This Saturday, the ninth anniversary of the horror of 9/11, Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, FL will burn copies of the Qur'an, the Muslim Holy Book. His actions demean Christianity, and aid and abet the cause of Islamic extremism. I have written about this previously, but now that it is almost upon us, I want to suggest how we might respond to it.
As part of your memorial observances of 9/11, whether alone, with friends and family, or more formally with a larger community, I ask that you read, not burn, passages from the world's sacred scriptures. Pick up a copy of the Portable World Bible, World Scripture: A Comparative Anthology of Sacred Texts, The World's Wisdom: Sacred Texts of the World's Religions, or God's Breath: Sacred Scriptures of the World, and create a global liturgy that speaks to the best within us.
I urge every synagogue to set aside time during Torah reading this Shabbat Shuvah, the Shabbat between Rosh haShanah and Yom Kippur, devoted to repentance, to read from the Qur'an, Gospels, Bhagavad Gita, and other sacred texts. I urge every mosque to do something similar on Friday, and every church to follow suit on Sunday.
It is a small thing to honor the scriptures of religions not your own, but symbolically it speaks volumes.
The Jewish poet Heinrich Heine, in his play "Almansor" wrote about burning texts of the Qur'an by the Catholic Inquisition in Spain, saying, "Those who begin by burning books will end by burning people." This proved true of the Church. It proved true of the Nazis. Don't let it prove true of us as well.
Please use the comments section of this blog to share what you and your community has done in this regard. For myself, I will spend this Shabbat at an interfaith gathering here in Murfreesboro where I will present readings from the world's scriptures as part of my formal remarks.