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Terry Jones: Holy Hand Grenade Outreach Center

6 April 2011 Uncategorized 12 Comments Email This Post Email This Post

By Cathleen Falsani

(RNS) The website of the Dove World Outreach Center describes the tiny church in Gainesville, Fla., as “a New Testament church based on the Bible, the Word of God.”

Someone might want to tell them that they missed that whole “Blessed are the peacemakers” part.

While there is great debate about what, exactly, Jesus meant by many things he is quoted as saying in the New Testament, the “peacemakers” passage is not one of them. It is eminently clear that Jesus was talking not just about being peaceful, but also creating peace in the world.

As we’re all too painfully aware by now, the church, led by Pastor Terry Jones, put the Quran on trial on March 20 and set it aflame as punishment. That act, in turn, sparked deadly riots in Afghanistan that killed nearly two dozen people, including several United Nations peacekeepers.

To lob a religious grenade into the fragile tinderbox that is the Islamic world is the opposite of what Jesus described.

“We do not feel responsible — no,” Jones said in an interview with ABC News. “We feel more that the Muslims and radical Islam uses that as an excuse. If they didn’t use us as an excuse, they would use a different excuse.”

Whether the kind of violent response witnessed in Afghanistan over the past week was Jones’ intention or not, it is precisely what his actions have wrought.

That is not peaceable. It is wrong. It is sinful. It flies in the face of the message that the Prince of Peace brought to the world, and makes a mockery of the white dove referenced in the very name of Jones’ horribly misled church.

When Jesus said that “peacemakers” would be blessed and called the “children of God,” he wasn’t just talking about people who are peaceful or hope for peace. Jesus was talking specifically about those who “make” peace, those who work for harmony in conflict and unity in divisions.

Jones told ABC that he presided at the “International Judge the Quran Day” event and the subsequent burning to raise “awareness of this dangerous religion and this dangerous element” within Islam.

The irony that his asinine actions portrayed his own Christian faith and values as pretty dangerous themselves seems to be lost on Jones. But it’s not lost on many other Christians, Muslims and people of good faith around the globe: the British government deemed Jones such a danger that in January it barred him from entering the U.K. to protect “the public

Theologically speaking, Jones shouted “Fire!” in a crowded theater. He caused a riot. Lives were lost. And their blood is on his hands.

The deadly potential of Jones’ Quran burning was something he was well aware of before he lit the match. Jones first threatened to burn the Muslim holy book last fall on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. President Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and a host of international political and religious leaders publicly urged Jones to abandon his plans. And for a time, he did.

But six months later, ignoring political, religious and military warnings about the clear and present danger of his plans, Jones brazenly carried them out anyway.

Although Jones shares culpability for the deaths in Afghanistan with his fellow religious extremists (in this case Muslim rather than Christian fundamentalists) whose insane rage physically took so many lives, Jones was the catalyst, the chief provoker and inciter.

While Jones claims it was within his civil and constitutional rights to burn the Quran, some legal experts, including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, are seriously questioning whether the First Amendment should protect speech that directly incites violence at home or abroad.

In a 1919 Supreme Court decision, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously said that even the “most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic.” The question to be answered, Holmes said, “is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.”

Breyer, in an interview last September, is trying to figure out what that means in the 21st century.

“Holmes said it doesn’t mean you can shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theater,” Breyer said. “Well, what is it? Why? Because people will be trampled to death. And what is the crowded theater today? What is the being trampled to death?”

Whether Jones’ words and actions are or should be protected by the Constitution is a matter for the courts to decide. But in the court of public opinion and in the realm of religious ethics, Jones stands in violation of all that is right and just.

Jones should remove the dove from his church name and replace it with a more accurate symbol of what it stands for. A holy hand grenade, perhaps?

Original post: For every action, an equal and opposite reaction


  1. In the United States, we have freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of religion. No matter how bone-headed you think Rev. Jones act might be, he has the right, whether it is free speech or an expression of his religious beliefs.
    To equate this with yelling fire in a crowded theater is non-sense. In the theater example, normal people aren’t going to take time to find out if there’s a fire. They are going to flee, and since people can be hurt in the resulting panic, the person yelling fire, is causing the danger.
    No one in this country even knew about the book burning, until Muslims in Afghanistan killed U. N. workers. They found out from their president. Is karzai responsible for the killings? No. He is no more responsible for the violence than those who burned the Quran.
    The responsibility for the violence and deaths rests with those who decided to kill people, who had nothing to do with the Quran burning. Apparently they think it is appropriate to attack any non-Muslim for the acts of any single non-Muslim. I would not think it was acceptable to kill a Muslim in this country because Muslims butchered a Jewish family, in the middle east. If I simply hated Muslims, I could use that incident as an excuse to attack Muslims who had nothing to do with it. Could I blame my attack on innocent Muslims on the murderous Muslims who killed the Jewish family?

  2. NO! Not with a holy hand grenade! That would be blasphemy to all Monty Python fans! Maybe just replace the symbol with a book on fire, because that would be a lot more accurate

  3. As a Christian I see the Bible and Jesus portrayed in many disrespectful ways. What this column says is that Christians need to become very violent every time someone presents our religion in, what we consider, a sacrilegious way. When hundreds of bibles were burned in Afghanistan we should have took to the streets and burned down half a city, then charged the Americans and Afghans who were behind the burnings to prison for inciting riots and murder. Is it still too late to murder and rampage at the art museum that has a crucifix upside down in a jar of urine? All we have to do is kill lots of people and then no one can say anything bad about our religion because it would be like yelling fire in a movie theatre and the responsibility will lie on the person giving the speech.

