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Monday, April 11, 2011

Terry Jones, Burning the Koran, and the Scandal of Today's Christianity

This is the Lenten season as I write, and I had planned on doing some lessons regarding the Stations of the Cross and other Lenten devotions practiced by both the Eastern and Western branches of the Church.  However, a lot has been on my mind concerning a current issue, and felt that it was something important that needed to be addressed.  This issue has hackles raised on both sides of it, and a lot of slander and misinformation (even sadly from other Christians, as I will elaborate on) has been bandied about that I frankly find disturbing, as it distorts facts.  However, as I intend to show here, this isn't the first time that the professing Christian community in this nation - particularly American Evangelicals in recent years - has been guilty of the stupidity I am about to expose, and unfortunately the Bible prophesied centuries ago that it would not be the last.  Therefore, that being said, let us begin.

Terry Jones is an independent Pentecostal minister who pastors the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, FL, and up until a couple of years ago no one gave a hoot about who he was; that is, until he started making a needed but unpopular stand against radical Islam.   All because he wanted to burn a book - the Koran, a demonic book but just a book nonetheless - in order to break what he was shown by the Holy Spirit to be demonic bondage over billions of lost Muslims in the Middle East and elsewhere, he began catching a firestorm of criticism, beginning with his proclamation of a "Burn a Koran Day" in September 2010.   For a few months all was quiet until he symbolically burned a Koran on his own property, which of course the Constitution gave him full freedom to do as an expression of opinion/conviction.   Whether people agree with what Terry Jones did or not is not the issue - fact is, all he did was burn a book, and the secularists and fellow Christians should have just let it go if they didn't agree with it.  However, coincidentally, a family of Americans was massacred by Muslim nuts at around the same time Jones burned the Koran, and now for some reason a gullible American public has pinned this all on him, and in the eyes of many ignorant idiots (forgive the tone, but it upsets me) he is more guilty of murder than the Islamic psychos that actually committed the atrocity.  If you are one of those stupid enough to believe Terry Jones was responsible for those tragic deaths (and my condolences and prayers are with the families of those dear people who were mercilessly slaughtered by the Islamic kooks, as their deaths were totally unnecessary), then I have some prime Brooklyn real estate to sell you and will throw in some green cheese from the moon - if you buy into that lie, you are ignorant of Islamic history and the whole situation.

What really burnt my biscuits though was that a professed Christian radio personality, Janet Parshall on the Moody Network, had the audacity to come out and condemn Jones and more or less asked the question "what does burning a Koran profit the kingdom, and who does it reach?"   That was on Friday's radio broadcast of her program we were listening to when traveling home from work, and it made me so upset that I shot her a letter about it.   However, she raised an interesting question that basically shot her own argument in the foot, and that is what I want to talk about here today - what do a lot of things American Christianity engages in profit the Kingdom??  And, that is what we are going to talk about now, because American Christianity - in particular Evangelicalism in the past 30 years - has become so complacent, so lazy, and so compromising that it has created a scandal, one that a few years ago was the subject of a whole book by author Mark Noll called The Scandal of The Evangelical Mind.   From Rick Warren books, to megachurches, to "Christian shopping malls," to televangelists kissing the backside of the Communist regime in China, to the Emerging Church Movement, to "Contemporary Christian Music," etc., etc.,...on and on I could go with the list of things I feel are little profit to the proclamation of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.   Yet, you never hear Parshall, Rick Warren, Pat Robertson, and others saying anything about the futility of those dead works and "traditions of men," do you??  Well, they may be too gutless to attack it, but I am a voice for truth and intend to use that voice to proclaim an unadulterated truth - other voices are out there too, and I believe Terry Jones is one of those voices, which I will get into shortly.  However, a little Bible is necessary at this point, and let's do some teaching.

Being yesterday was Sunday, our Gospel reading at Mass came from St. John 8:46-59, and when our priest read from the Gospel in this passage, a chord was struck that related to this whole discussion noted above.   In the passage, Jesus was preaching to a multitude of Jews, and the one thing He said to them that drives the point under discussion home is this:  "He that is of God heareth God's words; ye therefore hear not, because ye are not of God."   That of course did not sit well with His audience, who believed themselves to be somehow endowed with God's great favor or something as observant Jews, yet Jesus shot them down.   So, the Jews He was addressing said He was crazy, possessed with devils, and all other manner of slander, but His reply was simple toward the end of the passage - "Before Abraham was, I AM!"  There are many today, "religious" people, who act like these Jews Jesus was addressing, and as a result, many of them would not know a true move of God if it hit them upside the head with a brick!  Reason is this - James 4:4 describes these people to a tee when it talks about them being friends of the world and enemies of God, because they are enamoured with the pleasures of the world and they are comfortable in the wrong way.  Of course, they have a leadership in their churches that, unfortunately, seeks flattery and riches and will do anything to get it, and a perverse generation of "baptized pagans" fills these churches.  These pastors think that because they have a lot of butts in the pews and bucks in the plate that they are somehow "anointed of God" with what they do, but there is a rude newsflash for them - most of the people they are "ministering" to are aptly described in 2 Timothy 3:2 (lovers of themselves, lovers of money, etc.), 3:5 (having a form of godliness but not the power thereof - they are "religious" but not redeemed, in other words), I Timothy 2:4 (many depart from sound doctrine and genuine faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, and 2 Timothy 4:3, having "itching ears" and heaping unto themselves teachers - televangelists and "Christian" bestsellers - that don't preach or tolerate sound doctrines), and finally they are the church described in 3:14-17 - a complacent Laodicean Church that is choked by its own riches and too entrenched in its own comfort zones to take a stand for anything that exalts Christ.   That is the state of today's Church in America, both Evangelical and Catholic, and it is scary what has happened over just the past 20 years to much of American Christianity.  And, that is the reason why people like Terry Jones and others who do have the boldness to discern God's spirit bother the average pew-potato in the average American Evangelical church - I believe Jones convicts these people, who rely on their own wisdom and have waxed so cold in their own faith that they don't hear the voice of God anymore.   However, this is nothing new, as worldly Christians have always sought to hinder the voice of the faithful because the latter rock their world and shake them out of their comfort zones.   That being said, let me cite a couple of examples of this over the past century, when Evangelicalism started to become institutionalized and thought it was "God's gift to humanity."

