I originally started drafting a long, nasty post about hate and intolerance and “International Burn a Koran Day.” After several attempts, I realized sometimes a simple LOLpic can say it better.
For anyone who wants to, you have my permission to copy and repost this picture.
Top photo: members of the Westboro Baptist Church.
Bottom photo: Terry Jones, current leader of the Dove World Outreach Center, a self-proclaimed New Testament Church.
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September 9, 2010 @ 9:45 am
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September 9, 2010 @ 9:49 am
As a Christian, I shake my head. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. The loudest voice isn’t the same as the common voice. Most of us aren’t like that.
I typically appreciate what you have to say, Jim, so I’m disappointed that you *didn’t* say anything. I can’t help thinking that posts like this perpetuate the problem as much as the people in those photographs. A nasty post (or pictures w/o a dialogue) can be equally hateful. Open a healthy discussion next time. This doesn’t help, and isn’t that the point?
September 9, 2010 @ 9:52 am
I’ve been thinking that someone missed the point of the ‘turn the other cheek’ & ‘love thy neighbor’ lessons.
Jim C. Hines
September 9, 2010 @ 9:53 am
“I typically appreciate what you have to say, Jim, so I’m disappointed that you *didn’t* say anything.”
I said exactly what I intended to say. I simply said it using pictures rather than words.
If you either don’t understand what I said or disagree with it, that’s another issue.
If you want a healthy discussion about something not covered here, you’re more than welcome to start one.
ETA: Jess, upon rereading your comment, are you thinking I’m somehow attacking or criticizing all Christians with this piece?
September 9, 2010 @ 9:56 am
I disagree, Jess. I think it’s important that people express their disagreement with these fringe groups to underline the fact that they do NOT speak with the common voice. We know from their actions that they are not interested in rational discussion so why not freely express the ridicule we feel toward their hateful message?
I, for one, support the exposure of idiocy for what it is.
September 9, 2010 @ 9:57 am
Thanks for the permission to borrow, I used this for my Facebook profile pic.
I do have to say, I am impressed that Ted Haggard’s creepy followers actually understood the difference between “your” and “you’re,” however.
September 9, 2010 @ 10:07 am
September 9, 2010 @ 10:08 am
Thanks for this, Jim. With my faith as well, it makes me simultaneously want to wince, cringe, cry and do something violent (okay, so the violence likely wouldn’t help things) when I see groups such as this making the headlines and basically becoming the image and voice for a culture they should not ever represent. I don’t know where or how they’ve become so out of touch with the original intent, but it’s incredibly sad. Makes me want to come up with a new term for those who believe in the Biblical God. Maybe, “The Other Christians. No, not those. The other other ones.”
Jim C. Hines
September 9, 2010 @ 10:17 am
Personally, I just don’t consider folks like this to be Christians. Not in any way that matters, according to my (admittedly incomplete) understanding.
But it does piss me off to see them spreading pain and hate and intolerance in the name of someone who devoted himself to doing the opposite. Such utter cluelessness.
September 9, 2010 @ 10:33 am
At first I agreed with this, then I thought about it, and disagreed with it, then I came to my current conclusion. He has every right to burn the Koran, You have every right to be angry and point out that it is morally and ethically, (but not legally) wrong to burn the Koran. I have every right to be apathetic to the whole thing, and ignore him outright. In my mind, he wants attention, and I refuse to give it to him (with the exception of this post, but I’m giving you attention not him). So in my opinion you are just playing into his wants, which is fine you have a right to do that. As long as no one is trying to “make a law” against burning the Koran, then it’s something that I disagree with, but something I’ll deal with because it is within his rights. Fred Phelps is more of the same, just some IRL troll trying to get attention for his cult by doing things that are offensive and extreme. If you ignore these people they will go away.
Jim C. Hines
September 9, 2010 @ 10:42 am
Oh, I agree with you that he has every right to do what he’s doing, and I’ll happily defend his freedom of expression/speech to do so.
“If you ignore these people they will go away.”
This part I’m not sure I agree with. If we ignore them, then nobody is putting forth the message that this is NOT Christianity. (Much like the outcry “Why aren’t all of the moderate Muslems denouncing 9/11?” even when they were.)
I do understand what you’re saying about the attention-hungry nature of both of these “churches.” But what these people are doing is going to hurt people, both emotionally and physically. I don’t think it’s okay to ignore that.
September 9, 2010 @ 10:42 am
Actually, I have to disagree with the last sentence, Wil. Ignoring people like this won’t make them go away. We like to treat them like children because they use childish antics and seem to have the maturity of a three year old throwing a tantrum because they didn’t have their PBJ sandwich sliced diagonally instead of horizontally. Ignoring them won’t make them stop spreading their messages, however much a perversion of the faith they are. There will always be someone like this, and I think that while we shouldn’t waste a lot of time debating whether or not God hates such-and-such a group (on the ‘arguing with a fool lowers you to his level’ platform), it’s still good to take some time to point out that, “No, they do not represent true Christians. They do not seem to understand the intent of the gospel, and the message of hate and intolerance they tout is one that other Christians should not be stuck with as a label or stereotype.”
