While the ‘dove’ has been long regarded as a symbol of peace, at least one organization that uses ‘dove’ in its name has lost sight of its symbolism. Perhaps you have read a story or two in the past couple of days about Dove World Outreach Centre? The ‘church’ is presently advertising September the 11th to be ‘International Burn a Koran Day.’ Needless to say this has created quite a stir. Today American General Petraeus called on the church to step away from this plan as it will no doubt reinforce the notion that Americans hate Islam and embolden extremists who wish to do harm to Americans who are serving abroad in Muslim regions. "It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort in Afghanistan," he said. This seems a no-brainer to any half-witted level-headed individual, but Pastor Terry Jones will never be accused of being either half-witted or level headed.
On his webpage Jones writes “Any religion which would profess anything other than this truth [Jesus is the way, the Truth and the life] is of the devil. This is why we also take a stand against Islam, which teaches that Jesus is not the Son of God, therefore taking away the saving power of Jesus Christ and leading people straight to Hell.” So what comes next? Does Dove world Outreach plan to burn the Torah? Will they set ablaze the Tripikata? While some are rightfully worried about what this ‘church’s’ actions will do abroad, I am concerned about what its teachings are doing here in North America. What do Mr. Jones’ words say to a population which increasingly sees the church as a fringe institution? It should come as no surprise that there are many who see Christians as ‘holier than thou.’ The irony here is that Jones’ comments are more akin to al-Qaida rhetoric than they are to good Christian teaching.
Jesus implores us to be a people of peace – Jones is inciting his followers to an act of violence. Jesus teaches us to ‘turn the other cheek’ – Jones is asking people to ‘stand up and fight back.’ Jesus said ‘Love your neighbour’ – Jones is asking people to take that which is sacred to our Muslim neighbours and destroy it…a strange expression of love if you ask me. The people of the ‘Dove World Outreach Centre’ need to beware of their pastor who is teaching a message quite contrary to the loving message of Jesus Christ. Jesus said ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly.’ Lk. 6.27-28
I have read the Qur’an. I have read many sacred texts. I have found them all to be informative and deeply spiritual. The sacred text that instructs my faith is the Bible. It teaches me to have respect for others. It teaches me to love others – even those I disagree with. The bible teaches me to love my neighbour, and in the Old Testament it goes even further asking me in 36 places to ‘love the stranger.’ My sacred text instructs me to seek to serve Christ in others, to forgive others, and to seek forgiveness myself. Christianity does not allow for acts of violence towards people of other faith. Mr. Jones is encouraging fear and suspicion. Faith is quite the opposite to fear. Jones’ words put all of us in a place of peril. It is a place wherein we are encouraged to allow our actions to be governed not by our faith but by what frightens us the most. This is not of God. There are much better models out there for us to follow today.
Earlier in the year we read Getting to the Heart of Interfaith at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake. It was a great book written by a Christian Pastor, a Rabbi and an Imam. I think the words in the introduction to that book are most helpful in the world in which we live today. “We will survive only if we learn to treat ourselves, our neighbours, and our planet with greater wisdom, compassion, and caring. We will survive only if we learn to replace the current climate – of fragmentation, suspicion, and self-interest that has our planet warming, countries warring, and loving relationships waning – with more hopeful visions.”
That more hopeful vision is found in realizing the God desires peace and not violence from us. That more hopeful vision is discovered when we seek to find ways to build bridges between our differences to help us get over it! I call on Christian leaders to stand up to the Jones’ of this world and denounce this organization – this is NOT Christianity. Mr. Jones is reading our Bible and following it in the same manner in which al-Qaida follows the Qur’an. Just as Islam has denounced the actions of the radical minority, we too must denounce this minority group. We do not encourage violence towards others. The Christian house is not a house of hate.