In a blog posted on God's Politics on September 14, 2010, I wrote that I rejoiced that Pastor Terry Jones had decided against burning a Quran. When he announced his change of heart, he said that he would never burn a Quran. I was happy because this meant that he would remain in Christian communion.
Christian faith in the salvific power of the death and resurrection of Jesus saves us all from oblivion. The actions of Terry Jones and his congregation are not acts that earn them eternal condemnation. But Christian faith in the salvific power of the life of Jesus causes this act to earn them the loss of his relationship with the church. It is in this regard that we have lost our brother.
Terry Jones and his congregation claim to be a church based on New Testament teachings. This is clearly not the case. Jesus teaches us to "not judge." (Matthew 7: 1-5) By putting the Quran on trial, pronouncing judgment, and then burning the Quran as punishment, he has not only made a mockery of the United States Constitution and the principle of the separation of church and state and made a mockery of the American legal system, but he has also usurped the power of almighty God.
One reason Jesus teaches us to "not judge" is because we do not have enough information. We do not know enough about Islam or about the Quran to condemn it. We do not know how many lives have been saved, how many hearts have been comforted, how many minds have found clarity, how many disputes have been settled, or how many people have found the love of God and come to know Jesus from reading the Quran.
In Matthew 18: 17, Jesus gives a procedure for reproving one who has offended the church. Christians came to Terry Jones, one on one, in small groups, and as the church universal to ask him not to do this thing. Government officials including President Obama, General Petraeus, Secretary of State Clinton, and Secretary of Defense Gates asked him not to do it. They all said that the act would provoke deadly violence. And so it has.
Terry Jones has come to the place where the church has to say goodbye to him. He is not acting as a Christian and every Christian ought to say so. His actions are not Christ-like. There is nothing in the teachings of Jesus that would justify what he has done. Nothing.
Now he calls for retribution against the people who killed the innocent people as a violent response to what he has done. Further, he plans to take his hateful, unchristian show on the road in the United States. Christian leaders have condemned his plan and asked him to stay away from their cities. This is the righteous and biblical thing to do.
As I continue to pray for Terry Jones and his congregation, I cannot help but wonder: Who hurt him? People do harm out of their own unresolved pain. Who hurt Terry Jones and the people in his congregation? With all the things in the world that causes human suffering that are beyond human control -- the recent earthquake/tsunami/nuclear crisis in Japan -- among them, it is tragic that the hateful acts of a group of misguided people can cause more suffering.
I weep praying tears for the people who were killed in the riots that Terry Jones and his congregation provoked. I weep for their families. I weep for Terry Jones, his congregation, and the killers. I weep that we have lost our brother.
Dr. Valerie Elverton Dixon is an independent scholar who publishes lectures and essays at JustPeaceTheory.com. She received her Ph.D. in religion and society from Temple University and taught Christian ethics at United Theological Seminary and Andover Newton Theological School.