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.