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serving jesus christ the king

On Koran burning

Let me state from the off—Terry Jones, the Florida pastor with the bad moustache who wanted to burn a copy of the Koran, is a publicity-seeking fool. His actions were foolhardy, unloving, inconsiderate and unchristian. I might disagree with the Koran, but deliberately insulting a religion is no way to win people to your belief.

His actions were rightly condemned by all who cluster under the umbrella of Christianity—liberals, Catholics, Protestants, Evangelicals—as well as those outside it.

However, one issue never seemed to be addressed, only assumed. Why was it so dangerous? We all understood the consequences—riots, soldiers shot, people killed. Why should those be so inevitable? If what world leaders were saying was true, then the main problem isn’t just the actions of an American lunatic, but also a religion with a sizeable proportion of people who react violently because of such a lunatic.

It is simply not enough to say that all religions have their extreme factions. In Christianity the extremists are a tiny minority on the fringe and they threaten to burn the Koran. With Islam, the extremists are much more predominant and burn not only bibles, but churches and even Christians.

There is a great divide in the face Islam presents to us. Many of us know gentle caring Muslims—often working in hospitals—who are appalled by the actions of those who are more extreme. But there is that other face to Islam, one that is not a tiny minority like the extremists that inhabit the fringes of Christianity, but one that claims such a sizeable following that world leaders live in fear of it.

Just as no thinking Christian can ignore the violence of the Crusades and the Inquisition—both of which find no basis in biblical teaching—so, no thinking Muslim can continue to ignore the challenge of Islamic violence. Why is it that a religion that claims to be about peace engenders such violent hostility?

Perhaps part of the answer lies in the difference between Jesus and Mohammed. Mohammed is a prophet-teacher, and Jesus is a saviour. A teacher must be listened to, and honoured. Jesus came, not primarily to teach, but to be insulted, mocked, and even crucified in order to save people. Facing mockery is at the core of Jesus’ work, and so he calls and equips his people to bear insult and even death in order that they might win their enemies. Their salvation doesn’t depend on them fighting for the honour of their teacher, but in them accepting the gift of their Saviour. It mightn’t seem like much, but it changes everything.