It’s Not Against the Law to Be Stupid. Should It Be?

September 9, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

I’ve discovered something.  If I put the word stupid in the title of a blog post, it gets more hits, especially if the implications are that Christians are doing something stupid.  People like that.  I will let you decide for yourself why that it is.  Nonirregardless, I like to give the people what they want.

I was blogging earlier in the week about the 1st Church of the Doofus in Florida that is planning a Quran burning on Saturday.  Read that rant here.  The rant was mostly about the undue, overhyped media attention to this group (which apparently I am not helping by blogging about it twice.  I’m literally inciting dozens) and hate as a evangelistic strategy.

However, talking about this quickly turns to the question of religious liberty.  Is what this group doing protected free speech and the free exercise of the freedom of religion?  As with most political and/or spiritual matters, this is not as easy a point as we would like to make it.  If you think about it (”Wait! What? Think about it.  I’m more inclined to have emotive knee-jerk reactions to things.  If you are going to ask me to think deeply, I’m out.”  No problem, I’m sure there are plenty of cable news shows on right now where at least 3 people are shouting at each other.), there is a slippery slope but it slopes both directions.

Clearly not all religious acts are protected.  The attacks on 9/11 that Pastor Mustachio are “commemorating”  are an example of that.  To them that was a deeply religious act that they committed.  So at least one principle that restricts freedom is if it does someone else physical harm.  Well, it is not hard to imagine that the net result of this act in Florida will result in great physical harm to many people.  Is the threat of a violent retaliation to soldiers, missionaries and relief workers around the world enough? Is their “right” to burn these books worth the deaths of some soldiers that signed up to serve in order to protect those rights?

I am typically conflicted internally about such things.  My default political position is pretty libertarian when it comes to such.  On the other hand, that is balanced by a desire that there really should be laws against stupidity (Did I ever tell you that my chemistry teacher my senior year called my friends and me “intellectual snobs?”).  I think such anti-stupid laws would help traffic flows and patterns tremendously.  However, other than me, whom would I trust to be the arbiter of such laws?  Whom would you trust?  Do you trust the government to make those determinations? Or are you more comfortable with unfettered freedom?

Let’s say it a different way, would you be willing to give up some of your freedom in order to potentially spare the lives of innocent people in Muslim countries around the world? Would you trade some of it in order for the name of Jesus to not receive the huge “black eye” that it is going to get?  Or do you believe that that would move the gov’t one step closer to banning the teaching what you believe if some panel declares what you say to be “intolerant” or “incendiary?” I would suggest that the path to the answer is not an easy one.  What say you?

(Read I Corinthians 6, Colossians 2, Galatians 2, I Corinthians 8, if you are interested in reading some passages that talk about our individual freedom and liberty that we have and how to be cautious with it)


20 Responses to “It’s Not Against the Law to Be Stupid. Should It Be?”
  1. Scott says:

    If you are talking about banning ideology or acts or expressions in order to save lives, why not just ban Islam, as it is the real problem in your scenario.

    Of course that sounds ridiculous, right?

    Under no circumstances is killing people for burning books or emblems a reasonable response.

    The fact that Islam is violent in response to any criticism is actually a good reason to do symbolic things like this. It exposes Islam for the violent, reactionary, hateful religion that it is.

    Frankly, I think Christians should be about as concerned about offending Muslim sensibilities as they should Satanist sensibilities. You either believe in forgiveness and love and Christ, or you don’t.

    What sticks out most to me about these blogs is how quickly they seem to convict those terrible Christians, while accepting Muslim murder and violence as if it were an unavoidable force like gravity.

    The acts in Florida are simply symbolic. They do no physically harm anyone. It is the reaction of free-willed human beings following Islam who will physically hurt and harm people. Its important to make that distinction.

    I suggest taking a closer look at Islam and understanding what and who you are so concerned about offending that you propose restricting freedom of expression for the sake of peace.