September 9, 2010 @ 10:43 am
Yar. Just barely beat me to it.
September 9, 2010 @ 11:09 am
The problem with ignoring the trolls is when said trolls are armed.
I’m sure there are lots of moderate muslims who feel the same way about the problem of radical islam … a kind of “dammit, why can’t those idiots just shut up” the problem is that ignoring your mentally ill fringe doesn’t make them go away.
The world was all over the muslim community post 9-11 to take responsibility for its radical fringe – and, if that is the standard that we hold the imams and broader community to, then it ought to be the same standard that we hold all faiths to. The arguments mainstream Christianity are making sound a lot like the arguments moderate Islam was making post 9-11, and those protests may legitimately be true – a this is not who we are/what we are about and therefore we are not responsible for it kind of argument. A please don’t let this nutbar stand in your mind for what Christianity is about plea.
There was (some) navel gazing engaged in about what aspects of Islam encourage or foster hatred and what should be done about it – how should Islam be modernized to deal with these kinds of fringe threats etc. etc. At some point, if only for the sake of logical consistency – one would expect similar reflection from Christianity – are there aspects of exceptionalism as a philosophy that lead to this kind of behaviour (whether that exceptionalism is nationalistic, ethnic or religious). For those who are mentally stable, exceptionalism can take a relatively benign form of “my god is better than your god” or chants of USA, USA at the Olympics – a kind of smug superiority – that while irritating is meh 😛 … but that exceptionalism in the mainstream when it starts to bleed into the realm of those who take that exceptionalism and see it as a raison d’etre for engaging in acts that are intended to incite hatred or unconscionable action against others we can’t pretend is not ours to deal with. Any more than the Mid-east can pretend that the radical islamic fringes are not theirs to deal with. We speak, in the context of Afghanistan/Iraq – radicalized islam – about the importance of education as a tool to ameliorate the radicalism being taught in madrassas … where is this discussion in the context of radicalism espoused by Wesboro or Dove … secular, state education is key to undermining this kind of malignancy and yet we continue to allow children to be educated in darkness and ignorance in the West (please note that I am not saying all religiously based schools or home schooling are inherent evils but that in the absence of some oversight by the state – we have not clue as to what malignant forms of xianity – or how militant – are being fomented currently in our own heartlands)
There are lots of things that in their benign form we see as funny or amusing or harmless – we don’t necessarily see the darker side of those philosophies (like exceptionalism) until they are taken up by those who are hate-filled or mentally unstable …
My beef with the whole thing is that if the media are going to hold one major faith to a standard of accountability or responsibility for its nutbar fringe elements – then it has to apply the same standard to all. In this case, it appears at least tha the major authority figures for the US are – Gen Petraeus (sp?) going so far as to wade in and indicate that this is dangerous to the efforts to build sufficient security for peace to find a foothold in Afghanistan and Iraq – condemnation from major political figures etc. But I find it interesting, at least in the stuff that I have read so far, that there has been no thoughtful examination on the part of mainstream community about how this kind of faith-based hatred arises or how it can be ameliorated.
Education is always the key – secular education allows at least the opportunity for some element of ameliorating the worst of parental bias excesses such as those exhibited in the Westboro situation – and even then is not a panacea …
that’s the analysis I would like to see coming out of the Wesboro/Dove context – let’s hold our own nations and communities to the same standards that we are looking to as solutions to exceptionalism based hatred – regardless of what faith it belongs to
September 9, 2010 @ 11:22 am
1. Yes. Oh, yes.
2. Ignoring them can make them go away – sometimes. But that’s an iffy thing at best. There’s two primary ways that prejudice can be countered 1. You can try to change minds… or you can show that we don’t do that ’round these parts.. When prejudice is seen as socially unacceptable, it doesn’t change anyone’s mind… but it does reduce prejudical behavior.
In that sense – since these idiots already have publicity – countering it shows that they’re not “normal”, that they’re NOT the majority. That’s vitally important.
The study showing the effect I’m describing was done in Rawanda. Post-genocide. If anyone’s really interested, let me know and I’ll get the full citation for you.
1 This is work I’m doing for my Master’s thesis, mentioned only so you know it’s not just some random guy spouting stuff.
September 9, 2010 @ 11:56 am
I think a lot of people have forgotten the reason this country was founded. It was to escape this same sort of religious intolerance. It really does amaze me how fucked up people are in this country and how ignorant they can be.
As for this inncident… even posts like this one only add fuel to the flame of hatred and is exactly what the book burner wants. Jus like internet trolls, if you want them to go away, just ignore them. Unfortunately, that seems impossible for people to do.
Jim C. Hines
September 9, 2010 @ 12:01 pm
I do understand the desire to not give this sort of idiot any further attention, and I was torn about that. But see several of the other comments, including mine above, that give an argument against ignoring it. (Not saying everyone has to agree, only that the discussion is there in the comments up above.)
September 9, 2010 @ 12:14 pm
“I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” –Mohandas Gandhi
Gandhi and I are in agreement on this one, and technically I am Christian.
September 9, 2010 @ 12:32 pm
I think that quote encapsulates the issue nicely, JJ. Thanks for finding it.
