Burning the Koran

Fr. Peter: Well I for one would like to send a message to the radical Christians that we are not interested in you! You are what is wrong in this world and your kind are giving the rest of us right believing Christians a bad name. Maybe you should go your local Army Recruiting station and enlist in the military and go and fight for this nation rather than put her military in jeopardy.

Fr. Peter-Michael Preble

Fr. Peter-Michael Preble writes on his blog:

This past Sunday, while I was preaching on the love of Christ as found in the Gospel of St. Matthew, another Christian preacher was preaching hate at his Church in Florida.

Pastor Terry Jones feels that one way to mark the anniversary of September 11th is to burn the Quran. He feels that this will send a message to radical Islam that we are not interested in you. Well I for one would like to send a message to the radical Christians that we are not interested in you! You are what is wrong in this world and your kind are giving the rest of us right believing Christians a bad name. Maybe you should go your local Army Recruiting station and enlist in the military and go and fight for this nation rather than put her military in jeopardy.

Jesus Christ, well at least the Jesus Christ that I preach, preached love of neighbor as yourself. What this “pastor” is doing is preaching hate and as I said on Sunday, “hate has no place in the life of a Christian.” If God is love then He cannot be hate. So hate cannot only come from one other place and that is from the Devil. This “pastor” is no better then the radicals that flew their planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the field in Pennsylvania. If he wishes to commemorate the day then he should be praying for peace and understanding and causing a riot and fueling anti-Muslim hate.

Today, General David Petraeus has said this action could lead to violence against our troops serving in Afghanistan. I thought as Christians we were supposed to pray for the protection of our troops that are bravely serving our country. I wonder what this “pastor” would say if they decided in Afghanistan to burn the bible in a protest against what he is doing?

The Muslims consider the Quran to be a holy book, much the same way that we Christians think of the bible or the Jews think of the Torah. Why would he think this is a good idea? The only reason that this “pastor” would be doing this is to fuel hate, and I say again hate is of the Devil and has no place in the life of a Christian.

I call on all Christians, and faith leaders from other churches to join me in the condemnation of what is going to happen on September 11th. Our silence is nothing more than approval of this extremist is going to do. The world has no room for extremists, Muslim, Christian, Jewish or anything. What we should be praying for on this day is peace and understand, that’s what the Jesus that I pray to would do!

Disagree with Islam, sure. Try to convert Muslims to Christianity, sure. But this will not do that. We are already seeing a backlash in Afghanistan. Today they were burning the US flag and an effigy of this “pastor” in the streets.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”

This is from the Bible that I read each and everyday. Our neighbor is the person living next to us but also the person who hates us and wants to see our destruction. We need to love them as commanded by Jesus in this Gospel passage. Perhaps this “pastor” has a very different view of what his neighbor is, I do not know the man so I cannot say for sure. But based on the hate filled website that his so called Church has set up, I would say he does not take this verse of the Bible very serious.

Love is the summation of the entire Christian Gospel. Jesus entire life was spent loving people even those that disagreed with Him. With His very last breath He asked God to forgive those who had crucified Him. He prayed for and asked forgiveness for the very people who killed Him. Sounds like love to me.

I am not a theologian or a Scripture scholar, but I am pretty confident that Jesus would condemn this action in a very loud voice. I am asking all of you to do the same thing.


  1. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Bravo Fr. Peter! Excellent piece.

  2. Fr. Peter,


    “This “pastor” is no better than the radicals that flew their planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the field in Pennsylvania.”

    Look, I think that the Dove World Outreach Whatever-it-is is simplistic, hateful, and counterproductive. No argument there. However, don’t you think the line above, quoted from your post, is a tad hyperbolic? Obviously both actions– the burning of the heretical Koran and the massacre of 3,000 innocent people– are motivated by hate, but I believe the comparison really ends there. Whether or not the Dove “pastor” is “no better” remains to be seen. While it may be true, I’ll withhold judgment until the “pastor” engages in mass murder.

    • Brian,

      The action of this gorup “could” in the words of the commanding General lead to the deaths. I speak of the hate that leads to the actions. This place will become a lightning rod for others who will try and stop this. I cannot quote you the exact passage of Scripture but I do recall a passage about leading your brother to stumble and if what your doing will do that then you should not do it. This persons actions may not lead to the deaths of 3,000 but the hate is the same, and that has no place in anything called Christian.

