It Didn't Happen
It didn't happen. The threat of a pastor from a very small Florida church to burn Qurans and start "International Burn a Koran Day," was not carried out. The mere threat of such a hateful act, with such potential for sparking international violence, had already caused a great deal of damage and had become a global news story. But by the end of September 11, when the Florida bonfire of Qurans was supposed to happen, it had not taken place; and pastor Terry Jones, an obscure and marginal religious figure who had suddenly become famous around the world, publicly said, "We feel that God is telling us to stop. Not today, not ever. We're not going to go back and do it. It is totally canceled."
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It didn't happen, to everyone's great relief, because the faith community had united and mobilized to condemn the action and to, eventually, talk Jones out of it. In a rare display of bi-partisanship, even the nation's politicians came together to oppose this ignorant and divisive behavior, and both the top general in Afghanistan and the Secretary of Defense claimed it could endanger our troops. And Jones relented. And he even seems to have been pushed to some deeper reflection.
A number of us did many media interviews about all of this, and one of the points I tried to often make is that the extremes now control the political discourse in our country and the world; and that the real narrative of what is truly happening in the country is seldom told in our conflict driven (especially) broadcast media. The thousands upon thousands of interfaith conversations, co-operations, service projects, and new relationships built since 9/11 have not been seriously reported on in most media, while a threatened extreme act in Florida or the location of an Islamic cultural center for peace in Lower Manhattan can be made into great controversies.
But the real narrative of Christian/Muslim/Jewish relations in America, since 9/11, is much deeper and more hopeful. Just two examples of it are the conversation between Jones and evangelical leaders this weekend, that Geoff Tunnicliffe shares with us today in God's Politics; and the story reported Sunday morning on CNN (from WMC-TV in Memphis, Tennessee) about how another pastor and his congregation called Heart Song Church first welcomed a new Islamic cultural center into their neighborhood, then offered their own church facilities for their Muslim neighbors to use for Ramadan prayer services over the last month. Pastor Steve Stone didn't threaten to burn the Quran but said, "I don't know a lot about Islam, and I know only one fellow who is a Muslim. It was going to be a learning process for me, but we follow Jesus, and he tells us to love our neighbors."
Check out the video, it will truly make your heart sing and show the country a different kind of Christianity than the world heard about this past week in Florida.
The crisis of the Quran burning is over; but the path to genuine religious freedom and mutual respect may now be clearer than ever.
Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street -- A Moral Compass for the New Economy, and CEO of Sojourners. He blogs at www.godspolitics.com.