I grew up in the Appalachians, as a blessed native of the great state of West Virginia.  As a result, personally much of the modern stuff that has gone on in the typical Evangelical church over the span of my own Christian pilgrimage has had little impression on me - to me, much of it is fluff and stupidity.   Part of the reason for that is that I have seen Christians as they should be, and the home-grown churches of my native Appalachian Mountains still preserve that.  Appalachian Christians - be they Old-Time Baptists, traditional mountain Holiness-Pentecostals, or the Old-Order Dunkards like my maternal ancestors belonged to - have a spirituality that is deeply personal, full of conviction, and as real as religion can get.   Yet, over the decades many of the big players in the Evangelical movement have belittled our people, called us "backward" and "bigoted," and they have felt the need to "civilize" us as they seen us a bunch of goofy hillbilly barbarians or something.   As a matter of fact, the eminent Appalachian scholar Dr. Loyal Jones, in his book Faith and Meaning in the Southern Uplands (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1999) notes on page 4 that it was basically these Evangelical missionaries that fostered many of the negative stereotypes of Appalachian people which still dominate popular culture today.  He also notes the mentality of these "missionaries" about the people having to be saved from themselves, and thus "evangelized and civilized."  Thank God our people were a strong-willed people, and we were able, even unto this day, resist these stuck-up elitists who try to profane Christ's name by slandering others - what profit to the Gospel was that, I ask Janet Parshall and others who still represent this establishment today.  Although charitable in language, I have personally talked with Dr. Jones, and his disdain at the way these snobs treated our people have prompted him to call them "agents of uplift" rather than true Gospel missionaries.  Another very astute Appalachian scholar, Deborah Vansau McCauley, in her quintessential Appalachian religious reference book (which I highly recommend, I must add!) Appalachian Mountain Religion - A History (Chicago:  University of Illinois Press, 1995) notes the following on page 17:

Rather than risk confronting these doubts (of its own identity), American Protestantism made mountain religion the target of its disdain, pity, wrath - all based on a fear bordering on dread.  American Protestantism's questions about mountain people were never "what lessons do they teach us about ourselves?  If they are holding a mirror of our past selves, what does our reflection in that mirror - and how we look through their eyes - tell us about what we have become?"  Instead, American Protestantism's questions were always "How did they go wrong?" and "How can we save them from themselves?"  reflecting not only hubris but anxiety.  One of the most urgent and effective ways of saving mountain people from themselves was to save them from their religion. 

Note that quote from McCauley's excellent book - they (let's read the current-day, mainstream Evangelical establishment, as they are very guilty of this mindset) seem to think they are God's gift to humanity, and all other Christian traditions are somehow "wrong" and therefore the people in the "competing" churches must be "saved from themselves."  They have been doing this for decades with Catholic immigrants, American Blacks, and one other group of Christians that shocked me - the Amish.  That is the second example I want to talk about here.

Back when I was in college at Southeastern in Florida, our Missions class often had these guest speakers, many of whom were missionaries called to this group or that one.   And, some crazies came across our paths, in particular one Pennsylvania-based Assemblies of God missionary who proclaimed proudly that God had called him to be a "Missionary to the Amish and Mennonites" in Mexico!!  Like I said, my folks came from a closely-related Christian tradition called the Dunkard Brethren, and I took issue with that, confronting this "missionary" in class very forcefully.  I had to remind this fool that if it wasn't for the Amish and Mennonites, there would be no Baptists and Pentecostals, because about 60% of the doctrines of the latter come from the former!  Yet, as Romans 1:22 says, professing wisdom, the man became a fool - sadly there are more like him.   However, I began to find it very interesting that these same Evangelical fools, so bent on converting people who are Christians to their less-than-holy brand of Americanized cookie-cutter Evangelicalism, seem to pander more non-Christian religions and even bend over backwards to cater to their demands, as Janet Parshall did in her attack on Terry Jones.  The Evangelical venom-spewing at Pastor Jones was one example, but a friend of mine in Texas shared with me recently a much more disturbing example of this that came up recently in Christianity Today magazine.