  2. Kevin says:

    Are not people responsible for their own actions? Don’t people have control over how they respond to an insult?

    To use a personal example, people used to call me fat in high school. If I had hauled off and hit someone (those who know me can laugh at the absurdity of that image), I would have gotten in trouble, and rightly so.

    I disagree with and oppose the actions of this Florida pastor because it is inconsistent with the character and lifestyle to which Jesus calls us. But as long as he controls his fire, he will cause only emotional distress. If, in response to this book burning, individuals commit murder, they bear their own guilt. Even if the only person they harmed were the pastor himself, it’s still a crime. “He burned my holy book” is not sufficient cause for murder. “Someone else burned my holy book so I’m killing this complete stranger” is an even weaker excuse.

    We can actually show tremendous respect to the global Muslim community by acting like they have the capability of absorbing this insult and responding with civility. They are human beings just like the rest of us. We all have serious flaws, and we all bear responsibility for our choices.

    Any and all of the power that this Florida pastor wields comes from the responses people make to his actions and teachings. If we quit giving him attention, his influence will vanish.

  3. Hodge Wagnon says:

    I couldnt agree more with the first two responses.

    I dont think that this pastor is doing the smartest thing by burning books, however the Bible is treated like trash all over the world and I have yet to see one of us go kill someone because of that.

    I am sick and tired of the United States bending over backwards as to not offend the muslims. Anyone can call Christians every name in the book, (not the good book, the other book) but no one can say anything about Islam without inciting a riot.

    On a lighter note, I am just waiting for the ACLU and the Right Reverend Jackson, and Reverend Sharpton to get down to Florida and march with this pastor to defend his freedom of speech.

  4. cloften says:

    @Scott If the goal of this were to demonstrate moral superiority, then I suppose one could “win” but inciting certain Muslims into an irrational, escalated response. What is the goal? Is the goal to conquer them? Is the goal to win? I come at this primarily from the perspective of a pastor who would desire that people who do not have a relationship with Jesus would be open, hear and receive Jesus. Does this attain that goal?

    I do “convict” Christians when they behave irrationally and do not represent Christ. I have no such desire or obligation to condemn non-Christians for acting in a way that is not Christian.

    16″For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,The that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. John 3:16-18

    Those outside of Christ do not need to be condemned by me. Jesus says they stand that way already. My desire is that they would find life. Burning a book that they believe to be sacred will help turn them further away.

    I have no enemy named Islam, even if there are some that believe I am theirs. I certainly find no nobility or higher purpose in provoking violence. There is certainly no call from God to do so.

    You are right in suggesting that the burnings of the Quran are symbolic. Symbolic of what? Death? Hatred? Eradication? Is that the symbol that Christ wants us to portray to the Muslim world? I can think of numerous better symbols. How about Int’l Pray for a Muslim day? How about helping to feed Muslims in 3rd world countries?

    If the goal is to expose that segments of Islam tend to be violent by being symbolically violent, then I suppose this pastor wins. If his goal is to reach people who are lost, he loses. If his goal was to get on CNN, then he definitely won.

    Truth be known, my libertarian sensibilities win out here, and I do not want the gov’t to ban this. However, it does and will continue to bother me, that Christians would abuse that freedom to behave in an irrational, ungodly, unbiblical, non-Christlike way.

  5. cloften says:

    @hodge Do you have a copy of that book?

    You make a great point. The Bible and Christianity can be trashed and Christians do not respond with violence. Maintaining that contrast is very helpful in the spread of the gospel. Blurring the contrast with a violent symbol does the opposite.

    Also, what the US does in response to the violent threats and what the church should do are two different things. I make no claim to speak on behalf of the US, however I do have an obligation as a pastor to speak up for how God calls Christians to behave. We should absolutely “bend over backwards” to make the gospel within their reach.

  6. Missy Krebs says:

    I’m glad lots of Christians are calling this church out for acting in a way that directly contradicts Christ’s basic commands. I wish that the real Church would do more. It would be great if 2,000 or so Christians showed up at their book-burning to peacefully pray that those full of hatred on both sides would repent and seek the Truth. Maybe that would get a little press.