      • But Fr. Peter, this reply provokes little disagreement from me. I even agreed already that hate is hate, and that this action of the Dove pastor is wrong. I have simply taken issue with your statement that burning the Koran is “no better” than massacring 3,000 individuals. I think you make very good points, but even your good points are weakened when exaggerated statements are made to bolster your otherwise admirable message. I am very saddened that soldiers’ (and perhaps others’) lives may be threatened by these dolts’ actions, but I have two responses to that: 1. If lives are snuffed out explicitly because of the Koran burning, primary blame nonetheless will lie with those who do the killing–the Dove pastor is indeed being unwisely provocative and bears a certain responsibility, but he cannot force anyone to kill by these actions. I know radical Muslims seem fond of intimidating threats that they will have little choice if provoked, but isn’t this satanic delusion? We all make our choices, some unwisely burn Korans, others snuff out the lives of thousands, 2. if fewer people commented on the actions of this very tiny cult, if fewer media outlets carried the “story,” if fewer people took the time to even bother to respond, then my guess is these actions would have little effect. Last I heard, Dove has had previous associations with the Westboro Baptist folk. These are not bright, thoughtful, or influential people. They excel at one thing–drumming up media coverage of their antics.

  3. Here’s what the Mother Church has to say about Islamophobes:

    People who speak poorly of Islam can hardly be called Christians. These are people for whom Christianity, even if it was the religion of their fathers, has ceased to be the focal point of their lives and the values they communicate and assert in the public square. In fact, anti-Islamic sentiment is provoked by people who could easily change the vector of their attack and spearhead an assault against Christianity. Genuine Christian believers understand what religion is, they understand the meaning of holy sites and things, and they can judge the meaning of spiritual values. A genuine Christian believer will never mock the religious values of other religions even if this is not his faith, his values, or his God.

    Archbishop Mark Golovkov of Yegorevsk (a close associate of His Holiness)

    This says it better than any American convert can say it (and more concisely, too).

    • Barbara, what mother church are you making reference here too?

    • Let’s see, did not many early Christians including some Apostle’s tear down pagan shrines, pagan idols and ‘holy’ sites? They did so because they proclaimed that the pagan gods were demons.

      Christianity is a radical faith. It is easy to condemn folks for ‘radical’ belief simply because you don’t agree with them. Mr. Jones is not a radical Chrisitan, he is a legalistic reductionist. Burning the Koran is a foolish act of simplistic legalism, but it is not evil except in the sense that all such legalism partakes more of the world than of the Spirit. Condemn the simplistic legalism if you must condemn anything (by condemning Mr. Jones’ actions are we not partaking of the same ‘hate’ as he is? Such condemnation merely brings more attention to his actions and encourages him to persist. Where is the love toward Mr. Jones, who for all his lack of understanding might very well be a true follower of Christ. Would it not be better to listen to what he has to say, agree where possible and then tell the rest of the story? Wouldn’t that demonstrate the love of Christ that Fr. Preble so passionately insists he has but is lacking in Mr. Jones?

      The real problem here is to avoid the belief, PC sentiment really, that Christianity and Islam are morally and spiritually equivalent. They are not. The offense of Mr. Jones lies in his challenge to the politically correct sentiment.

      The Coptic priest Fr. Boutouros certainly does not hesitate to call Islam of the devil. Is he a hater? Am I to respect satanic faith? Certainly, Fr. Preble and the Archbishop seem to say that I should.

      If a Muslim came to Mr. Jones seeking Christ or even as just a Muslim who wanted to engage him in other ways than killing him, I am sure the Mr. Jones would call upon the man to repent and accept Jesus Christ. How is that evil, even if done with a ham-fisted manner and understanding? Are we so much better?

      Oh, BTW, when I see folks holding our bishops who make similar legalistic pronouncements about other Orthodox, who refuse to stand up for the teachings of the Church in either ecclesiology or social problems such as abortion and the normalizing of homosexuality, then I’ll have less cyncism about the high dudgeon on easy targets such as Mr. Jones.

      • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

        Michael, you ask: “…by condemning Mr. Jones’ actions are we not partaking of the same ‘hate’ as he is?” My answer is no. Only if we burn the bible would the equivalence hold. Even then, the relationship of the Christian to Holy Scripture and the Muslim to the Koran is different, and while Christians might be offended, they would not be inflamed.

        Pastor Jones’ burning of the Koran is a deliberate provocation. Why do it otherwise? Surely he could express his ideas about Islam in a way not calculated to deliberately inflame Muslims.

