A Small Church Causing Big Problems


Terry Jones, pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center, leads a congregation of 50 people in Gainesville, Florida.  Normally, churches with 50 members are not featured on CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, the NY Times, Washington Post, and every other media outlet in existence.  But, Terry and his flock, like Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church, have thrust themselves onto the world stage.  All because Pastor Terry, who wears a .40 caliber handgun on his hip, decided to burn Korans on September 11.

But, according to Der Spiegel, a popular German magazine and website, Pastor Terry was tossed out of his Cologne, Germany congregation a couple of years ago because of the atmosphere of “fear and terror.”  Also, he was accused of allegedly misappropriating funds, and failing to abide by German wage laws.  Terry Jones apparently made church members perform hours of free labor to benefit the church’s bottom-line.  We haven’t seen this trick since Tony Alamo made rhinestone denim jackets famous in Nashville where he sold them to country music stars for a fortune, but failed to pay his workers adequately, if at all.

But back to Terry Jones.  Jones embodies the very fundamentalism he seeks to destroy.  Except, of course, he thinks he’s right and Muslims are wrong (actually, Jones said they were more than wrong, they were of the devil).  In Terry Jones’ very small universe, of which he is the center, he is the arbiter and protector of truth, justice and the American way.  And, he insists he is going to burn Korans on Saturday.

What do we do with abusers of religion like Jones, who masquerade as Christians while saying “it’s time to hit back?”  (I think Jesus took “hitting back” off the list of things we as his followers get to do, but Jones seems to have skipped over the Sermon on the Mount in the race to his 15-minutes of fame.)  We speak out against him, and Fred Phelps, and Tony Alamo, and all of the other charlatans, megalomaniacs, and delusional leaders who gather a handful of people and call them a church.

Jones is not exemplifying Christian values, and is certainly not the model of Christian ministry.  And don’t bother to take me to task for “judging a brother.”  Two reasons:  1) he is not my brother in the faith but an impostor who gives us all a bad name; and, 2) I am not judging him because his actions are self-evident.  It takes no discernment, which is implied in judging,  to see through his ego-centered antics.  If you think I’m too harsh, re-read the New Testament letters of Paul when he talks about charlatans like Jones.  The tragedy is that he will put at-risk Americans and American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, and all the Middle East, and he will further inflame the animosity between religions by his actions.

On a more positive note, EthicsDaily.com has an excellent resource for starting a Christian-Muslim discussion.  The DVD is titled Different Books, Common Word, and the film tells the story of how Christians and Muslims in America work together for the common good.  This film was shown on ABC affiliates last year, and is a high-quality, helpful resource in focusing the conversation about religious pluralism on positive examples.

Normally, I write about small churches that are solving big problems.  Sadly today we have the example of a small church that is creating big problems.  Speak out against this abuse, and then be an example of peace to others, even others of different faiths.

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9 Comments

  1. He caused a lot of problems last year with the “Islam is of the Devil” signs posted in front of the church.
    The location of his church part of the reason we chose the neighborhood we are in now over the one we really liked better. The other neighborhood is literally down the street from him.

    I am not only upset with how he is portraying Christians and all Christians in Gainesville but the intrusion on my life this is causing.

    Saturday is a game day so that would make the town hectic enough. Due to threats the major streets in my area will be shut down. I will have to go miles out of my way just to go to the grocery store or wait until Sunday.

  2. It is sad that anyone who claims to be a Christian preacher would so go against the teachings of Christ. Time to strike back? How about turning the other cheek! How about vengence is Mine I will repay saith the Lord? The small churches of America are generally a shining light to the beauty of Jesus in our hearts. Instead people see us as haters and fanatics. I don’t mind being labeled a fanatic, but it should be because we are fanatic about the love of God, not for reasons like this.

    Terry Reed
    treed92@yahoo.com
    Small Church Tools

  3. Have you heard that Fred Phelps is coming back to Virginia, to VCU and St. Paul’s Baptist in Richmond, among other places? Sickening to have them in our “back yard.”

  4. Strongly agree with most all your comments, as I’m sure most believers – and most Americans of all religious and/or irreligious types – do as well. Folks like Jones and Phelps are an embarrassment to the faith, and run counter to numerous Biblical injunctions about the way followers of Christ are to interact with the world around them. The line describing him, “Jones embodies the very fundamentalism he seeks to destroy,” is artfully said. However, doesn’t this imply that Jones represents fundamentalist Christians? I’ve known lots of fundamentalists, and most are nothing like Jones. Our culture is already dripping in perjorative labels – liberal, conservative, right-wing, socialist, tea-baggers, etc. Properly speaking, Christian fundamentalists believe the fundamentals of historical, orthodox Christianity. Yes, I know that popular media and culture portray a certain type of Christian as “fundamentalist” – usually those who possess strong convictions about the so-called “social issues” like abortion and homosexuality. Phelps, Jones, and the like are hardly representative of our “fundamentalist Christian” brothers, unless the brush is uncommonly wide.

    1. I might have more precisely said “extreme fundamentalism” or “extreme radicalism.” I did not mean to give the impression that those who hold to the fundamentals of a faith are in the same league.

  5. I would agree with you concerning this “pastor” in Florida, but what common word do we have with muslims and their faith? If Islam is a damning religion then what common “good” can we work towards?

    1. David, I think the common “word” we have is compassion, love, hope, and all the other words that unite us in our common humanity. Christians are in no position to try to claim the high ground because we have started wars, tortured non-believers, wrecked cultures, and killed people who did not believe like we do. Adherents of all religions would do well to be a little more humble, and a little less triumphalist while recognizing that we are all fellow human beings, all of us created in the image of God. The film I refer to documents Muslims and Christians (Baptists in this case) working together in the aftermath of Katrina. We can all work together for the common good, regardless of our dogma and doctrinal positions.

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