    Its a tragedy that thousands of Christians are taking in orphans from all over the world, feeding the needy, forgiving their enemies; and this one act of hatred overshadows so much of that good in the eyes of the world.

  7. Scott says:

    @cloften: I think the goal of this pastor is to draw attention to the over-reaction of Muslims in general. I think its the same intent as the political cartoons in Europe (which are still being used by some Muslim extremists to justify violence and threaten murder).

    There is actually an opportunity here, albeit perhaps somewhat misguided, to define the difference between a religion based on forgiveness vs one based on acts of revenge and martyrdom.

    As an American, I am definitely supportive of the rights of symbolic speech.

    I don’t believe Christ lived in a manner that was intended to cause the least offense to those who might not agree with him. I don’t believe God equates “offending” others with “hatred”.

    This would not receive attention if it were a man burning the holy texts of Hinduism or a bunch of Yoga instructional books.

    It is the religion of Islam that is at fault. It requires others not question or oppose it, lest they be threatened with violence.

    The message seems to be “lets all live in unity and mutual respect, except if you criticize my faith, I reserve the right to inflict physical harm upon you”. Sorry, but I support the rights of AND empathize with what I percieve as the intent of this pastor more easily than I do those who might be “offended into violence” by his actions.

    And for those who consider themselves pluralists, if you purport to equally respect the value of all faiths, then you must apply some equal standard of expectation on the outcomes those faiths have for humankind.

    As for the appropriateness of the act of burning Korans, I agree there are other ways to illustrate the differences between Islamic faith and Christian faith.

    I just have a real hard time jumping aboard the bandwagon of criticism of this church without viewing the broader context in which these actions are being carried out. The story is the expected global Muslim backlash. The reality of that evil is what needs to be addressed most critically, IMO.

  8. cloften says:

    @scott I guess it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that this pastor’s goal is to spur other people to violence, but it does sadden me. That he would do something on purpose that doesn’t advance the gospel, doesn’t lead people closer to Christ, just to show that some Muslims can be violent is troubling. I would hate to think that people who might die would be considered justifiable collateral damage for his agenda of exposing the darkest parts of Islam.

    To me the draw Muhammad day or political cartoons aren’t in the same category, because they are not being done in the name of Jesus. If this were a political statement made by religiously unaffiliated or anonymous people, it wouldn’t bother me. Non-Christians doing non-Christian things in non-Christian ways can make be sad, but not angry. People called to represent Jesus Christ should take more care in what they do in his name.

    Christ was compassionate to those “outside” and reserved his offensive statements mostly for the “insiders.”

    As far as the difference between “offending” and “hatred,” saying that Muhammad is not a prophet is “offensive” to Muslims, to say that they are lost apart from Jesus is “offensive” and frowned on in religious-PC-land, these are truths that I hold and I know that even people reading this may be offended. Burning the Quran, I have to believe is in a different category. That is not the truth of the gospel offending, it is the anger of one man and his church being used to provoke people, on purpose. It has not turned the conversation to the dangerous nature of Islam, it has turned the conversation to how loony Christians are. He has blurred the line of the difference between a religion of forgiveness and one of revenge by his symbolic act of violence. He feels the need to take revenge on Islam for what he believes they are and what they have done. Does he really have much of a moral high ground by his act only being symbolic violence? Keep in mind this is a pastor who theoretically agrees with Jesus when he said that hatred in the heart is the same as murder in the eyes of God.

    I understand the desire to not jump on the bandwagon. In my perfect world, someone would hear that a fringe publicity-seeking pastor of 50 people was doing something crazy and no one would notice or care. Unfortunately, we live in a world where people have a sharp critical eye out against people who are Christ followers and are more than willing to paint Christians under the same brush, “You know, they are all like that.” I would rather run the risk of being thought of someone who jumps on to media hype than to be associated with a revenge-based, anger-filled version of Christianity.

