Who, in their right mind, would burn a copy of the Qur’an? Obviously Pastor Terry Jones thought it was a good idea. Whether he was in his right mind is another question.
I don’t pretend to understand the kind of thinking that would perpetrate such a deed but some response must be made. To desecrate the Sacred Book of another faith is an affront to anyone who takes seriously any religion or has any regard for the well-being and sacredness of human life.
Pastor Jones seems to be the radical religious right gone amuck. There are many who quietly believe that their religion is the one true faith but who would not think of demeaning another’s faith or acting violently against them. Unfortunately, there are some who would. I suspect this is true of all faiths but is especially virulent within the monotheisms; Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Present day Christian fundamentalism, based on a literal interpretation of the Bible, is a rather recent development in Christian understanding, being only a bit over a hundred years old. It grew out of a series of Conferences held at Niagara-on-the-Lake in the late eighteen hundreds.
Darwin can be considered to be the immediate cause of a “fundamentalist” response. Many Christians felt that the rug was being pulled out from under them with the advance of science and the reality of evolution. It seemed a total heresy to be told that humanity evolved out of an evolving Universe along with everything else, and was not a dramatic separate and distinct creation.
Some ultimate authority was needed to counteract such “heresy.” The Catholic church promulgated the “infallibility of the Pope” and Protestants came up with the idea of an infallible book, the “inerrancy of the Bible.” We can understand that these responses came out of sincere concern, even if they are untenable from any modern understanding.
But we must give the fundamentalists some credit. They were first to rigorously respond to what the rest of us are now beginning to see as a real threat. The whole “scientific”movement, the awakening that began with Copernicus gazing into the heavens, has been very effective at sidelining the spiritual dimension of Reality and putting humanity at the centre of the Universe. This whole movement, which I call the Newtonian paradigm and which has given us such wondrous progress, has now brought us to the brink of extinction. There is also a scientific fundamentalism which believes that science is the only route to truth. It is hard to say which fundamentalism is the most dangerous.
Islamic radicalism grew, at least in part, out of their confrontation with the modern western world. They see the western way of life as an intrusion and even destruction of their beliefs and way of life. What was for the western world an internal development is for them an external invasion. The extremists are willing to take up arms against it. They can only see the burning of the Qur’an as an ultimate insult, which it is, and a threat to their beliefs and integrity.
The Islamic extremists are absolutely right in seeing that our culture, both in its Christian fundamentalist expression and scientific mind-set, will indeed destroy them, even as it is destroying us.
Is there not a third way that can avoid the extreme solutions that bar all possibility of a just and peaceable future? With the coming of the quantum vision science itself is coming to understand that Reality is an Ultimate Mystery that becomes more profound the deeper our understanding becomes. We are more than glad to accept the gifts that science and technology have given to the world, with the large proviso that they enhance the earth and all life upon it. In order to do that we must also awaken more deeply to the spiritual realm; the realm of mind, psyche and soul, and realise that the Universe, too, has a mind, psyche and soul.
Can we share our wisdom and gifts with one another and the world, and graciously receive the wisdom and gifts of others with a different history from ours, without polluting the waters with our narrowmindedness, prejudice and greed?
Hope resides in the people of the world having the maturity to do that.