        • Father, you missed my point. Mr. Jones appears as an idiot. It doesn’t seem to me that he even has enough sense to really be hateful. To get all worked up about his hate and condemn him, particularly in a context (Fr. Preble’s post) that emphasizes charity for one’s enemies is an unnecessary distraction from our real task AND, IMO, is the kind of reaction the terrorists and the secularists want. The major media eat that stuff up: Christians attacking other Christians.

          Just say, yea, he’s an idiot, here’s the real story on Islam and here is how to counter it. Make authentic Christianity the point, not the idiocy. Fr. Preble’s response was way overboard.

          • Sorry but I disagree with your statement that my statement was over the top. How can we combate the evil one when we use his tricks, hate.

            The burning of the Koran would inflame people, okay that is not right either but we have no control over that. He calls himself a Christian and as a Christian I condemned his actions. He says he feels Islam is a threat to Christiany, okay what about Judaism, Mormanism, Budhism, Scientology all of these are a threat to Christianity do lets tear out the first five books of the Old Testament, The Book of Mormon, and all of L Ron Hubbards books and spark em up!

            This is done to provoke people and as St. Paul says if it does not edify then we should not do it.

          • I believe it was Fr. Thomas Hopko who said that “the biggest threat to Christianity is the stupidity of the Christians”.

          • George Michalopulos :

            Eliot, if by “stupidity” you mean “liberalism/theological laxity” then you are right.

      • Michael,

        I would never say that we should hate anyone because hate has no place in the life of a Christian. The proposed action was being in the name of hate not in the name of the Love of Jesus and therfore is wrong. We are called by Jesus to love all and we are called in the Divine Liturgy to pray for those who love us and those who hate us. Some would call that PC I guess. I call it Christianity.

        • Father Preble, you seem to think I approve of the burning…I do not.

          However, Islam is quite different that the other faiths you mention:

          1. Judaism is no threat to Chrisitianity, to say it is could lead to the heresy Marcionism.To include it on your list is something I find quite amazing indeed.

          2. Budhism is a pre-incarntional philsophy. Portions of it can and do point to the Christ but cannot be a threat to Chrisitanity except in the most esoteric terms. They do not seek to destroy anything or any one.

          3. Scientology and Mormanism may be demonic delusions but their is nothing in them to threaten the Church. While they may lead astray some souls susceptible to their lies their delusions can be easily countered in one who really seeks God. Neither professes violent suppresion of other beliefs.

          4. Islam is quite different, your constant attempt to downplay the difference and the threat it poses concerns me. Historically and right now Islam has always sought to conquer and subdue Christians by force–to extricate Chrisitanity, Judaism and any other faith that is not Islam from their countries. It is a theosophy that simply will not allow for any contradiction that there is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet. It is a theocratic system that, through Sharia law, reduces everyone to a slave to Allah and the sayings of the Prophet. Sharia law is not optional nor separable from traditional Islam. Islam is inherently evil and inherently focused on the destruction of the infidel. Satanic in bone and sinew

          Mr. Jones manner of attempting to face this evil are not correct, but his cannot and should not be put on the same moral plane as Islam itself.

          Your rhetoric does two things I find dangerous and offensive: 1. gives Islam a moral and spiritual equality with Christianity that Islam does not have; 2. reduces the Chrisitan reponse to one of loving understanding.

          Sorry, Islam denies all of the tenets of Christianity and seeks the destruction of the Church and the souls of all of us. While we must love our enemies that does not mean we must submit to them or to the false God they proclaim. Christianity is not passive nor is it pacificst. We are called to stand and fight against the predation of the evil one.

          If we allow Islam and Sharia in this country we can only pray that God strengthen us to endure the ensuing marytrdom without forsaking Him. The Islamic builing near ground zero is part of that.

          • George Michalopulos :

            Michael, I agree with you. I remember once Frank Schaeffer told me in a private conversation (this was before he went over to the [ahem] Huffington Compost). “There is no more demonic religion than Hinduism, yet even within its worldview, it has a place for peaceful coexistence with Christianity.” In other words, it did not, nor would not, seek to exterminate those people whom Muslims called “infidels.” (Boy, Frank was so lucid then and could get right to the bottom of a complex issue. I miss that guy.)

        • Fr. Peter,

          I’ve often wondered how the passage regarding ‘if someone strikes you on the cheek turn so he can strike the other as well’ would properly be written if there were three people involved, one able to prevent the strike if only he chose to raise his own arm.

