The question keeps emerging on how Christians ought to engage Islam. Within American churches, there’s a cauldron of emotion that has churned together freedom of speech, remembrance of 9/11, freedom of religion, righteous indignation, and disgust for Islam, a world religion that often expresses itself in acts of violence. The product is an inseparable blend of issues. How do you handle all of it? Let’s set aside for a minute how America ought to deal with it as a nation and just try to ask the question from a purely spiritual perspective, free of politics or military. One Florida pastor has an idea: burn the Koran. That might sound radical, but I suspect that the man is a lightning rod for a lot of frustrated Christians who don’t know what else to do.
The problem is that the proposed burning (which has been suspended as of this writing), is a token action. Token actions never deal with substance. In fact, they are a favorite of Islamic fervor. Check out how many times you’ve seen American flags or mannequins burned on television by Muslim mobs. Productive outcome for their religion: zero. We might want to learn from that.
The Apostle Paul said, “We are ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor. 5:20). A job description of that type means all real Christians need to ask themselves, “How will my words and actions demonstrate the moral and spiritual superiority of Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior?” When it comes to Christians engaging world religions, there’s much better mileage in addressing substance than in burning books. Paul exhibited that behavior in Athens (Acts 17), when he displayed an understanding of what the pagan Greeks believed and then effectively refuted their logic. Paul might not have been an expert on all forms of pagan belief, but he understood what he believed so well that he could bring it to bear on the situation.
How about rather than book burning, the Florida pastor assembled a group of Muslim clerics and debated the tenants of one another’s faith? No, that doesn’t mean going into it with the intention of finding out that we all believe the same thing (we don’t) and then holding hands and singing Cum-ba-ya around the campfire. That means sixteen rounds (in the positive spirit of the book cover I’ve posted here). Investigating substance. Arguing points. Hanging your political correctness up at the door. I’ve done this a time or two myself and I must say that it’s more rewarding than hollering at a guy or burning his favorite book.