Lamar Vest: Burning the Quran Does Not Illuminate the Bible

I have to admit, when I heard news reports of Pastor Terry Jones planning to burn the Quran on the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, I was both puzzled and disappointed.

To burn another religion’s scriptures is disrespectful to all who adhere to that faith. Further, it is counterproductive. If this act is intended, as Pastor Terry Jones stated, to “send a message to the moderate [Muslim] to stay peaceful and moderate,” how will burning their holiest book accomplish that? Clearly, it will only offend and incense Muslims across the political spectrum — not just to those to whom he is trying to “send a message.”

As the president of the world’s largest national Bible society, I was also bothered for very practical reasons. I have met wonderful men and women who are working around the world — many in countries hostile to Christianity — to make the Bible accessible to all people. Terry Jones’ proposed act of hatred has the very real potential to endanger the lives of those working in Muslim countries. Members of the U.S. military are also potential targets for those who would retaliate against Jones’ planned actions. It is one thing for a person to risk his own life for something he believes in — but it is a very different thing to risk someone else’s life.

Even as it was announced that Jones decided — at least for now — to delay his plans to burn copies of the Quran, I was left with a disturbing question: what if people think that Jones speaks for most Christians? What if they think he speaks for me?

American Bible Society works to make the Bible accessible to people of all faiths, no faiths, and across the Christian faith so that people can engage with God’s Word. We strongly believe that we don’t have to denigrate another religion to elevate our own. That’s why American Bible Society placed a full-page ad in The New York Times that carries the message that “Burning the Qur’an does not illuminate the Bible.” That’s why we reached out to Christian leaders across the spectrum to stand united in this belief.

The intent of this ad is to communicate that we are in favor of respect and civility in religious discussions, disagreements and debates. Acts of hatred in the name of Christianity are antithetical to the good news of the Gospel.

At the end of the day, my hope and prayer is that Muslims and people of all faiths will understand that those who denigrate, defame or destroy the Quran do not represent a biblical worldview and do not speak for all Christians.

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