September 9, 2010 @ 1:19 pm
I dealt with everything in context. As a police chaplain I had the spiritual care of ALL the officers in mind even those I with whom I had spiritually differences. I was not there to evangelize, convert or otherwise change them. Instead I was there to, well, frankly, so they could ‘itch and moan, take it out on me instead of someone they shouldn’t. I developed more opportunities for what was appropriately done off-duty by listening, talking about everything but God and even allowing myself to be the butt of a few practical jokes. Listen, I can hold positions that are Biblical and unpopular, but I definitely with the this style of protest.
September 9, 2010 @ 2:03 pm
Oh gods (I felt it was appropriate to use the plural form in this case), next up on Jim’s blog will be the Phelps family. Sadly, I have to live in the same state with them…
September 9, 2010 @ 4:41 pm
No, I don’t. I think, though, that you’re really articulate and would have been better off explaining what you wanted to say because just posting the photos doesn’t open the door for a good discussion, it really only encourages bashing you don’t intend. My point was that this doesn’t invite dialogue. I concede I may be oversensitive, though.
(That said, in regards to Koran burnings and the stuff in the photos, I’m fairly certain we’re on the same page. Really. I just had hoped for words with the photos. 🙂
September 9, 2010 @ 5:08 pm
Well, I think it would be a different situation if they weren’t already in the public eye. Geraldo did a lot to revitalize neo-nazi skinheads; the “movement” was nearly dead when he got his nose broken. Appearing on his show drew new attention to them, even though he was condemning him. These jokers, however, are already in the public eye, so the same situation doesn’t apply.
Mind you, I don’t think you’re going to change a single die-hard Phelps follower or Quran-burner. A direct attack (like your image) doesn’t change their mind, and may instead harden their viewpoint. This is not a surprise. Extremists also tend to overestimate the support their cause has. (Wojcieszak, 2008)
What you are doing is making it clear that those people are not ones you wish to associate with. They’re social outcasts as far as you’re concerned. So some of those people will learn that it’s not acceptable to behave that way – and change their behavior, even if their viewpoint stays the same. (Paluck, 2009)
Paluck’s article is actually very fascinating, and a fairly easy read. You should be able to find/access them at a college library.
Paluck, E. L. (2009). Reducing Intergroup Prejudice and Conflict Using the Media: A Field Experiment in Rwanda. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96, 574-587.
Wojcieszak, M. (2008). False Consensus Goes Online: Impact of Ideologically Homogenous Groups on False Consensus. Public Opinion Quarterly, 72(4), 781-791.
Jim C. Hines
September 9, 2010 @ 6:46 pm
Thanks for clarifying. Hm … I don’t know that my words would have been any more facilitative of discussion. I think the man’s a hateful, attention-grubbing idiot. (Speaking of both Jones and Phelps here.) In terms of discussion, I could see an interesting debate about freedom of speech/expression, I guess, but otherwise I’m not really interested in hearing Jones’ side, or having people try to defend or justify what these people are doing.
I do appreciate discussion, but sometimes I also think it’s important to simply stand up and say “What you’re doing is not okay, and I resent both your actions and your attempts to cloak it in the name of Christianity. Also, you’re an idiot.”
Does that make sense?
September 10, 2010 @ 5:29 am
In the BBC Radio series “Old Harry’s Game”, a comedy show about Satan (as portrayed by Andy Hamilton), Satan keeps all Popes in a state of perpetual pregnancy.
It’s all double standards, really. With most religions, behaviour like this would be considered extremist and disgusting (I think that only applies to the KKK). When it’s Christianity, it’s just sighed at. There was an American bloke (not sure who) and he was picketing by one of Sir Elton John’s houses claiming he must die because Sir Elton interpreted Christ as (perhaps) a homosexual. That’s utterly disgusting behaviour!
September 10, 2010 @ 7:56 am
Excellent point. I’m old enough to remember American outrage when people in the Middle East burned American flags. If there was a Bible burning, Terry Jones would have a conniption.
Jim C. Hines
September 10, 2010 @ 8:07 am
FWIW, at least some of us do consider both Phelps and Jones to be extremist, disgusting, and not remotely Christian…
September 10, 2010 @ 3:20 pm
I don’t doubt that, Jim, but I was thinking more about the public opinion. We think Jones is a crackpot, but if someone of another nationality and faith did an equal gesture, there’d be outrage.
September 11, 2010 @ 5:49 am
In my experience, (a dozen churches, several states) Phelps is only a louder, ruder version of what is taught from hundred of pulpits every Sunday. In the words of Willie Nelson, “There’s always somebody who says what the others just whisper.”
Jones? I have to wonder what story the corporate media DOESN’T want us to see that they are giving all this attention to a guy with 50 followers.
I think any religion, any god, becomes what the followers make it.
Jim C. Hines
September 11, 2010 @ 2:31 pm
Oh, I have no doubt there are other churches preaching the same. But I also know there are churches where someone who proposed this sort of idiocy would have been tossed out on his ass.
When I linked this on Facebook, my uncle — an Episcopal minister — had some very pointed words about Mr. Jones and his ilk, and what it really means to be Christian.