In the February 2011 issue of the magazine, there was an article entitled "The Son and the Crescent" in which the author, Colin Hansen, expressed support and enthusiasm at altering Scripture to make it more appealing to Muslims.  Hansen says that the title for Jesus, Son of God, is offensive to Muslims and must be changed to read "the beloved son who comes from Allah."  Like so many ignorant Evangelicals who don't know how to research history, Hansen seems to labor under the delusion that "Allah" and the God of the Bible are the same thing, and they are not!  Any Arab - and I quote anointed Palestinian Arab evangelist Anis Shorrosh, who points out in his book Islam Revealed that "allah" is not the Arabic name for God, but rather the Semitic "El" or "Alho" is - who has come to a saving knowledge of Christ knows the difference in these terms, but ignorant Americans, who in their arrogance think they know everything,  do not.   Also, I caution these "missionaries" who do this - the Bible pronounces a curse on people like you who alter - adding to and taking from - the Word of God; it says in Revelation 22:18 that the one who commits this act of blasphemy of God's Holy Word is in danger of God's judgement, and their very salvation is in peril (see verse 19).   That being said, it's time to tie all this together.

I personally find it appalling that professed Christians are so worked up in a lather over Terry Jones burning a demonic book like the Koran, yet they seem to have no problems fiddling with the true Word of God, despite warnings to the contrary of doing that.   Our church leaders have become so obsessed with kissing butt with the enemy in the name of "witnessing God's love" that they are blinded to who the true servants of God are, and it is a true scandal.   And, they seek to force other Christians who differ from them - Catholics, Appalachian churches, the Amish - to conform to their cookie-cutter mold, yet they bend over backwards to appease and accomodate Islam, and not only that, but through the Emerging Church movement and Rick Warren books, they have integrated unholy rock music and New Age spirituality into many of their churches.   Johanna Michaelson, a very godly lady who at one time was involved in the New Age occultism but found the Lord and now ministers to educate people about the dangers of New Ageism, wrote in her 1982 book The Beautiful Side of Evil (Eugene, OR:  Harvest House Publishers) the following on page 169 which accurately states what has happened, almost prophetically:

It is from the very pulpits of our nation that the truth and power of the Word of God has been stripped naked, leaving the flock with a pathetic milk-sop caricature of Jesus.  They have been left "holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power..."(II Timothy 3:5).  And we are then amazed because our children turn to drugs, cults, and the occult to fill  the vacuum in their lives.

Although Johanna wrote that almost 30 years ago, and it wasn't nothing like it is now, what she said is such a stark reality.  Josh McDowell, in 2006, penned another book called The Last Christian Generation in which he documented that maybe upward of 60% of professing Evangelical church kids don't even believe in Jesus as the Son of God, and judging by the rather accomodationist, fad-crazy "church" in America today, I can see why - I wouldn't want to believe in the weird picture of "Jesus" these people paint either!!  Thanks be to God though I have met the real Jesus of the Bible, and for almost 30 years now I have walked the pilgrim path.   But, I am sick to my stomach at what professing Christians are doing today -the worldliness, compromise, and other garbage is appalling.  That is why I stand behind what Terry Jones is doing, because he hears the voice of the Holy Spirit, and there is a reason God directed him to burn that book - burning a demonic object, while pleading the blood of Jesus over you or the person bound by it, is an act of deliverance, and when Pastor Jones burnt that Koran, he was binding up an evil spirit over people God wanted to touch in the Islamic world.  As a result of that and other prayers of the faithful, many Muslims are now encountering Jesus in visions - these are people, mind you, who have never met nor seen a Christian, and many of them are in North Africa now (that is a whole other story in itself) - and are accepting Him as their Savior.  Many are in fear of their lives - I know of a Berber girl in Algeria that I and an Assyrian Christian friend of mine corresponded with on Facebook who is one of them - and cannot openly profess their faith in Jesus as their Savior, but that number could be even in the thousands!  So, to answer Mrs. Parshall's question about what burning a book profits the Gospel, it does more than you know, sister!!  Remember, I Corinthians 1:27 says that God uses the foolish things of the world to confound the "wise" (read "wise" in a Romans 3:22 context, BTW!), and although burning a book seems foolish, in God's eyes he can use that to reach people in a miraculous way, just like he also has used my Holiness serpent-handling pastor friend Jimmy Morrow in Tennessee to reach people he doesn't even realize.   That being said, I challenge you to think on these things, and maybe repent of your own arrogance and self-righteousness if you are one of those "churchy" Evangelicals who likes to compromise with the world and attack other Christians who may not follow your Wheaton, IL, party line (give me a tiny church in Middlesboro, KY, over the haughty Wheaton campus anyday, for more of God is to be found in the former I have seen from experience.).  As for the rest of you, God bless you and your taking time to read this, and will see you next time.