Last September, Brian McLaren called on evangelicals to choose whether or not they would continue with their Islamophobia. In a post that garnered nearly 9,000 comments, he cited emails and articles meant to gin up evangelicals in their fear of Muslims.
So it was interesting to me, as I round out my week in a majority Muslim country, to read this headline, screaming out from the front page of the American evangelical rag, The Christian Post:
Malaysia ‘Bible-Burning Festival’ Over Use of ‘Allah’ Threatens Country’s Stability
Here’s what’s interesting: unlike the reporter of this article, I’ve spent the last week in Malaysia. Indeed, I’ve spent it with Christian pastors of many stripes, with the Lutheran bishop and the Methodist district superintendent, and at the leading Malaysian seminary.
And no one is the least bit interested in the Bible burning.
In fact, the Bible burning is supposed to take place today, on Sunday, on the island of Penang. But it won’t take place, and everyone knew it wouldn’t take place. In the news, this story has gotten even less play here than the Terry Jones Koran burning stories get in the States.
That’s because everyone here knows this is a hoax, a political ploy. There is no one behind the threatened Bible-burning, no time or place announced for it.
You see, there’s an election here in March. And, for the first time in a long time, there is actually the potential that the ruling coalition of conservative Malays (who are Muslim) might be defeated. That’s because the Malay coalition is fractured, with a more progressive Malay element growing among younger, urban Muslims.
To counteract this, the ruling Malay party is doing what they can to sow religious discord and to get their supporters out to vote. It’s very much like the Minnesota Republicans did with the marriage amendment last year. In that case, it completely backfired. Many here are wondering if the same thing will happen.
But no matter the outcome, not a single Christian I’ve met is the least but concerned about the supposed Bible burning, because they all knew that it would never happen.
The evangelical press in America, however, doesn’t want the deeper story. Instead, they’d rather run a headline that reinforced the impression that Muslims are Bible-burning zealots who hate Christianity and the West.
At least in Malaysia, that’s not the real story.
UPDATE: Here’s Monday morning’s post-mortem in the newspaper: