By Rev. Chuck Currie
As the news spread this week about plans by the Dove World Outreach Center’s plans to burn copies of the Qur’an on 9/11 the famous quote from Margret Mead keeps floating in my head:
“A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
It turns out the reverse is also true. A small group of religious bigots can also change the world and even hijack a faith tradition. We’ve learned this lesson before. After all, it was a small group of Islamic fundamentalists who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001. Now, nine years later, a small group of Christian fundamentalists are causing an international crisis.
As a minister in the United Church of Christ, I’m sickened and appalled. The message preached by the pastor of Dove World Outreach Center isn’t the Christian faith that I know. Christians need to speak out against the theological malpractice of Pastor Terry Jones’ ministry. His hateful message comes at a time of increased bigotry and anger directed at Muslims – anger fueled by American political figures such as Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck.
The atmosphere is so heated that national religious leaders – Christians, Jews and Muslims – were forced to call an emergency summit in New York this week. The Rev. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches said at the gathering that in the Christian tradition “we denounce anti-Muslim bigotry. We identify ourselves with religious tolerance” and that “we are made richer and deeper in our Christian community by our relationship with Muslim and Jewish colleagues.”
That is a message that must be re-enforced over and over again because it is not a view point always shared by Christians. Franklin Graham, the evangelist son of Billy Graham, has in the past called Islam a “very evil and wicked religion.” Other have made similar remarks over the years. In this election year, politicians have sought to divide Americans across religious lines by using the issue of the building of a proposed Mosque in New York City as a campaign issue.
Last month, the political rhetoric became so heated that over 40 prominent U.S. religious leaders issued a statement that said in part: ” Mr. Gingrich, Ms. Palin and other prominent voices privileged to have the ear of the media would make a more lasting contribution to our nation if they stopped issuing inflammatory statements and instead helped inspire a civil dialogue between Christians, Jews and Muslims committed to a future guided by the principles of compassion, justice and peace.”
In the days after September 11, 2001 we remember how unified our nation was. Christians have a special responsibility in the wake of the actions promised by the Dove World Outreach Center to speak out against hate and to remember the call made by Jesus to love our neighbors. If we don’t, we dishonor God. If we do speak out, unity may again be our reward.
The Rev. Chuck Currie is a United Church of Christ minister in Portland, Oregon. He writes a blog at www.chuckcurrie.com and started a Facebook page called “People of Faith Against Burning the Qur’an” that has over 13,000 fans. Join it here.