September 15, 2010

Fahrenheit 911

With the exception of a nice roaring fire or fireworks on a summer day, I'm pretty against burning things. My house, clothes, myself, midgets. But I don't often have to worry about the flammability of those things so my chief concern with respect to burning is books. Or, really anything that takes books out of the hands of people who would like to read them or benefit from their knowledge. I also don't really care for stupid people. As you can imagine, the last week or so has been frustrating.

Of course I'm talking about Terry Jones - pastor, Hulk Hogan-mustache sporter, attention whore - and his aborted International Burn A Koran day planned for September 11th.

If you were anywhere in the Western hemisphere, you heard the story. I wanted to know more. What I found was sad.

Jones is a former hotel manager-turned-pastor who performed missionary work in Europe before he was asked to leave. His favorite phrase seems to be "Islam Is Of The Devil." Though he calls himself a doctor, he didn't earn it. The doctorate was honorary. In fact, Jones has never read the Koran instead citing YouTube as his main source of information about Islam. What Jones wanted, instead, was attention and money. He got both*.

Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Pope Benedict, Hillary Clinton, NATO, Interpol, every country in the European Union, every religious group in Gainesville, Florida and perhaps the entire civilized world has implored and pleaded with the zealot so-called pastor Terry Jones to cease and desist from burning Korans on September 11, 2010. The foreign ministries of Pakistan and Bahrain issued official denunciations with Bahrain calling it a "shameful act which is incompatible with the principles of tolerance and coexistence." The president of Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, has also sent a letter to President Obama asking him to stop the bonfire. In Pakistan, about 200 lawyers and civil society members marched and burned a U.S. flag in the central Pakistani city of Multan, demanding that Washington halt the burning of the Muslim holy book.

And where did the money angle come into play?
The most recent tax filing available on Jones' non-profit church from Guidestar (his church is listed as Dove Charismatic Ministries, Inc) shows his church spends 30.5% on "program services" while "administrative costs" accounted for 69.5 percent. His 20 acre church property is for sale. Online real estate listings indicate Jones is looking for other ways to drum up some cash. According to the listing on real estate website, the Dove World Church is for sale for 2.9 million. The listing says the property has been "reduced $1.1 million for a quick sale".

For every nutjob in the world, there's at least one like-minded, more submissive nutjob who will follow. For ever attention-seeking fame-whore born of the social media revolution, there are hordes who will repeatedly click their "like" buttons as if that counts as participation. It would actually be better, in my mind, if the motivation was simple ignorance, intolerance or hatred. At least then it would be pure - ugly, hateful and misguided, yes, but pure.

What do you think of Terry Jones, the reaction he received and the attention he got? Would this have been a story without the media? And were his planned actions a legitimate threat?

* both from an excellent San Francisco Chronicle article.

Posted by Chris at September 15, 2010 7:07 AM

Historical significance is something that comes with time, but I think that this one will be a standout for a lot of reasons. So let me put my cards on the table: I think he is a whack job who may believe his own hype, but perhaps God does work in mysterious ways, so let's take a look at the fallout from his stunt.

1. Within the course of two weeks, basically the entire planet rallied together to say "Stop it" to someone who was going to do something really ignorant, and really inflammatory. If you are looking for signs of living in the future, here you go.

2. It forced us as a nation to draw a line in the sand to the rest of the world and say "We condemn intolerance, but will not cross the line to stop someone from doing something expressive ( although dumb )." It's a subtle but important point that this is what being an American is all about; you may be a jack@ss and I may hate you, but I'll defend you're right to be so.

3. It forced a whole country that has been spoon fed "Islam = terrorism" for the past several years to take a step back and really think about what that message has been. We don't want the world to think that people who bomb abortion clinics represent mainstream Christianity, and for a brief moment there we got a chance to hear that a couple of billion people didn't want the same branding.

4. It forced up the conversation that to win our insurgency wars we need to not only use our guns, but also diplomacy to win over our enemies.

I think it would have been a story without the media, because something like that has a way of becoming folklore and haunting us.

I think it was a real threat; remember when those cartoons in Denmark brought down real assassination attempts on the cartoonists? That would have seemed like peanuts compared to the response on this one.

Posted by: metawizard at September 15, 2010 9:39 AM

I'm with you and with metawizard. Terry Jones dismays me. I do appreciate that actual politicians took a real stand on this. Sometimes they get so waffly when they think they'll offend intolerant people.

Posted by: Brooke at September 15, 2010 11:37 AM

He's an idiot.

Posted by: sw at September 15, 2010 12:36 PM

Personal opinion, he is an idiot. People like him are the reason Christians have such a hard time in this country. The media never represents the good that genuine Christians do, they only highlight the nutjobs like Terry.
Had the media stayed out of it, it would have been a non-issue. I would prefer people like Terry Jones and Fred Phelps were ignored, maybe then they would go away.

Posted by: Jeff A at September 15, 2010 12:58 PM

AAARRRGGG!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is the condensend version of my rant.

Posted by: joss is boss at September 15, 2010 1:14 PM

Every time I think the bar can't go any lower, it does. I think its embarrassing that this is what captures our attention. Why we even give this man a podium is beyond me. I should have known it had to do with money.

This is why some big wig in China said that Americans are like one celled animals.

I find the whole tea party/Sarah Palin/reality shows is an effort to dummy everything down to a trailer park mentality. The people who are behind all of this LOVE people who are "of the people." Well, I am sorry, but I would like the "people in charge" to be smarter than myself. And, I don't have an issue with that or an insecurity about it.

I love Joel Stein's column in TIME. He addressed this,9171,2010191,00.html

He is hilarious. And usually snarky and correct.

Posted by: Debbie at September 15, 2010 6:41 PM

i'm with joss :)

and you.

Posted by: kati at September 16, 2010 12:21 AM