  4. If my God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the New Testament, then who or what is the god of Islam? Only the Lord Jesus Christ is holy and perfect. I think we have bigger fish to fry in the world than worrying about some knuckleheads in Florida burning qurans – like warring against terrorist forces who follow this “holy” book that Father Peter speaks of. As if not burning the quran is going to endear this religion to us, when its goal is simply to destroy “the” dominant world civilization, wipe Israel off the map, and kill or convert the infidel? Equating the Dove Church spectacle with the 911 hijackers’ evil is simply ridiculous!

  5. So now we add ‘Islamophobe’ to ‘sexist, racist, homophobe’??

    Who in their right mind is not a ‘radical islamophobe’ other than those who are themselves radical islamists? I’m certainly not a ‘radical islamophile’ mostly noting those who are deem it wise to murder and right frequently.

    • I’m thinking the same. On one hand I agree that burning the koran is bad thing, on the other hand I’m angered at how it is that everyone wonders ‘what will the Muslims think’ about xyz. And they wonder this not out of concern for the Muslims but concern for others, because it will “go off” (to put it in football hooligan speak) and crowds of Muslims will riot and kill not just Christians but their own.

      • Tom, yes you’ve got the sentiment I was feeling exactly. As soon as the Imam in NYC said ‘well if we move the 9-11 victory mosque a few blocks people overseas will get mad’ — That’s blackmail in my book and I think we need to call that whetehr it’s a bluff or not. And if there is a backlash that hurts innocent people then it’s time to dial up whatever military assets we have to remove those who killed innocents in the name of aversion to real-estate relocation.

        • George Michalopulos :

          When all is said and done, there is no pleasing these people. They are as Michelle Malkin says, the “religion of perpetual outrage.” We as Orthodox Christians should not be shocked by this fact, after all, if Mohammed received a revelation, it was not of the angelic kind. I think we should just get over it. And as for the Russian archbishop quoted above, I would have no essential disagreement with him if I could find out about his views of the Jews. Are they congruent? Can anyone tell me?

          Yes, Jones is an idiot. But his actions give the lie to the thoughts of the Ruling Class. Are they going to defend his “freedom of religion” with the same fervor that they are defending the Ground Zero Mosque? Where’s the ACL-freaking-U in all this?

          • George that’s a really good point. “Religion of perpetual outrage”– a close echo of “People’s revolutionary army”. Any political/religious leader that owns ‘the irritated majority’ as his demographic can leverage ‘stick it to the man’ until the day comes they are ‘the man’ —then revealed is the huge gap between rallying outrage and generating growth.

            What will it take for those who are governed on the basis of their outrage to figure out the dead end that comes from supporting those whose power remains only so long as they are unhappy?

            A midwestern non-Islamic boy with part middle-eastern blood married a foreign born Islamic woman then moved to our small town a few years ago– probably because the USA is about the only place such a couple could live in peace. She relates her turning point against Islamic leadership and ‘Always Is Outrage’ came when an islamic suicide bomber blew up in a hotel over seas and in the process injured and killed people including kids at an islamic wedding reception being held there. That did it and she was ‘outta there’.

  6. With His very last breath He asked God to forgive those who had crucified Him. He prayed for and asked forgiveness for the very people who killed Him. Sounds like love to me.

    I was wondering a while ago about the “incident” at the temple. It appears to me that this was the only one time when Christ was angry about something.

    John 2:15S He made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” Matthew 21:13 “It is written,” he said to them, ” ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.

    • I suspect most of us have wrestled with the meaning of the anger expressed by Jesus, since He is at the incarnation of the long-suffering and self-emptying love of God. It seems to me that His anger was directed at those who corrupt and pervert the things of God. For this reason, they were also called vipers by His cousin. For the same reason, St. James both warns of a stricter judgment applied to those who lead and represent those “things of God.”

      While I agree fully with the political concerns expressed by the 5.1 thread above, there is also a spiritual challenge: to embody the love of God in a manner that might be redemptive of our enemies.

      They said of Abba Macarius the Egyptian…

      …that one day he went up from Scetis to the mountain of Nitria. As he approached the place he told his disciple to go on ahead. When the latter had gone on ahead, he met a priest of the pagans. The brother shouted after him saying, “Oh, oh, devil, where are you off to?” The priest turned back and beat him and left him half dead. Then picking up his stick, he fled. When he had gone a little further, Abba Macarius met the pagan priest running and said to him, “Greetings! Greetings, you weary man!” Quite astonished, the other came up to him and said, “What good do you see in me, that you greet me in this way?” The old man said to him, “I have seen you wearing yourself out without knowing that you are wearing yourself out in vain.” The other said to him, “I have been touched by your greeting, and I realize that you are on God’s side. But another wicked monk who met me insulted me and I have given him blows enough for him to die of them.” The old man realized that he was referring to his disciple.

