as offensive.  The next time, it may not be the Dove World Outreach Center.  It may be you.  Or me.  Remember, the slippery slope starts somewhere!

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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, Islam, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to The Slippery Slope Starts Somewhere

  1. K says:

    Really?
    The FBI was there to offer Jones protection. They informed him he had thousands of death-threats. And what’s wrong with putting pressure on someone for planning to do something that would put our troops in danger? He still had the right to go through with it.
    I’m about as far from being a Muslim as possible, but the fact that they still have reverence for their faith should be a good thing. Why do Christians allow the Church Channel to run infomercials in the name of God? Or Pat Robertson?

    • Howell Scott says:

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. The articles that I have seen (including http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hKWWJdTrfALpbYfWB6fM58p6u-pwD9I4I32G0) did not indicate what the nature of the F.B.I. talks with Jones were. If you have other articles that give more background, I would be happy to look at them. I do not necessarily think that it is wrong to put pressure on people to change directions, especially when our troops are in danger. Thankfully, Congress and others stepped in to put pressure on the Obama Administration to not release sensitive photos that would have inflamed Muslims worldwide (http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/246033/burning-questions-andrew-c-mccarthy). Maybe Obama and company have seen the error of their ways.

      If you read my previous post on this issue, I discussed how radical Muslims do not need any provocation to be provoked. That the Administration would take these steps to stop what is clearly an idiotic, insensitive and provocative act is not my primary concern, although when government goes to these lengths, there should be a compelling governmental reason for the intervention. Protecting our troops is obviously such a reason. Quite simply, the queston is what will be considered to be offensive to Muslims and therefore off limits to opposing speech? Being against burning Korans is easy. What about speaking “ill” of Islam? What about the same mocking and ridicule of Islam that Christianity routinely gets? What about pastors standing behind a pulpit — in churches large and small — and saying that Islam is a false religion because it does not claim Jesus Christ as the divine Son of God? The slippery slope starts somewhere, even if that somewhere is a place we don’t agree with.

      As to Christians “allowing” the Church Channel to run infomercials, again that is a product of not only the First Amendment, but of folks who are willing to watch and underwrite the programming. I will defend people’s rights — even Pat Robertson — to say things that may be ridiculous or insensitive, even if I do not agree with all that they say. Just as I would defend the rights of Muslims to build a mosque near Ground Zero, I do not have to like it or endorse it. Love the avatar. Live long and prosper. God bless,

      Howell

  2. K Gray says:

    The ironies in this thing are endless.

    Jones stated that his mission was to expose Islam as a violent, false religion. The response to his words (not actions, since he did not burn anything) was “thousands of death threats” (we don’t know from whom), thousands chanting “Death to America” in Afghanistan, Indonesia and Pakistan; and burnings including tires, American flags, Bibles, and Jones in effigy.

    Religious-liberty Baptists publish essays, letters and lectures supporting mosque-building (some saying it’s the best way to “honor the God in all of us”), when Islam seems opposed to religious liberty, separation of church and state, soul competency and other ‘historical Baptist distinctives.’ That’s a collision course.

    Our nation’s leaders rush to warn Jones personally that he, in his proposed attempt to expose Islam as a violent false religion, will in fact provoke violence and endanger Americans.

    Christians of various stripes churn out civics essays without engaging spiritual matters; they condemn book-burning, assign hatred as Jones’ motive (maybe it is), and write about the First Amendment. What’s distinctively Christian about that?

    Ultimately, we are applying a content-neutral civic religion to a spiritual issue. And it results in defending and promoting another religion. Now take a second look at Jones’ original message.

    • Howell Scott says:

      Karen,

      Thanks for commenting. Sorry I have not responded sooner. I agree completely with your analysis. I have engaged some moderate Baptist brethren at BaptistLife.com about the mosque and the Koran burning, trying to get them to acknowledge that there are some things that are legally protected speech, but which they could not support, endorse or condone. Most ignored my hypotheticals and would not answer the question directly. Of course, if they did say there were some things that they personally opposed, that would undercut their arguments against opponents of the Ground Zero mosque. I think both the mosque and the Koran buring are protected speech, but I don’t have to personally like either of them. When you have a sitting Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court saying that Koran burning might not fall under First Amendment protection, I think we are indeed heading for a collision course between those who truly believe in freedom and those who would seek to eliminate any opposition whatsoever, particularly when it comes to Islam. Thanks again for stopping by. God bless,

      Howell

  3. K Gray says:

    Correction: the effigy burned was a figure labeled “Obama” and “America.”

  4. stephen fox says:

    Howell:
    Three articles all easily googled.
    One at Religion Dispatches on Roger Williams. I posted the direct link at BL.com
    Two, Fabulous article online current issue of http://www.nybooks.com on Catholics, Nativists and the Mosque. If folks only read two opinion pieces on the NYC mosque, in my wide reading on the matter I would say that and Jon Meacham’s oped last week in Newsweek, concise and cogent both; the NYC piece a fabulous History lesson. The movie Gangs of New York helps frame it nicely if you want to do a teachable moment with Gifted youth, in your church and community; and or with the influence of your blog.
    Three, a book, Nancy Pearcey on Leonardo. She falls into the Francis Schaeffer analysis of Art and Culture which I think is stunted, but great fodder for discussion.
    Between her take on several movies and the Christian Century reviews; no surprise to you I go with the Century. Likewise Diarmand MacCulloch has a wiser framework for Christianity in the Big Picture than Schaeffer and Al Mohler, that one a no brainer.
    On another note you should engage the chat on Ezell at SBC Voices and don’t be shy about linking your good blog here on the evisceration of the small church in the SBC, and the CP.
    Though be aware their comments only digest one link per comment.

    • Howell Scott says:

      Stephen,

      Thanks for the references. Although I don’t always agree with Meacham’s theology, I though he did a good job of laying out the issues without calling opponents of the Ground Zero mosque bigots. If the mosque is built on the proposed site, I think only time will tell if the purposes for which the Imam has stated will in fact be reality. I think Meachum comes down on the side of believing the best intentions without denigrating those who are on the other side.

      I have not engaged yet at SBC Voices regarding Ezell’s election as President of NAMB. I’ll have another post up early next week about how the SBC establishment is overplaying their hand, thinking they have a mandate for radical change, when in fact they may find that the majority of grass-roots Southern Baptists will not follow where the megachurch pastors are leading. To have the Executive Director of the Louisiana Convention writing that “he does not believe” that Ezell was the only candidate that was qualified to lead NAMB, I believe that we are in for a bruising battle for the heart and soul of the SBC. Thanks as always for stopping by. God bless,

      Howell

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  7. Christiane says:

    Once a group calling itself ‘Christian’ begins to disrespect those who are different, people will always lose trust in them to do what is right.

  8. Pingback: Mike Huckabee, Radical Islam & Slippery Slopes | From Law to Grace

  9. Pingback: Mike Huckabee, Radical Islam & Slippery Slopes | SBC Voices

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