By now I’m sure you’ve all heard about that non-denominational pastor in Florida who is planning a Quran burning event. If you haven’t, just Google “Quran burning” and you’ll find all sorts of articles about it.
All I can say is, “Really???”
I just don’t get people. Does this man have a Constitutional right to burn the Quran? Sure. But is doing so the right thing? Yeah, not so much. It’s rather tacky, and what purpose does it serve? It’s not like he’s going to rid the world of the Quran, so what does he think he’s accomplishing? (For the record, I don’t think anybody should be trying to rid the world of the Quran). He’s just thumbing his nose at Islam, and, quite frankly, I don’t think anyone with an I’m-sticking-my-tongue-out-at-you mentality should be leading a congregation. But that’s just my opinion. And you know, if he’d just held a quiet little book burning with his congregation? Whatever. But the fact that he seems to have made sure the media caught wind of it? Really reinforces the idea that he’s being rude just for the sake of being rude.
I feel almost the same way about the whole mosque/community center/whatever-you-want-to-call-it at/near Ground Zero. Do they have a right to build it? Sure. But is it the right thing to do? Maybe not, given how offensive it is to so many people. Are they purposely thumbing their Islamic noses at New York City and the United States in general? I don’t know. It is certainly possible they are. I think it is equally possible they aren’t. If they are, shame on them – it makes them no better than Pastor Whatthehellishethinking, even worse. But if they aren’t? Well, I’d say shame on America except I can understand why people would be a little wary at this point. Unfortunately.
However, as much as I can sympathize with those who don’t want a mosque/Islamic community center/whatever-you-want-to-call-it at/near Ground Zero, I can’t add my voice to the opposition. Likewise, as idiotic as I think it is for Pastor Whatthehellishethinking to have a big Quran burning, I like to think I would die defending the right of all Americans to burn whatever book they want (and, for the record, I find book burning, in general, to be a rather sophomoric practice).
Both cases are about the First Amendment, and I am all for the First Amendment. The problem inherent in such freedoms, however, are that they leave
stupid misguided people free to do stupid poorly thought out things; but that is something we have to be willing to live with if we want to retain our freedoms.
As much as I might think the religious leaders (using that term so loosely in the case of the Fla. guy) in both of the aforementioned situations should rethink their plans, I can’t attack them or their freedom to carry out said plans.
However, no matter how misguided you or I or anybody else may think their plans may be, that does not justify anger and violence and hatred from anyone. If you are opposed to the mosque/community center/whatever it is in New York or the book burning in Florida, then by all means feel free to protest. It is your right. And if you want to be angry and hate-filled and violent, that is also your right, it is your choice. But if you stoop to that? If you make that choice? If you protest or retaliate angrily or violently to the book burning or the building? Then you are no better than the people you are protesting, and are, in fact, possibly worse.
(Let me be clear: I’m not saying it is wrong to protest or speak out. I am saying it is wrong to do so angrily or violently. Especially violently.)
The book burning isn’t going to hurt anyone. It will offend people who choose to be offended, but it isn’t going to inflict any physical or emotional harm. The same goes for the building in NYC, assuming that the idea of it being a radical, militant training center is erroneous (and I’m just not going to take a side on that one because I. don’t. know.).
Yes, we have a right to be angry and violent, but is it the right thing to do? Yeah, not so much.
I know a bit about angry, violent people and religious intolerance. It never goes well.
I owe my faith to people who were beaten, tarred and feathered, raped and killed by angry mobs. I owe the things I love most about my life to people who were the objects of a government issued extermination order, who were driven from state to state, forced to leave their towns and homes to cross the continent on foot through horrible weather and deplorable conditions. They buried spouses, children and babies along the way so that they could find a place where they could worship unmolested – a place where they could grow and thrive as a religious community so that they could eventually share their beliefs with others.
Really, did you think the Mormons went to Utah just for the skiing?
And? I know what it is like to have people lump my specific religion in with its various permutations and transmutations, to lump my Christianity in with people like Pastor Whatthehellishethinking, to have someone wave a knife in my face* as he angrily told me I am not a Christian, to have a relative ask if the ring my husband wears on his right hand is his other wedding ring from his other wife (and, by the way, where’s he hiding her anyway?), to have a protestant pastor tell my then-15-year-old sister she needed to get out of her church or she would go to hell, to be told that I am a member of a cult, etc. etc.
Sometimes I just want to stand at the top of the world and yell, “GET OVER IT!”
You worship the way you want to, you worship the way you want to, you worship the way you want to, you don’t worship at all if you don’t want to, and I’ll worship the way I want to. And in the process, everybody just take a step back. Stop using other people’s differences of opinion or faith, other people’s ignorance or stupidity, as justifications for your own anger, rudeness, violence or poorly thought out plans. You are gauche.
The fact of the matter is, if people would take the time to actually study different religions (which I had to do a bit of in college, you know, at Brigham Young University) (and just for clarification: a Sunday School class in which your pastor/preacher/whatever tells you all about the evils of a different religion or sect does not actually count as studying that religion or sect) . . . where was I? Oh, yes. If people would take time to actually study different religions and read their various holy books, you would find that we all have quite a lot in common (and I’m not just talking Christian denominations). If we would choose to focus on our similarities rather than obsess over our differences, what a much better place this world would be.
And George, if you’re out there . . .
*In his defense, we were working at an ice cream shop making banana splits. I was scooping the ice cream and he was cutting the bananas, hence the knife. However, that obviously doesn’t justify him pointing the knife towards my face and wagging it around as he informed me I am not a Christian.