Guest Editorial by Bob Siegel
The recent book burning of Pastor Terry Jones [Ed: and his recent visit to Dearborn] has caused understandable concern and mixed emotion. Many Christians with misgivings about Islam find themselves in the uncomfortable position of condemning a horrible book burning without wanting to express too much sympathy for some of the verses inside this particular book. These same Christians wonder if an unfortunate action of one pastor might appear to justify in the minds of some ignorant people, Rosie O’Donnell’s infamous statement from a while back that “radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam” (ABC’s The View, Sept 12, 2006).
For a sobering examination that moves beyond today’s heightened emotions about Christianity, we’d be well served to examine the words of Jesus Himself. How would Christ have felt about book burnings? And while we’re in the neighborhood, are Jesus’ own words (written down in another sacred book) comparable to the Koran? (Typically spelled Quran or Koran in English.)
For starters, Jesus DID NOT order Christians to kill in His name and conquer the world for His kingdom. He DID NOT command us to execute all people who will not convert to Christianity. Mohammad DID command such things in the name of Islam and we’ll look at this command when we’re done examining the Bible.
But if Christ did not give such orders, others did in His name. Yes, we’ve heard it a million times: Christians and Muslims both fought in the Crusades. Putting aside the fact that in many cases, Christians were trying to take back land that had forcefully been stolen by Muslims, let us concede that the Crusades were nothing for Christians to brag about. They were far too preoccupied with the Holy Land and they made a mistake in thinking that the cause of Christ was enhanced by such geography. There were also adventurous soldiers in those days that saw the Crusades as a license to plunder and butcher, using Christianity as a rationalization.
But let’s face facts; all ideologies get misrepresented. The ideology itself must be critiqued.
Jesus Himself condemned religious hypocrisy in His name:
“Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven. Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me you evildoers’” (Matt. 7:21-23), NIV)
What then, is the difference between the Christians who fought in the Crusades and Muslims who fought in the Crusades? The difference is quite simple: Many Christians were waging war in disobedience to Jesus. Muslims were fighting in obedience to Mohammad.
Of course, some would challenge that statement by pointing to Jesus’ words about “bringing a sword.”
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt 10:34, NIV). In context, Jesus was speaking metaphorically, predicting that His movement would divide families. He did not intend this as a mandate for physical force as demonstrated at His arrest when He commanded Simon Peter to put his sword away. “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matt 26:52, NIV)
It’s true that in the Old Testament, Israelites were commanded to make war against Canaanite countries, but this was because God hated a particular practice of the Canaanites, placing live human babies on the alter to their gods and destroying them (Deut 20:18). Nobody understood God to be insisting that Israel travel the world forcing either conversion or death upon all lands. There are other things to also understand about the Old Testament but taking an appropriate amount of time would warrant a separate article. In any event, Christians get their direction from the New Testament, not the old.
Returning then to the New Testament, how might Jesus have dealt with an idea such as book burning? No incidents of book burning are recorded in the gospels, but we can still draw some conclusions from Christ’s behavior in general. We know, for instance, that Jesus did not refute ideas by attempting to silence His opponents. On the contrary, He engaged in the kinds of dialogues which made the inconsistency of His adversaries crystal clear (Matthew 22).
Given the example of Christ, I am grateful that most Evangelical Christians have condemned Pastor Jones’s burning of the Koran. True, he had a constitutional right but something can be constitutional and stupid at the same time, especially when we consider the red alert atmosphere related to Muslim relations these days. This does not mean people should hold Jones responsible for terrorists who have killed as a result of his actions. Those responsible for murder and violence are the ones who commit murder and violence.
Neither should criticism of Jones translate into a burying of our heads into the sand. Without approving book burnings, we’d be well advised to still pay attention to the concern which inspired this particular book burning. Jones may deserve criticism for his exaggerated methods of protest, but the Koran really is a book filled with commands of Jihad. It also contains strong anti-Christian and anti-Semitic language.
“Prophet make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them. Hell shall be their home ….they uttered the word of unbelief and renounced Islam after embracing it.” (Surah 9)
“Believers, take neither the Jews nor the Christians for your friends. They are friends with one another. Whoever of you seeks their friendship will become one of their number. God does not guide the wrong doers…. The most implacable of men are the Jews and the pagans.” (Surah 5)
Of course, those are not the only verses in the Koran. Yes there are also verses which talk about peace, but both sets of scriptural passages are in there. While many Muslims focus only on the peaceful verses, others take Jihad commands seriously.
