No doubt, some books need burning: the nondescript, characterless, and pointless. But, freedom means we all get our say, good or bad. Many fear that privilege. If truth be truth, however, it will win out on its own merits.
Rev. Terry Jones has been burning Qurans, the scripture of the Islamic religion, since 2010 when he and his church in Gainesville popped out of obscurity. He believes Islam promotes violence and that Muslims want to impose sharia law in the U.S. He authored a book titled "Islam Is of the Devil." Jones' latest plans - to burn 2,998 Qurans, one for each 9/11 victim - honor no one and have little or no impact on Islam. His methods are not unique.
Back in the 7th century B.C., King Jehoiakim of Judah burned a prophet's book because he did not like what it said. Unfortunately, the book's words were from God: Repent and accept your fate - Babylon is coming. The ashes were barely cool when further instructions came to the author: "Take another scroll and write on it all the words that were on the first scroll" (Jeremiah 36:28). Not only did incinerating the first book not stop the second, but it also did not deter the prophesied consequences.
There is no virtue or power in ignorance. Once past age two, temper tantrums - book burning's equivalent - even in the guise of religious protests, are no longer effective. In Charlie Rose's recent interview with Syrian President Bashar Assad, one thing stood out - Assad's calm, direct answers. No matter what we think of him, his self-control shows how little Jones' Quran
cremation, or President Obama's threatened strike, affect his plans.
In an 1821 play German author Heinrich Heine wrote of the Quran burning during the Spanish Inquisition: "Where they burn books, so too will they in the end burn human beings."
History shows even that does not stop or change people zealous for a cause. In 1873 Anthony Comstock founded the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. Comstock's definition of "lewd" led to the destruction of 15 tons of books. In the 1930s Nazi Germany set fire to books deemed "degenerate," including scientific works by Albert Einstein.
Burning books or other symbolic paraphernalia has not stopped Islam, vice, or science. Further, the existence of those three has not eliminated Christianity. And, none of these will win true converts by the fear and hate leading to book burning.
A new study published in the journal Neurology finds that brain-taxing pursuits, especially reading or writing, stave off cognitive decline. Millions of brains continue to be stimulated by the writings of Oswald Chambers, author of the world's most enduring daily devotional, "My Utmost for His Highest." Chambers was a living oxymoron: a biblical literalist with an open mind. When a student thought he would be commended for reading only the Bible, Chambers said: "That's the trouble. You have allowed part of your brain to stagnate for want of use. The man who reads only the Bible does not, as a rule, know it or human life."
If we burn Rev. Jones' book, "Islam Is of the Devil," it will not change him. On the other hand, if he has some truth to speak, he must find a better way; or else, no one is listening. Finding truth requires the right starting point. That is the quest of this column. If we seek simple truth, we can find it together-side-by-side.
Linda M. Downing is a freelance writer. Contact her at lindadowning.com.