My commitment to religious freedom means that I support the right of a pastor in Florida to burn Qur’ans. But I strongly disagree with the wisdom of his proposed actions. As Gandhi taught, “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.” Case in point, the AP reported this morning that, “Hundreds of angry Afghans burned a U.S. flag and chanted ‘Death to the Christians’ on Thursday to protest plans by a small American church to torch copies of the Muslim holy book on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.”
As a pastor living hundreds of miles away from Florida, I look to Martin Luther King, Jr. for wisdom on how to provide a constructive, non-violent protest to the Florida pastor’s incendiary actions. MLK wrote, “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”So, following a recommendation from The Network for Spiritual Progressives, I plan to read publicly from the Qur’an at my congregation’s Sunday morning worship service this week to honor what others would burn. Hating the Florida pastor only continues the downward spiral toward violence. I hope that reading publicly from the Qur’an will be a small act of love and solidarity toward my Muslim sisters and brothers.