Between the Crusades, the Great Schism, the Thirty Years' War, the Spanish Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials, and the Christian genocide of Native Americans, Christianity has plenty of black eyes to go around. Yet no major event of the past overshadows the rag-tag heresies of our time. Even as America has the "separation of Church and State," it has a problem.
Due to the internet and social media, millions across the world have met two world-class Christian clowns. The mindless rants from the local crazies of Topeka, Kansas and Gainesville, Florida are enough to make even the the most uncommitted Christian vomit.
In Topeka, Pastor Fred Phelps stoops to new levels of ignorance and profound blasphemy. The fanatics of Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church, known for their "God hates fags" mantra, protest American soldiers funerals, exacerbating human pain. This alone is a demonstration of all-out tomfoolery, but Phelps and cronies perform countless other actions.
Westboro pickets other Christian churches. A few miles from Westboro's hub rests Topeka Bible Church. This community church does fantastic work helping alchoholics with addictions, they teach healthy family systems, and they help the poor, as well. Topeka Bible Church helps military families with soldiers deployed overseas, and they send soldiers care packages while praying for their physical and mental health.
Yet Westboro focuses its efforts at weekly protests over in Topeka and elsewhere.
While Phelps and his followers provide enough craziness, America has a new Christian loony tune to get excited about. Indeed, Yosimite Sam has new, hysterical competition that should provide Bill Maher loads of ammunition.
Rev. Terry Jones has topped Phelps as America's most infamous religious fool. In all his profound wisdom, Jones claims that "burning a Koran is a biblical exercise," and he has vowed to do it to commemorate 9/11. His website says, "Like the Christians in Acts 19, we are publicly burning a book that is demonic. We are not, like the Nazis, stealing books, destroying properties or harming any people."
His argument deserves a careful look, yet I think it is a classic demonstration of illiteracy, racism, Christian Fascism, and unbelievable ignorance. Anyone with a quick look at Acts 19 knows Jones is either off his rocker or the Florida saltwater ate his brain.
In Acts 19, people brought their own divine texts to burn after they converted to the early Jesus movement. Christians did not burn other people's books in Acts 19. And in any case, they burned sorcery scrolls, not a sacred text of a global religion!
Moreover, burning the scrolls signified repentance, not judgment, and it was a sign of humility. Acts 19 provides a breathtaking story of love, forgiveness, and repentance.
Apparently, Jones missed Bible class the day Acts 19 was discussed.
As for their argument that this event does not "harm anyone," there is far worse harm they can do. Desecrating their holy book while communicating to Muslims that American Christians think their religion is demonic is at the top.
Offices of global power, including President Obama, President Zardari, Hillary Clinton, and most of the European powers, have condemned Jones' plans. Riots have occurred over the several places in the world.
General David Petraeus said, "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."
Even though the event is now canceled, these two, as well as the rest of Christendom, have a major wake-up call.
Jones and Phelps are more interested in creating a world of religious tensions than providing health and reconciliation. Instead of following their Bibles, Jones and Phelps have done the exact opposite of Jesus' teachings, both inciting new levels of religious hysteria.
Jones and Phelps might do Christendom a favor and recite Romans 14: "Without passing judgment accept those without the same level of faith."
Instead of following the Bible, these two have become the Pharisees of our time.
Obviously, there is no perfect world, and there will always be problems the world will have to confront. No doubt, Jesus would find the world problematic. However, maybe Jesus' words hold a prophetic ring for this generation.
The world is at open-ended war, and religious tensions are on the rise. Perhaps September 11, 2010 can be a day of change. Instead of burning Qurans, picketing churches, and screaming about mosques, maybe Americans should knock on our neighbor's door, drop off a basket of fruit, and begin doing unto others as we would have done unto us.
Most pastors should watch Bill Maher's film "Religulous" over and over again. As a seminary graduate and a former pastor, I recommend that Fred Phelps and Terry Jones not be regarded as the Christian example.
The Christian faith is defined by Jesus Christ, and Jesus is the example for Christians. If we all kept him in mind, then there might be more productive Christian work.
Perhaps the folks in Topeka should stand for justice and yell for the poor. Likewise, Terry Jones is better off burning a few calories, cutting the mustache, or reading his Bible than burning the Quran.
Christian leaders should take these real-life cartoon characters as a wake-up call. No one will dislike the church who feeds the poor and provides health care for others (except, of course, Glenn Beck).
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