Shouldn't the whole story have been completely dismissed? A preacher in an unaffiliated congregation (comprising all of 50 members) goes public with his plans to make a statement on behalf of the entire American population. Who would pay attention—and why?
Rev. Terry Jones seems to be staging a publicity stunt for his tiny “worldwide” organization, threatening, and then coyly saying he would “pray about” the burning of copies of the Quran. Sad to say, worldwide media outlets couldn't resist giving Jones the biggest pulpit in his life. My first encounter with the story came as I crossed Daley Plaza on my way home from evening Mass yesterday. The giant TV screen from the CBS studio across the street showed a mustachioed man standing in front of a beige church building. Without my glasses I couldn't follow the text on the screen, and left it until this morning's Tribune to learn the details. Later, I was watching the Italian national news channel (my “Italian lesson” in view of the October movie-making trip): lo and behold, the Rogue Reverend and his insistence on making a statement to a billion Muslims in the name of all Western Civilization.
Book burnings are nothing new. Even the Caesars ordered them. Would Jesus burn the Quran? Jones claims that he would. The Reverend would probably send us to the Bible's very own Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 19 where we read about the burning of books in Ephesus, while the Apostle Paul was preaching there.
Is Jones a latter-day St. Paul?
Although art typically depicts Paul presiding over the burning of the books of magic in Ephesus, a reading of the actual account does not support that. Paul didn't order the new Christians of Ephesus to collect immoral or pagan literature and consign it to the flames. Instead, the early community members themselves, having received the Gospel from Paul some time earlier, themselves went home and gathered up “scrolls of magic” (possibly lists of deities' names) and burned them, confessing their sins. The Ephesians weren't burning “books”: they were burning their bridges, setting out on a new life, making a clean break with their own past—not with someone else's.
Maybe Jones should pick up his Bible on Saturday. He seems not to have gotten that message.