Letter to the Editor

Respect for holy books

As a Florida pastor doggedly prepares to burn copies of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, on Saturday, we are reminded of the quote attributed to Edmund Burke: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." The 18th century Englishman, a supporter of the American Revolution, used his rhetoric to spark people of conscience to speak up when circumstances demand a response. This, we feel, is such a time.

The Rev. Terry Jones, pastor of nondenominational Dove World Outreach in Gainesville, Fla., has managed to gain his 15 minutes of fame. He is attaining a notoriety far out of proportion to the 50 or so attendees to his church. Jones' incitement to "Burn a Quran Day" is apparently designed to stoke the collective memory of Americans on the ninth anniversary of Sept. 11. On several levels, this silly stunt is offensive and dangerous.

The Associated Press quotes Jones, "Maybe it's time to stand up and send a message to radical Islam that we will not tolerate their behavior." If Jones goes through with his weekend bonfire, it'll send a message all right. By disrespecting a book held dear by 1.6 billion people (10 million in North America), he will unwittingly deal a blow to his own version of the Christian faith. According to the Barna Group, which monitors religious demographics in the United States, the fastest growing religious group is "no preference." An intolerant stunt like this will not give those folks a reason to give Christianity a second look. Our military leaders, including Gen. David Petraeus, say the planned Quran bonfire may well be an incitement to violence in majority Muslim nations -- like Iraq and Afghanistan. American soldiers may well be endangered by this hate-inspired, misguided activity.

One more thing must be said. The boomerang effect may well be devastating. Here's what we mean. If the above reasons we've enumerated need any further support, try this one: Christians shouldn't burn someone else's holy book because we don't want to give persons of other faiths any encouragement to burn our holiest book. It's a matter of respect. If we give it, we're more likely to receive it. Besides, when has book burning ever accomplished anything?

We ask Terry Jones to reconsider. If he does not, we do not stand with him.

This guest column was signed by the Rev. Jeff Long, senior pastor of Centenary United Methodist Church, and Ron Hahs, Ed Thompson, John Hilpert, Harold Jones and Scott Brandhorst, all of Cape Girardeau.