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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Call 911: The Quran is Burning! Part 2

Matheus Ticiani, a regular reader, had some excellent points to make about the Call 911 post.

Regarding all the interesting facts you mentioned of Church officials burning documents, didn't Pius XII burn a fiercely anti-Nazi encyclical he had just written when he learned about the kind of reprisal Christians inside concentration camps used to get?

You say you are sure that the fundie preacher is aware of the concerns raised by the issue, but if he really knew the extent to which both radical Muslims and their liberal love-hate partners master socialist dialectic, wouldn't he consider that, perhaps, his act of demagoguery is much more likely to fuel support for the 9/11 mosque instead of being a reply, as you put it, against it?

And isn't the timing for this fundie to play "paladin of Christian tradition" just wrong? The neocons of whom fundamentalist Protestants like him are spiritual advisors indirectly decimated an entire Christian community through their adventure in Iraq.

But they were just a bunch of Chaldean papists, so who gives a crap about them, I guess...

Pardon me if this is too politically incorrect, but wouldn't be a better way for this fundie to "declaring Christ's authority" to just abandon his Protestant heresy and embrace the church Christ founded?
Your points are well-taken. It would, of course, be best if he abandoned his heresies and joined the Catholic Faith.

But, apart from that, let's examine the motive and consequences of this action he contemplates.

I think we can all agree that there is no intrinsic problem with burning the Quran. The act itself is fine, even morally to be encouraged. It is only the possible negative consequences from Muslims that cause people to be concerned.

So, let's talk about consequences and moral responsibility.

As we all know by now, the invasion of Iraq and overthrow of Saddam had both good and bad consequences.

We ended government sponsored political torture, but engendered civil chaos.
We ended rape rooms but engendered riots.
We stopped the gassing and destruction of the Kurds but engendered the eviction and destruction of millennia-old Christian communities.
We dismantled Saddam's weapons programs, but removed the political counter-weight to the terror state that is Iran.

The Pope foresaw the negative consequences and said overall, the war was a bad idea.
American politicians foresaw the positive consequences and said overall, it was a good idea.

Now, is there a correspondence between the pastor in Florida and the Pope?
Or even between the pastor in Florida and the President of the United States?
Well, no, not much.

What the Pope does is news because he really does rule a world-wide church with millions of adherents. We can quite rightly assume that when he speaks or acts, he speaks or acts in the name of billions. Thus, what he does or does not do can very accurately be said to affect a billions lives or more. Same goes for the President of the US.

But the only reason pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center (a cult leader) is in the news is the MSM put him there. He doesn't speak for anyone except those who choose to identify with him in this action. Indeed, that's why the MSM put him in the news - they were hoping to sell some newspapers based on the popularity they knew this action would have.

So, there is a very basic difference in responsibilities for outcomes here.
If this man's actions have worldwide consequences, it is only because the world media
(a) guessed his actions would be popular and
(b) decided to make a buck off that popularity.

Now, will it have negative consequences?

We're talking about a group of people who massacred priests and nuns in Africa because they didn't like a cartoon in a Dutch newspaper. These people cut off the hand of a Catholic professor of English in India because he used the name "Mohammed" in a question on a midterm exam, and would have killed him if the opportunity had only been more conducive to it. On several occasions in Indoneisa, they have beheaded a bunch of Catholic school girls for the crime of being Catholic school girls.

In short, we're dealing with a group of people who are all as nuts as Hitler.

And it's not like any of this is new.
They've been running rampages through the world since 632 AD.

We only recently gained less than a century's respite from Muslim terror by virtue of tearing apart the Ottoman Empire with tanks, guns and high explosives, physically deposing the caliph, and putting the whole region under Western guard for decades.

Now they're back.

A soft word may turneth away wrath, but it has historically had little effect on a Muslim.

Experience demonstrates that the only thing which stops the terror they inflict on others is making them abjectly submit to militarily superior, heavily armed forces. You may remember a few years ago, Ann Coulter recommended we invade their countries, kill all their leaders and convert them to Christianity. I am more and more of the opinion that she's exactly right.

So, we ask again, is this pastor's actions going to result in unnecessary violence?
Well, it will result in violence.
But, unless we are all willing to become Muslim, pretty much anything we do will result in violence. That includes simply walking across a field, breathing. These people don't need a reason to attack Christians - just ask the bishop in Turkey. After all, he was impudent enough to give a man a job, meals, a place to live and medical care. Obviously, the bishop deserved to die for these acts of terror.

Indeed, you could just as easily condemn the maintaining of an orphanage for the care and feeding of children as an act of terrorism just as heinous as burning the Quran.

That argument has already been made.

So, we have two different examples of the Church acting when violence threatened:
  1. We have the Council of Constance burning Hus and his writings even though it was fairly clear that violence would result.
  2. We have Pope Pius XII burning his own encyclical precisely because he did not wish the violence that would result.
Given these two examples, I think good Catholics can disagree about which route is best.

For myself, I tend to see nothing particularly wrong with the pastor's decision.

When even the smallest action can result in a disproportionately evil result, I don't lay the violent response that will certainly come as a result of this action at this man's doorstep. He's not a world leader. He's a nobody. And it cannot be the case that we implicitly condone the violent response that will come by chastising the man who will be claimed as the cause. He's a man making a personal stand for the right as he sees it, and he follows a long Catholic tradition in the substance of what he does, in the fight against Muslim aggression.

This is the paradox of overwhelming, disproportionate response. When response is consistently and overwhelmingly disproportionate, then there's no point worrying about it because ANYTHING you do (except becoming Muslim) will tick these people off.