    Then again, I believe in free speech. I believe in the right of a person to burn our flag even though my loved ones have fought under it, lost his legs to it, while another spent 2 years in a German Prison camp for it. They believe you have a right to burn it to and they have already put their money where their mouth is. I believe people can stand in New York City and chant Death to America because this is America. They sure cannot go to Iran and chant Death to Iran because it is Iran. I believe that a man can pee in a jar and place a cross upside down in it though it disgusts me. I, more than likely, will not even kill the man if I ever meet him. That Idiot has the right to burn the Koran the Bible the Torah the constitution and anything else he wants because its America. If we lose the right to criticize Islam or any other religion including burning, peeing or chanting then I will be among the first to go to jail, as I will challenge and fight for that right as long as I have any kind of life. If people want to get violent and kill each other because they do not like the speech presented then so be it, free speech is a high cost item and its worth every drop of blood spilt defending it, protecting it, and as a result of it.

  4. well said criley401

  5. Standing up for “freedom of speech” in a context like this is just disingenuous. Hate speech that incites violence and bigotry seems to constitute supposed “freedom of speech” whenever someone shares the perpetrators prejudice. And imagine someone showing up at a funeral and shouting hateful things about the “dearly departed” that upsets the mourners and causes a bloody riot- freedom of speech?
    The quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes is spot on- what he was speaking against is the exercizing of a personal right to freedom of speech at the expense of others, of social harmony ,of civil order. We shouldn’t value freedom of speech above other freedoms, we shouldn’t practice it in such a way as to endanger the rights and freedoms of others without consideration or an awarenes of consequences. That’s just irresponsible , disrespectful and selfish.
    I don’t know how burning a Qur’an constitutes an exercise of “free speech” anyway. Would that cover burning crosses on people’s lawns?

  6. Halima, we just had the Supreme Court of the United States rule on the example you just gave a couple of months ago. Westboro Baptist Church (no matter what they say these people are not christians) has been going to funerals of dead servicemen and chanting that they deserved to die, God hates Fags, and lots of very awful things at families who are buring their children. The Court ruled that simply because we do not like the speech does not mean we can stop the speech and so this group of non-christian baptists do have a right to go throwing insults at funerals.

    Halima was the burning of all those bibles in Afganistan a hate crime? It was done at the urging of the Muslim authorities in that area what should I as a christian do?. I did not like the fact they were burned but I have not killed anyone over it. Free speech sometimes causes disorder and does not promote harmony. One cannot let the threat of violence stop a person from speaking. I do not believe in Hate Speech: I do believe that some speeches promote hate but I still think they should be protected. Now a speech that calls for specific violence such as burning someones house, or whose intent is to get a specific person or persons killed needs to be controlled.

    In regards to the cross burning, as far as I am concerned anyone can burn crosses all day long, but you have to do it on your own property and in most areas you need a burning permit. You do it in someone elses yard and you have broken a law and that is wrong.

    Please note: Muslims did not riot when the Bible was burned because it is not their holy book they feel the same way toward the bible as most christians feel toward the Koran-apathetic. Christians do not riot over bibles number one because it is against their teachings and number 2 The Holy Bible was not burned in any country: a copy of the bible was burned. Its words are sacred, its teachings are sacred the pages it is printed on are not. The Koran was not burned in Florida a copy of the koran was burned, its words still exist, its teachings exist. No man or woman can burn the Koran, the Holy Bible, or the Torah they are all three here till the ending of this world.

  7. halima. no you can’t burn a cross on someone’s lawn. but you can burn a cross in your own lawn. (depending on local fire codes) and i’m confused, are you saying jones who burned the koran (“whenever someone shares the perpetrators prejudice”)shares the afghans prejudices? it’s funny that you mention funerals, we have a group that protests at dead service men’s funerals with (well in my opinon) irresponsible, disrespectful and selfish, signs. they are the westborogh baptist church out of oklahoma. i guess you have never heard of skokie. are you british? america protects even irresponsible, disrespectful and selfish speech. a call to action is different. if i am at a rally and i say go burn down that church and some in the rally do that. i could be charged with inciting a riot. but if i just say i hate christians and then some people who hear that go and kill christians, i would have no liability. speech that offends some is the only speech that needs protection.

  8. Sorry about the misspellings, I hit submit before I proofread the article. I usually try to be more careful.

  9. The KKK’s right to assemble peaceably was secured by the famous 1977 case of National Socialist Party v. Skokie, in which the American Civil Liberties Union successfully argued that the First Amendment prohibited officials of Skokie, Ill., from banning a march by the National Socialist Party. Skokie is a Chicago suburb that is home to many Holocaust survivors. One federal judge reasoned that “it is better to allow those who preach racial hatred to expend their venom in rhetoric rather than to be panicked into embarking on the dangerous course of permitting the government to decide what its citizens may say and hear.”

    halima…looks like you agree with alito, a far right wing bush appointee.

    sorry i misspelled westboro

  10. sorry i skipped criley401’s 2nd post. didn’t mean to be redundant. that’s a little scary criley, i’m agnostic and we seem to think along the same lines. hate to break it to ya, but you better change your thinking or you may join me in the great fire.

  11. Its ok Mike, I do believe in the seperation of the church and state. Religion can take care of itself so long as the state does not seek to control it or the religion seek to control the state. I love my religion but I have seen what religious governments are like be it Christian, Islamic, or Aztec. I enjoy hearing preachers preach but I would never want one of them in charge of my life or making rules for society. A true religious leader who can control a nation of people is a very scary person. He may just put you in the rack to save your soul or to prevent you from corrupting others as he tells you he loves you like a wayward son, while at the same time regretting the necessary actions.

  12. criley, if all religious people where like you we would have a much more peaceful world. and i don’t think nietzsche would have said, “After coming into contact with a religious man I always feel I must wash my hands.”

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