September 10, 2010
Burning Qurans and BiblesBy Wendy Wright
Attorney General Eric Holder called it "idiotic" and "dangerous." Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says it is "disrespectful." A State Department spokesman called it "un-American." President Obama weighed in that "this is a destructive act."
The Obama administration is roundly denouncing plans to burn copies of the Quran. Christian leaders rightly condemn it as "appalling" and "disgusting" and say it "violates both our Christian and American identities."
So why the silence when Bibles were burned?
A church in the U.S. saved and held fundraisers to afford the cost of buying and shipping Bibles in the Pashto and Dari language to an American sergeant in Afghanistan.
The Bibles were confiscated by military personnel, thrown away, and burned. Troops in war zones are required to "burn their trash," reported a Defense Department spokesman in 2009 about the event that occurred a year before.
Central Command General Order No. 1 forbids "proselytizing of any faith, religion, or practice." It is strongly enforced in predominantly Muslim areas out of fear that distributing religious material will be seen as an attempt by the U.S. to proselytize local people.
Military officials chose to burn the Bibles rather than send them back to the church, fearing the church would send them to another organization in Afghanistan.
Yet rather than express their concern and allow the church to find other uses for the Bibles, such as sending them to people outside of Afghanistan, officials destroyed the Bibles.
Here's a burning question with an obvious answer: Would they have done that to Qurans?
No administration official condemned the burning of Bibles. Now that they have found their voices at the threat that Qurans will be burned, will they express disdain at the disrespectful treatment of Bibles?
This reveals the drastic differences between Christian and Muslim cultures. We know why leaders condemn the proposed burning of Qurans. As Gen. Petraeus told The Associated Press, "Images of the burning of a Quran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan -- and around the world -- to inflame public opinion and incite violence."
Newsweek's false report that a Quran had been desecrated at Guantánamo prison led to riots throughout the Muslim world. Mobs killed fifteen people, burned government buildings, and ransacked relief organizations.
"We can understand torturing prisoners, no matter how repulsive," Muhammad Archad told Newsweek in Pakistan. "But insulting the Qur'an is like deliberately torturing all Muslims. This we cannot tolerate."
In contrast, Christians revere the Bible -- but human life is sacred. We study our Bibles as God's revealed truth that leads to the greatest freedom. At one time in history, translating the Bible into common languages could lead to a death sentence. But those were actions of tyrants, not directed by Christian faith. Reformers corrected these appalling actions by going back to the Scriptures. They reveal that God created mankind in His image -- so we should treat others as His image-bearers -- and He desires that all people know His truth.
Making the Bible available in languages people can understand (like Pashto and Dari) is a major effort among Christians. And it is a fine American tradition -- several of America's Founding Fathers also founded or worked with organizations to distribute Bibles in languages people understand. True freedom, they knew, is more than a political endeavor.
Benjamin Rush, an abolitionist and signer of the Declaration of Independence, founded the Philadelphia Bible Society. He advocated that "the following sentence be inscribed in letters of gold over the door of every State and Court house in the United States. The Son of Man Came into the World, Not To Destroy Men's Lives, But To Save Them."
As Jesus said, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."
Why could you hear crickets chirp when Bibles were burned? Why no pronouncements of "appalling," "disrespectful," and "violates both our Christian and American identities"? Most people did not know about the event because the media did not deem it newsworthy. But surely top administration officials were aware.
Ultimately, we know why. People do not fear that Christians will respond violently.
If Islam is a religion of peace, now would be the time to prove it. Muslims can follow the example of Christians.revised 9/13 to correct a mistaken date
Wendy Wright is President of Concerned Women for America, the nation's largest public policy women's organization.