So, is that what it takes to become a celebrity these days? Threaten to burn
someone else’s Bible, and declare his religion to be satanic, and you are
instantly the center of the news?
I wonder who is the bigger fool – Terry Jones,
the Florida pastor who is an embarrassment to loving Christians everywhere with
his original plans to burn Korans at his church on September 11, and who is the
author of Islam Is of the Devil, or we, the public who gulp down his story as if
it’s of interest.
There are times when I’m embarrassed to work in media.
How did an attention-seeking nonentity with barely enough followers to fill a
phone booth become an international personality and provoke a global furor? And
who elevated this silly story to global news prominence?
It has to do with just
how inane the media has become. Jones is filler for a 24-hour news cycle which
is all scandal all the time. And if you can’t find a scandal, invent one. There
is nothing novel about the existence of religious bigots, and it’s certainly not
newsworthy. But allow me to teach Pastor Jones a lesson from Jesus’s famous
pronouncement in Matthew 7:16, “By their fruits you shall know them.”
holiness or devilishness of any religion comes down not to its articles of faith
but to the deeds of its practitioners. The crusaders who slaughtered untold
numbers of Jews in Europe as they marched to meet the Islamic infidel in the
Holy Land were of the devil, even if Christianity is not. Likewise, the Spanish
inquisitors who tortured nonbelievers and burned them at the stake were satanic,
even as their faith, Catholicism, remains holy.
IN THAT sense, the whole
debate as to whether President Barack Obama is a Muslim is ridiculous. Yes, he
isn’t, and has said time and again that he is a Christian. But what if he were a
Muslim? I couldn’t care less. My problem with Obama is not his faith or lack
thereof, but his policies.
If Obama were an Islamic president of the
United States who berated instead of coddled Arab dictators like King Abdullah
of Saudi Arabia, he would have my vote. If he were a practicing Muslim who
promoted democracy across the Middle East rather than Kissingerian realpolitik,
I would endorse him. If he were a devout Muslim first magistrate of the United
States who regularly spoke out against the abuses of women in the Islamic world
and gave a prime-time address condemning Iran’s plans to stone a woman to death,
I would deeply respect him. If he were a Muslim who prayed in the Oval Office
five times a day, fasted all of Ramadan and then lectured Hamas and Hizbullah to
stop putting all their money into rockets against Israel and instead into
universities for their people, he would inspire me.
The problem with
Obama is that he does none of these things, rarely holding the Islamic world
accountable for its absence of freedoms, refusing to personally condemn Iran for
its plan to stone a woman to death, and putting the pressure on Binyamin
Netanyahu to again freeze settlements rather than place the blame for the
failure of progress squarely on the real culprits – the terrorist organizations
of Hamas and Hizbullah, both Iranian proxies.
I have devout Muslim
friends who love Israel and wish Arab countries emulated its democratic
institutions, just courts and freedom of worship and press. Likewise, I have
God-fearing Islamic friends who love America, would fight and die to protect it
and believe it is the light in an increasingly dark world.
support anyone like this for president over, say, Jimmy Carter, a devout and
self-declared evangelical Christian who goes against the stalwart evangelical
Christian support for Israel and has the chutzpa to call Israel, a thriving
democracy, an apartheid state. I would take a competent Muslim president who
believes in lowering the burden of taxation, controlling runaway spending and
vastly reducing the appalling federal deficit over a president like Carter who
ran the country into the ground.
As a Jew, I am trained to judge someone
by their actions not their beliefs. I will choose an atheist president who loves
and respects all of humanity and would put an end to the genocide in Sudan over
a religious president who believes that we Americans have no such
responsibilities to people beyond our border.
If an American president
believed in elves and the Easter bunny but fought Taliban misogynists who pour
acid on women for attending university, I would follow him.
And if an
American president spoke Klingon in his private moments and worshiped Capt.
James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise
as a divinity, but set up an
alternative to the United Nations, to be known as the United Democratic Nations,
open only to governments that were of the people and by the people, I would
support him, too.
In short, I could not care less what a person believes;
it’s what they do that matters.
Therefore, I will reject any pastor who
claims to be religious but is a narrow bigot. I love my Christian
sisters, but not those who deny the essential biblical truth that every
being – Jew, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, agnostic or atheist –
equally God’s child and that we have a responsibility to encourage
faith rather than condemn their religion.
I trust that my evangelical
Christian brothers and sisters, who love freedom and are
represented in the US military, fighting and dying for democracy in
counties, will identify Pastor Jones as the bad fruit of which Jesus was
speaking.The writer is the international
best-selling author of 23
books. He has just published
Renewal: A Guide to the
Values-Filled Life. Follow
him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley