What Would Jesus Do (with the Qur'an)?

Frank J. Tipler
Many have criticized  Rev Terry Jones' burning of the Qur'an as unchristian.  Let me offer a defense of Jones on Christian theological grounds.  It is important to do so, because ultimately the entire notion of individual freedom arises from Judeo-Christian theology.

Christians are taught to "do as Jesus would do."  Many have claimed that Jesus would have never have burned a Qur'an, because Jesus taught that Christians must "love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you (Matthew 5:44)."

I beg to differ.  In the above passage from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was referring to one's personal enemies.  Jesus had no patience with those he perceived as unrepentant enemies of God.  Jesus showed no forgiveness when he overturned the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple, saying as he did so: "My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves (Matthew 21:12-13)."  And Jesus did not hesitate to say to his opponents: "You are from your father the devil [my emphasis], and you choose to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44)." 

In neither case did Jesus worry about hurting the feelings of his intellectual opponents.  But, in contrast to Mohammed and Mohammed's modern followers, Jesus did not physically attack, much less kill, the actual human beings whose ideas he opposed.  Jesus never killed or physically harmed anyone. 

Would Jesus have burned the holy symbol of another religion? 

Moses did exactly that to the Golden Calf: "He [Moses] took the calf that they had made, burned it with fire [my emphasis], ground it to powder, scattered it on the water, and made the Israelites drink it (Exodus 32:20)."  No one has ever claimed that Jesus believed Moses overreacted when he burned the Golden Calf.

So to accuse Pastor Jones of a hate crime, or of being a hater, is to accuse both Moses and Jesus of committing hate crimes, and of being haters.

We who believe in freedom are in a religious war, and it is time to acknowledge this obvious fact.  Our enemies aim at the destruction of our civilization, and the destruction of rationality itself.  If our "allies" in Afghanistan oppose the central idea of individual liberty, and fighting for these "allies" means that our troops, and in particular our best general, become corrupted, then it is time to admit we have lost the war, and withdraw.

Frank J. Tipler is Professor of Mathematical Physics at Tulane University.  He is the co-author of The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Oxford University Press) and the author of The Physics of Immortality and The Physics of Christianity, both published by Doubleday.
Many have criticized  Rev Terry Jones' burning of the Qur'an as unchristian.  Let me offer a defense of Jones on Christian theological grounds.  It is important to do so, because ultimately the entire notion of individual freedom arises from Judeo-Christian theology.

Christians are taught to "do as Jesus would do."  Many have claimed that Jesus would have never have burned a Qur'an, because Jesus taught that Christians must "love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you (Matthew 5:44)."

I beg to differ.  In the above passage from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was referring to one's personal enemies.  Jesus had no patience with those he perceived as unrepentant enemies of God.  Jesus showed no forgiveness when he overturned the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple, saying as he did so: "My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves (Matthew 21:12-13)."  And Jesus did not hesitate to say to his opponents: "You are from your father the devil [my emphasis], and you choose to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44)." 

In neither case did Jesus worry about hurting the feelings of his intellectual opponents.  But, in contrast to Mohammed and Mohammed's modern followers, Jesus did not physically attack, much less kill, the actual human beings whose ideas he opposed.  Jesus never killed or physically harmed anyone. 

Would Jesus have burned the holy symbol of another religion? 

Moses did exactly that to the Golden Calf: "He [Moses] took the calf that they had made, burned it with fire [my emphasis], ground it to powder, scattered it on the water, and made the Israelites drink it (Exodus 32:20)."  No one has ever claimed that Jesus believed Moses overreacted when he burned the Golden Calf.

So to accuse Pastor Jones of a hate crime, or of being a hater, is to accuse both Moses and Jesus of committing hate crimes, and of being haters.

We who believe in freedom are in a religious war, and it is time to acknowledge this obvious fact.  Our enemies aim at the destruction of our civilization, and the destruction of rationality itself.  If our "allies" in Afghanistan oppose the central idea of individual liberty, and fighting for these "allies" means that our troops, and in particular our best general, become corrupted, then it is time to admit we have lost the war, and withdraw.

Frank J. Tipler is Professor of Mathematical Physics at Tulane University.  He is the co-author of The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Oxford University Press) and the author of The Physics of Immortality and The Physics of Christianity, both published by Doubleday.