Precisely because the disproportionate response happens with clockwork regularity, it renders everything I do morally equivalent when it comes to evaluating consequences.

All consequences for every action are the same, so I need only look at act and motive now.

This is a very unusual situation in moral theology, which is why so many people aren't factoring it into their moral analyses of this situation. We keep pretending the outcomes with Muslims will be different if we just fine-tune the way we do things.

They won't.

Once we recognize that, the whole equation changes.
Christians, get your matches.


Estase said...

Bravo, Steve!

Ben said...


Brendan said...

I'm not following.

The consequences of burning the Quran are the same as those of not burning the Quran?

Yes there are angry Muslims who kill people, but if one more is added to the list who otherwise would have not, that is an additional consequence. There are likely to be many more; isn't that the key criticism of this?

Steve Kellmeyer said...


That's right - it doesn't matter if you burn the Quran or not.

Look at how the Muslims act.
They kill you if someone completely unrelated to you makes a cartoon you don't like.

They kill you if you treat them with charity, give them a job and care for them (the bishop in Turkey).

They kill you if they see you walking through a field (the young girls in Indonesia).

It literally makes no difference what you do. If you aren't Muslim, they treat you as they see fit.

Burning a book is a statement made by the one who burns it. In terms of consequences from your opponents, it makes no difference if you burn it or don't burn it. They'll treat you the same either way.

So, if the man wants to make a statement, why not let him?

Matheus F. Ticiani said...

I think we can all agree that there is no intrinsic problem with burning the Quran.

Yeah, I have no issue about a Quran being burned, or trampled, or used for ass-wiping, for that matter. But I do have an issue with a Christian deliberately doing it just for fun and cowardly hiding behind freedom of speech. I'm sure that the neo-atheist popstar morons who have been behind the recent wave of Eucharist desecrations will scream with delight with the prospect of a deluded one imitating their absolutely pathetic MO...

As you say, this act by this fundie preacher won't carry the wheight as an act from a world-wide Christian leader. It's just a weird PR stunt from the leader of a 50-member cult to grab whatever 15 minutes of fame that are available.

And isn't your debatable argument about it being impossible to discern any direct violent consequence from this act among the general Muslim savagery something of a moot point, since the liberal MSM will be there to cover everything and we all know whose side it will pick?

Even if Muslims were the most indifferent, milquetoast crowd regarding their belief, even then I would argue against this if only on "don't step on the grass, not because it's good for it but because it's good for you" grounds.

I agree with most of the particulars of your post, Steve. I just think the issue clearly doesn't have the kind of romantic "Let's Party Like it's 1099" allure you are ascribing to it, and I couldn't possibly think of a subject less worthy of a debate than this one...

Steve Kellmeyer said...

I agree that it can be taken as a precedent by atheists and other Eucharist desecrators - that's undoubtedly why the bishops and the Catholic League are coming out against it.

The problem isn't the desecration of the Quran per se, it's that people will immediately generalize whatever is said and they may use it to start attacking TRULY sacred things.

Indeed, I would argue that the only reason the Vatican is publicly coming out against it is they are vainly trying to build up capital with the Muslims to trade for a church or a Christian persecution somewhere down the line. Can't blame 'em for that.

I'm not sure this is not worthy of debate, however. Too many Christians will take the knee-jerk position against this Christian pastor (who is definitely a cult nut) and generalize it to mean that the Quran is worth protecting - which it isn't.

If we talk about the merits publicly, we can at least make people think about the role the media has taken in fomenting whatever violence will result from this act - violence that never would have happened if NOT for the media.

Further, we can focus - as I have - on the fact that it literally doesn't matter what you do to the Muslims, some of them are going to kill you for it.

So, if we were just talking about what the guy is doing and who the guy is, I would absolutely agree that this is not a news story. Indeed, when I first saw it, I deliberately didn't run it on because I was hoping no one would pick it up.

Once they did, however, it became a news story worth discussing. NOT because the actual event is the news, but rather the peculiar reactions to the event is news.

We see all kinds of people running all kinds of different stories, and none of them have anything really to do with the pastor and his Quran burning.

Everybody - and I mean everybody - is just using the guy so they can rhetorically position themselves for future fights. In the final analysis, I doubt anybody really cares what he does - they just want to be seen caring.

It's kind of strange to watch, actually. said...

Just wanted to thank you Steve for the Quran article. I would like to know more about this Islam business as it is becoming so pervasive in our culture. I met a gentlemen who gave an amazing talk on the Islam faith. I was shocked at how they came about.

Thank you also for dialoguing with me so respectfully over the past week or so.

I have decided to stop reading many of these blogs as they seem overly focused on one issue and frankly, there are so many things that need our attention, the growing of Islam sweeping the world is one of them.

Annie is me, and my only reason for be anonymous is that I wanted to be able to have a conversation without prejudice or fear that I could not ask you anything.

So, for what it is worth, thank you for your answers and for your clarifications. It seems there is something deep in your heart being wounded by Mr.West and those that surround him and I pray that will be healed. You clearly have much to offer the world through your knowledge of the faith.

Again, thanks for answering my posts.

Steve Kellmeyer said...


Chris West's heresy is what "wounds" me. As I've said numerous times, I'm more than happy to recommend works by people who are orthodox.

To this day, I recommend Pat Madrid's stuff, Mark Shea's stuff, etc., because they are orthodox. We may have personal and/or personality differences, but that doesn't matter - what they teach about the Faith is trustworthy.

What Chris West teaches isn't.

The only way West can stop wounding people is if he publicly repudiates his errors and starts teaching what the Church teaches.