Some might quickly point out that verses of the Koran should be read in context, much as Christians put the words of Jesus in perspective. Fair enough, but the only authentic context is determined by asking what the original author honestly meant to say. Mohammad himself, (author, or more correctly put, a professed messenger claiming to repeat only what he heard from Allah) did conquer with a sword. For this reason, it should be painfully apparent (albeit not Politically Correct) that the Jihad commands were intended by Mohammed to be taken literally and not figuratively as we interpreted the words of Jesus above.
Again, none of this justifies a book burning but we need to be careful, for many would view an honest spotlight on the Koran to be every bit as inflammatory and those who seek laws against book burnings may just end up threatening other kinds of speech.
Even though we can respect a man like General Petraeus and his desire to protect lives, Petraeus’ response to the Koran burning was chilling:
“The American Congress and Senate must condemn this in clear words, show their stance, and prevent such incidents from happening again.” (Reuters, 4-3-11)
How exactly would the government “prevent such incidents” without passing new laws?” And will such legislation be the tip of a much bigger iceberg? Will the day come when those who wish to peacefully critique the Koran find their First Amendment rights in jeopardy? If we go the way of Canada with its “Hate Speech” legislation, all that will have been accomplished is a more sanitized form of book burning called censorship. That should concern true followers of Jesus who are instructed to carry His peaceful gospel message. It should also concern anybody else who loves freedom.
Bob Siegel is a Christian apologist, a weekend radio talk show host on KCBQ, 1170 San Diego, and columnist. Details of his show can be found at www.bobsiegel.net. Mr. Siegel hosted a debate featuring Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly on his radio program on July 25, 2010.
- Community Debates Response To Terry Jones
- OOTD Cancels Protest – Condemns Pastor Terry Jones and Prophet Mohammed
- Mayor O’Reilly Explains Actions While Praising Community Response
- Daddy, I Saw the Mayor Do Something
- Diversity and Peace
- The Evolutionary Hermeneutic and Dearborn
- Dearborn Rejects Extremism – Jury Find Jones a Threat to Peace – Arab American News
- First Amendment Applies to Terry Jones – Lansing State Journal
- ACLU Says Jones Ruling Was Blatantly Unconstitutional – Dearborn Patch
John Behl says
I find your writing on this subject a bit confusing and will have to examine it again and again.
I always shudder when I hear the use of the word “peace” too often. Our President, a “peace prize winner” has a record of shooting off the most missles and bombs than any other winner, right?
Ask yourself this question, “Why did they kill Jesus?” How could the peacefull Jesus use that whip and tip over the tables? He said, “I came not to bring peace” and are we trying to make peace with the devil. The Muslim must be taught as Jesus would teach, “there is only one way”
and when he violates that rule we must in an ever-increasing manner of love and firmness teach otherwise. You cannot coddle a rattlesnake, can you? Pastor Jones, though I do not know him well, has effectively exposed the rattlesnake of Islam right here in America. Had we moved sooner on Hitler, could we not have saved millions ? Thanks Jack
Hassan Alaouie says
Thanks for that viewpoint. I am sure some readers on here agree. But I am also certain that there is another Christian viewpoint far different from this one. And a Muslim viewpoint that agrees with the other Christian viewpoint.
Kareemah Abbas says
A Muslim Response
“Truth stands out clear from Error” (Qur’an 2:256)
Context is everything as you prove yourself. Therefore, your methodology, in order to be valid must be applied equally to both books. It must be understood that the Holy Quran was revealed over a period of 23 years and that its verses came in context to the situations facing Prophet Mohammad and the early Muslim community. No translation or interpretation of its verses can be undertaken without a comprehensive study of the historical context in which each group of verses was revealed. (Or without a comprehensive study of the Arabic language, as any other language constitutes an interpretation and is not the actual text of the Qu’ran to be dissected for depth of meaning by scholars.)
The above mentioned verse (v. 79) in Surah 9 (Repentance) is in reference to a plot made by the enemies of the prophet to kill him when he was returning from Tabuk ( A battle undertaken to shake off the looming threat of a Byzantine strike at the much weaker Muslim community in Arabia on the heels of the Byzantine victory over the Persians under the leadership of Heraclius. Reports were that the advance forces of the army were already at Balqa, a northern border area of Arabia). This plot was undertaken by those who were protected and had prospered under Islam economically and politically (flourishing trade, peace and a just governance) and who had entered into treaties of peace with the Prophet.
