Thursday, 9 September 2010

Glasshouses and stones

I know I will not be the only one aware of the irony inherent in the name of the , “Dove World Outreach Church” at the centre of a political and religious storm over the proposals of its pastor, Terry Smith, to burn copies of the Koran tomorrow. Doves are a symbol of peace and reconciliation, as for “outreach”, there might well be better ways to achieve this than burning the sacred text of another faith.
There are, of course, other ironies in the situation. Pastor Terry Smith has justified his actions on the grounds that,
“Maybe it’s time to send a message to radical Islam that we will not tolerate their behaviour.”
And burning the Koran is clearly the best strategy to show radical Muslims the error of their narrow, aggressive, fundamentalist attitudes...

Moreover, Terry Smith, who has written a book about Islam as a satanic religion, and seems to base a lot of his religious thinking around the evils of Islam, has never actually read the Koran and allegedly doesn’t know any Muslims.

At the same time you can’t help but despair at the publicity this proposed action has received. Dove World Outreach has no more than fifty members and is not affiliated to any other religious institution. So, a tin pot organisation, a handful of crazies does something stupid and offensive – sure it should be condemned, but does it really warrant the high level interventions, or the hype and hysteria that has been generated?


  1. I was just reading a collection of JC Ryle's writings, and he has a lot to say about zeal, one of which being that zeal must be tempered with love, or it can be distructive, as this example clearly shows.

    To paraphrase Mark Driscoll, you shouldn't get too caught up in technical theological principles at the expense of making cookies (buscuits?) for your neighbours.

  2. It is difficult to tease out what is ignorance, wilful ignorance (a euphemism for arrogance), attention seeking, scapegoating, self-righteousness, irony, xenophobia or sheer stupidity. The figures vary (between 12% & 20%) but up to 88% of Americans do not hold passports and Revd Smith kinda bears out this idea of insularity and ignorance of many Americans, concerning the rest of the world.

    But I think, as you rightly note, that care is needed. This is some tin pot little, hole in corner, church (not unlike Westboro Baptist Church – aka and seems built upon the same desire to produce hatred (from hatred), building on age old prejudices. The media, and in particular, the internet, are what have given power to this insignificant little hate monger (tho’ the same could be said of a few of the authors of blogs where you and I met!).

    Care is needed, however, that one doesn’t become saddled with a victim culture sense of the ‘hurt to Islam’ – there are many Muslims and many Muslim clerics who are just as intolerant and derive a good deal of satisfaction from whipping up hate and discord towards Christianity and other religions and cultures. There is a curious irony in the reaction of some of our Muslim cousins overseas. Frenzies of anti-American and Anti-Christian outpouring (tho’ are we are only told this by the media...) – indeed I would go further and say there is a well organised and informed opposition to Christianity in many Muslim societies (not forgetting the UK) that outshine the fumblings of Revd Smith.

    Are these manifestations of what happens when the devout, the ignorant and the hateful are stirred, rather than shaken? Or they merely the nasty side of religion and its propensity for inciting hatred and violence? I suspect the latter.



    p.s. the authorisation text word was 'bummer' - followed, ironically by 'splein'!!

  3. We certainly do see the "problem with religion" in cases like this - both Smith's behaviour and that of those prepared to take to the streets to protest and demonstrate against it!

    Those with a strong religious faith are not always noted for a sense of perspective...