Last month I wrote regarding the American Influence that we sometimes don’t even realize we have. I pointed out “how ignorant we can often be of the immeasurable influence we have” and I asked “what will we do with that responsibility?”.
This month I want to address a specific way an American will influence the world, possibly without being aware of the consequences his actions might have.
I heard about Terry Jones for the first time around my cafeteria dinner table here in Singapore. My Indonesian friend, Naomi, asked me about him, “Do you know Terry Jones in Florida?” she asked.
“No, is he a friend of yours?” I replied.
Her answer was an emphatic no and she went on to explain that Terry Jones is a pastor at the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, FA who is planning to hold a Quran burning on 9/11. My initial reaction to this news was to roll my eyes
“Radical trying to get attention,” I thought to myself, but Naomi’s eyes weren’t rolling. They were filled with anxiety.
“If he does this,” she said, “the muslims in my country will hurt us again. They will attack our churches and our families. They will be very angry.”
And suddenly the consequences of Terry Jones actions went global. This wasn’t just about some American pastor reacting against Islam. This was an act of provocation that could easily threaten both my, and Terry Jones’, Christian brethren worldwide.
Now, I have no doubt regarding Terry Jones’ boldness, courage and conviction, and for these I applaud him. His desire to commemorate 9/11 is commendable. His desire to raise awareness about Islam is also not a negative sentiment. His methods, at first, appear only radical and disrespectful. However, the effects of his methods are deadly.
If Terry Jones wants to endanger himself and his church (which he is certainly doing) then that is his business and his choice. However, he does not have the right to endanger the lives, livelihood and well-being of Christian families, workers and children worldwide who tenuously cohabitate neighborhoods and cities with their muslim neighbors. Already this month has seen violence in Indonesia against churches and their members; already tensions are high. Such an act by one man in the world spotlight of America could cost men, women and children their lives.
Often America and Americans do not realize the influence we have worldwide. But this is a situation where we cannot afford to ignore it. My classmates here at seminary whose churches and families often live side by side with muslim neighbors are aware and are afraid.
“Can’t the government stop him from doing it?” a classmate asked me, “I am so afraid of what will happen.”
So, on their behalf I appeal to Terry Jones: do not endanger your brothers and sisters, my classmates, my friends, their families and churches, with this well-meant but foolhardy act. The impact may have consequences you do not want to answer for before the throne of your God.
(To voice your concerns for Christians and churches worldwide to Terry Jones, you can contact his church here. You can be sure I have already done so)