The surah as a whole deals with those who break their oaths, or make false covenants– are hypocrites. Anyone with knowledge of this surah knows that it deals specifically with acts of treachery where the enemy breaks faith and violates the terms of the treaty at will. The Surah says basically that when an enemy breaks its covenant, as the pagans did in their plot to kill the Prophet, they should be given a 4 month period of notice after denunciation of the treaty before action is taken against them in order to give them time to repent and make adjustments (give diplomacy a chance to reconcile the parties) with those whom they betrayed. And if after every effort made during this period fails outright, then war must be undertaken in self defense–and yes, with vigor.(Have we not undertaken our War on Terror with vigor?)
A similar lack of historical context along with a very poor English translation of the other verse mentioned in Surah 5 (The Table Spread) results in a misinterpretation of the meaning of this verse as well. I will leave it to the readers to research this on your own. I used the English translation and commentary of the King Fahd edition of the Holy Qu’ran (book), but you can access the translation at: http://www.qurancomplex.org/Quran/Targama/Targama.asp?nSora=9&l=eng&nAya=1#9_1
(and Allah knows best)
“Say: He is Allah, the One, Allah, the Eternal, Absolute, He begetteth not, nor is He begotten, and there is none like unto Him. (Qu’ran 112: 1-4)
John Behl says
Dear Hassan, Kareemah, Randy, Bob, John, Dan and Jack: would you please answer several questions for me. So often I asked but no one will dare to answer. We all are aware of the need for truth at all cost, right? 21stCentury answers, thanks.
The mayor of Dearborn wanted Pastor Jones to pay for his protection from whom?
Why did the U.S. forces have to go through a Muslim nation to kill a Muslim killer when the Muslims should have taken care of this killer themselves? 10 Years mind you?
Did not the Holy men of Allah brutally handle their own people in Iran.
Why don’t the Islamic nations have an army to stop the terrible atrocities performd by Muslims?
Did members of the Islamic cult threaten to wipe Israel off the map? America is called the great Satan?
Don’t you think it is time for truth?
Bob Siegel says
I think the truth is obvious and staring us in the face. It is also a truth that few want to accept in a Politically Correct world: Far more Muslims are violent and believe in the Jihad than people wish to believe. Although there are also peaceful Muslims, the peaceful ones are not taking the Jihad verses seriously, either because they are nominal Muslims (I.E. Muslims who grew up in a Muslim country but had a lighter exposure to the religion) or because they are doing verbal gymnastics to make the words in the text stand on their heads to say something other than what they truly say.
Sul saleh says
Read the Bible first!
What the Bible says about stoning
Everybody must get stoned
For touching Mount Sinai
Whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death. Exodus 19:13
For taking “accursed things”
Achan … took of the accursed thing. … And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones. … So the LORD turned from the fierceness of his anger. Joshua 7:1-26
For cursing or blaspheming
And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him. Leviticus 24:16
For adultery (including urban rape victims who fail to scream loud enough)
If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city. Deuteronomy 22:23-24
For animals (like an ox that gores a human)
If an ox gore a man or a woman, that they die: then the ox shall be surely stoned. Exodus 21:28
For a woman who is not a virgin on her wedding night
If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her … and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid: Then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel’s virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate: And the damsel’s father shall say … these are the tokens of my daughter’s virginity. And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city. … But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel: Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die. Deuteronomy 22:13-21
For worshipping other gods
If there be found among you … that … hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them … Then shalt thou … tone them with stones, till they die. Deuteronomy 17:2-5
If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers … thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die. Deuteronomy 13:5-10
For disobeying parents
If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother … Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city … And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die. Deuteronomy 21:18-21
For witches and wizards
A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them. Leviticus 20:27
For giving your children to Molech
Whosoever … giveth any of his seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death: the people of the land shall stone him with stones. Leviticus 20:2
For breaking the Sabbath
They found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day. … And the LORD said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones…. And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the LORD commanded Moses. Numbers 15:32-56
For cursing the king
Thou didst blaspheme God and the king. And then carry him out, and stone him, that he may die. 1 Kings 21:10
And there is a lot more…