Friday, September 10, 2010

Burning the Qur'an

Tomorrow, that inescapable sunbaked walrus-moustached pastor from Florida either will or won't burn a whole bunch of Qur'ans. I marvel at this whole event, for a variety of different reasons. This odd person does, of course, have the absolute right to do what he's doing. We're a free people, and part of that freedom means...outside of threatening direct physical harm...that we can engage in pointless, stupid, and offensive symbolic actions. As much as I find him reprehensible, I can't see how he could be prevented...or should be prevented...from doing what he may or may not do.

Yet listening to this guy talk, I marvel at the ability of humans who claim to follow Jesus to completely fail to grasp the rather basic moral tenets of Christian faith. Yeah, you can be prophetic, and you can fight the power. But under no circumstances are you ever to be intentionally obnoxious to those you don't like, particularly those who are outside of the church. Giving offense for the purpose of giving offense is a violation of the central ethical tenet of Jesus people. It's a non-trivial oversight, and yet another reminder of the value of attending a church where the pastor has to be seriously vetted somewhere, somehow. What he's doing might fly as an American right, but wouldn't pass muster in any significant American Christian movement. In our every-church-an-island non-denominational world, we forget that having those connections helps damp down free-range wackjobs like this.

But more than that, I marvel at the amount of attention this is getting.

It's...well...mindboggling. This pastor leads a church that is smaller than mine, and honey, that's saying something. The group of human beings he speaks for would fit on a single Metrobus with room to spare. Yet this has surfaced in news cycle after news cycle. There are about 150 million self-identified American Christians, give or take. Of those 150 million Jesus-following human beings, this guy represents around fifty. That's, what, 0.00003%?

If the American Body of Christ was a human body, this guy speaks for one barely visible hair protruding from a tiny zit on our left butt-cheek. Really. I've done the calculations. If you figure on a single human hair weighing 0.25 milligrams, and assume a 68 kilo human, well...the proportions work. His actions are functionally meaningless.

And yet, for some reason, this is an international incident. The Vatican has made pronouncements. Christian leaders of every persuasion and the White House have made appeals, most of which have been focused on Insuring The Safety of Our Troops.(tm) As if the Taliban will somehow stop blowing things up or pitching out their delusional and falsely hateful vision of America if this one nutmonkey doesn't do something.

And the ego of this guy, preaching his strange angry stuff to a tiny angry flock! It was probably oddly swelled anyway. That comes when you're isolated from every other church around you, as they appear to have been. But now? Gads. He thinks he's a leader, an opinion maker, a meaningful voice in the national dialogue, the Joe the Plumber of American Christianity.

Why are we choosing to follow this? Across the vast and complex cornucopia of human drama on a planet brimming over with billions of souls, is this really a Top Ten Issue?

Whatever happens tomorrow can hardly be said to matter at all. More Qur'ans will be damaged or destroyed in random house fires. Moderate Muslims and even some highly conservative ones will recognize the utter irrelevance of the Dove World House of Angry Pancakes. The folks who irrationally and mindlessly hate America will not hate us any more or any less.

Strange, strange times.