      Then the pagan priest fell at the feet of Macarius and said, “I will not let you go till you have made me a monk.” When they came to the place where the brother was, they put him onto their shoulders and carried him to the church in the mountain. When the people saw the priest with Macarius, they were astonished and made him a monk. Through him many pagans became Christians. So Abba Macarius said, “One evil word makes even the good evil, while one good word makes even the evil good.”

  7. One evil word makes even the good evil, while one good word makes even the evil good.

    We have to admit that we lack the discipline displayed by Muslims.

    Christ has compassion and love for all people. However, this does not mean that the Truth lies everywhere.

    Saint Arsenios the Cappadocian

    St. Arsenios pastored his Greek Orthodox flock amidst extremely difficult conditions. He lived with his people in the village of Farasa in Cappadocia, which after 1453 had fallen into the hands of the Muslim Turks. Under the harsh yoke of the Turks, the Greek people of Farasa formed an oasis of Orthodox Christianity. They sought refuge in the holy St. Arsenios, who was their teacher, their spiritual father, and the healer of their souls and bodies.

    His reputation as a healer was so great that not only Greek Christians but also Turkish Muslims came to him for healing. Many times his village was threatened with violence from marauding Turks, but each time it was preserved in a miraculous way by St. Arsenios.

    The accounts in this book, which were taken down by Elder Paisios from eyewitnesses, testify to how powerfully God works through His holy ones, and to how lovingly He cares for and protects His children amidst adversity. —Elder Paisios

    • Eliot, I love that story. I must admit, though, I’m not sure how to understand what appears to be phrased as a correction or qualification: “However, this does not mean that the Truth lies everywhere.” Nothing I said should be construed to mean that Truth is equivocal or relative. Christ is the Truth. And since Truth is One, any experience of the truth leads – if followed faithfully – to Christ. The love of God desires to bring all men to Him, but that same love will never permit falsehood or delusion.

      My point is that Christ is the real answer to the enmity that lies at the heart of our enemies. To be faithful vessels, we must “convey” Christ in a Christlike manner. If we walk faithfully with Him in what we do and say, the power of His Spirit will be present. If, on the other hand, our manner betrays our message, it is we who will be judged. The “millstone” around our necks is whatever we deem more important than the Gospel; this is what contaminates and corrupts our service. God rightly insists, as you note, on Truth – which is why corrupting or misusing the things of God invited judgment.

      Of course, whether we are “successful” in conveying that message, however, is never important. Christ only asks that we convey it faithfully – in deed and demeanor, and – when necessary – with words.

      • Chrys; Sorry … what I said was not meant to be a correction. What you say is correct and true. I wanted to say “one good word ” about Muslims: their discipline. Then I jumped to something else: even Muslims were healed by Christ who works through His holy ones. This shows that Christ really is a Lover of mankind. In the Lives of the Saints there are presented so many miraculous events: healings, all sort of “impossibilities”, relics, etc. One really has to be either ignorant or blind or a Liar to deny Christ God or to continue being an atheist.

  8. George: Stupidity is defined as “lack of intelligence, understanding, reason, wit, or sense”. Perhaps a better definition would be “the lack of wisdom”.
    Stupidity manifests itself in people’s actions, behavior and spoken/written words. Burning Korans (from a safe distance) sends a message of hate. The price is to be paid by others. Kissing the Koran sends a message of love… but, a the expense of the Truth. One can burn or kiss Korans privately, every day, according to his/her own beliefs. Such acts, when performed in a demonstrative manner, are meant to “educate” others.
    Stupidity, when associated with blindness and carelessness, entails disaster and perdition of souls if it is the basis of action on grave matters. Persisting in ignorance and deluding by creating illusory concepts like “liberalism/theological laxity” can be labeled stupid behavior. More generally, wandering aimlessly through life can be labeled as stupid behavior.

    • George Michalopulos :

      Eliot, I get it, I was just being snarky. To me liberals aren’t stupid, in fact they’re often bright, witty, and clevery, but whatever else they are, they’re definately not wise.

  9. Well, liberals are divided into two groups, one is the educated sterotype and the other tends to be low income and votes that way since they need government help more. Actually, conservatives and modernates are more in the middle in terms of income and education these days. Granted, there is probably more wealthly fiscal conservatives than modernates but who knows.

  10. Scott Pennington :

  11. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Scott, been thinking about you the last few days. You didn’t write anything but I’m glad you are back.

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