There’s been a lot in the news lately about Pastor Terry Jones, whose church, the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, is planning to commemorate the terror attacks of September 11 by hosting a BBQ.  This wouldn’t be so noteworthy but for the fact that the main purpose of the flames is to burn copies of the Koran.  Jones and his church-mates insist that their purposes are to get Christians to stand up and combat unrighteousness, which by their measure is defined as anything other than the truth of Jesus Christ.  Their website reads,

“Any religion which would profess anything other than this truth is of the devil. This is why we also take a stand against Islam, which teaches that Jesus is not the Son of God, therefore taking away the saving power of Jesus Christ and leading people straight to Hell.”

It seems a poor usage of time to debate Mr. Jones—experience teaches that most men with a .40-caliber pistol on their hip aren’t interested in conciliatory reasoning.  Additionally, when  an interviewer asked about his knowledge of the Koran, Jones replied, “I have no experience with it whatsoever,” a position that does not readily lend itself to open discussion.

But I’m not writing to dissuade Jones’s project.  Instead I’d like to point out an opportunity that the fine folks at the Dove World Outreach Center seem to have overlooked (For those not familiar: in Christianity the Dove is a symbol of peace.  You may find an explanation for this in your dictionary under: Irony, deep, dark, sickly un-self-aware Irony.)  On September 8th, a full three days prior to the anticipated Koranathon, the Jewish High Holidays commence with the celebration of Rosh Hashanah.  Now it’s true that being Jewish means many things to many people, but the one thing it certainly does not mean is believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  Such a position vis-a-vis Jesus should easily place the Jews in the You Deserve To Have Your Scriptures Burned By Us category.

So to Pastor Jones and the folks at the Dove Center, why not take advantage of these extra three days as an opportunity for practice?  Begin your scripture burning on a more accessible level, and work up to burning the Koran by beginning first with the Torah.  By starting with the Jews you’ll have a great opportunity to work out some practical concerns before arriving at the Muslims.

If you’ve never burned a holy book before it’s important to know that it can be a difficult and challenging work.  Many Jewish and Muslim scriptures are written on scrolls, a silly and ancient medium that Jesus abolished when he drove the tax collectors from the Temple, wrote the King James Bible and declared America the New Promised Land of Milk and Honey.  The important thing to remember is that scrolls burn far more erratically than standard books, and before burning them it’s helpful to consider several questions.  Will the text ignite simply by holding a match to it, or should one employ a flammable solvent such as gasoline?  And if the latter, how much? (I recommend a good overnight soaking in an Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel [ULSD] of any and all religious texts prior to ignition—it’s flammability is unparalleled, it’s more environmentally friendly, and nothing says Look at me burning your scriptures quite as pungently as the smell of burning diesel.)

Once the text is actually lit a whole nother set of concerns arise.  One is often tempted to hold the flaming book aloft in his hands, and while this can make for a good commemorative photograph it can present its own set of dangers as well.  An important concern to entertain is the role of fire-prevention measures (extinguishers, gas-masks, fire-retardant gloves, etc.).  My experience is that while they can provide a level of safety, their presence at a scripture-burning can undermine things by making the burner look like a wuss.

My preferred option in situations such as this is the communal, Nazi-style bonfire-of-books.  This simple approach is the safest and most accessible alternative, requires minimal preparations and can be done virtually anywhere.  Additionally, if properly managed they’re child-friendly conflagrations, which makes scripture-burning fun for the whole family.  As such, it is my number one recommendation for novice scripture-burners.  And don’t think that because it’s simple its rewards will be anything less than grand.  Not only are bonfires a wonderfully dramatic set piece around which to dance and celebrate, they’re also good for roasting weenies and cooking S’mores.

The references to Nazism are important to emphasize, because by starting with the Jews you’ll not only be gaining valuable practical insight when you turn to Muslims, but you’ll be doing many Jews a service as well.  For many Jews persecution is a central theme of their identities—only imagine how hurt they would feel were you to overlook them in this matter.  Publicly burning the Torah will provide a large number of contemporary American Jews, many of whose lives have been sorely devoid of the life-defining persecutions of their forefathers, an opportunity to tap into the rich cultural heritage of being oppressed for being Jewish.

Lastly, by burning the Torah first you’ll get a good window into what sort reaction you can expect to receive once you turn to the Koran.  There are roughly 13-million Jews around the world and well over 1.5-billion Muslims: starting small will provide an excellent baseline when the time comes to go big.

I hope that these suggestions will be taken into consideration by the folks at the Dove World Outreach Center.  The Jews in America need you to oppress not only Muslims, but Jews as well.  Should any in your congregation grumble about the extra time and work involved, I recommend reminding them that the Jews killed Jesus in the first place—this should sufficiently stir their anger and lead to a more whole-hearted and enthusiastic Torah-burning.

Oh, and one last thought—while you’re burning the Torah think about smashing a Shofar, the ram’s horn that is blown in synagogues to mark the beginning of Rosh Hoshanah.  After all, it really looks a lot like a small minaret, and as such will be great practice for smashing actual minarets, the destruction of which will  be the topic of our next installation.