    Thanks so much for posting and joining the convo. I’m loving reading and thinking about what you are saying.

  9. Cyndi Williams says:

    Wow, that was painful…not the blog or comments, but “Nonirregardless”.

    I love what you’re point is here though, and it made me wonder. Did Christ ever mention other religions or correcting them? I know he told Christians not to live like them, but does the bible ever encourage Christians to actively concern themselves with how non-Christians live beyond sending Christians out to share the gospel with them and cautioning us not to pick up on their lifestyle(s)?

    I have wondered this about lots of hot-button issues lately. Because the bible says something is wrong, are we as Christians encouraged to set out to correct the biblical wrongs of the masses? I think only knowing God can make true change happen in a person or people, and all we can do is direct them to Him. Does that make me too permissive, luke-warm or accepting?

  10. Steve says:

    Well…I’ve read the entire thread and couldn’t resist commenting. To me, this boils down to one very basic and fundamental issue – grace. Do I see what’s happening in FL and scratch my head – yep, but that’s about as far as I go emotionally. You see, for me, I’ve learned to trust in both the soveriegnty of God combined with the miracle of Grace.

    That pastor in FL…that could be me were it not for Him jerking me by the collar in 1991 and throwing me into His agenda and not really giving me an option of saying, “no.”

    It also doesn’t surprise me that Christianity is more hated than Islam – Christ is a divisive figure. Remember the whole sheep and goats discussion? That’s not popular and, as mentioned above, it’s much safer to piss off a Christian than it is a Muslim. Christians don’t pull people’s arms out of their sockets when they lose.

    So, whatever happens in FL will happen. I don’t have influence over the situation and I have more than enough in my own living room to manage.

  11. Scott says:


    When Muslim extremists attack our cities and our allies, our media and our governments are always quick to point out that those acts don’t represent “true Islam”.

    When a pastor threatens to burn Korans in Florida, why wouldn’t the same standard apply?

    The reason Christianity hasn’t taken hold in Muslim lands is because threats of death and violence are more immediate and compelling to most people than any new message.

    My personal view of Islam is that it is a religion that is largely enforced by fear and violence. We even have “honor killings” happening in American suburbs these days. I’m sure that is offensive to some people. I say that knowing I am offending someone. But I still believe it to be truth.

    I acknowledge that there are various strains of Islamic faith, just as there are various strains of Christian faith. How is it, if “true Islam” represents peace as we are told, that violence and oppression are so widespread, if not the norm, in the Islamic world? Why does any critique, symbolic or otherwise, of Islam carry a threat of violent retribution?

    I don’t know how we can ever expect change to come to those places without arousing debate and conscience about what is justifiable behavior in response to questioning Islam.

    The pastors actions are provocative, no doubt. I see it as a poor choice, but I also feel like I understand where he is coming from. As an American, I think its a valuable exercise of free speech. He certainly has aroused debate, which I believe is his intention.

    By refusing to critique Islam out of fear (which is more what I believe our leaders are doing), we are giving Islam permission to expand and dominate.

    Our governments certainly won’t critique Islam. Our media won’t.

    Who will?

  12. Kim Blanchette says:

    I heard the pastor in an interview yesterday, and although he didn’t cite it as his reason for deciding to burn the Qur’an, he did say that he would consider not doing so if persons responsible for plans to build a mosque near Ground Zero would reconsider thier plans.

    As for me, as an American I respect this pastor’s right to burn the Qur’an. As a Christian, I question his judgment in choosing to do so. My heart breaks for the Muslims who are maybe on the fence, considering seeking Jesus, who will be turned off to the Gospel now whether he goes through with the burning or not. We can talk all day about on what we should be focusing in this debate about to burn or not to burn, but at the end of the day, we all lose.

    The Great Commission as I understand it says to go and tell. It does NOT say go and tell, and then judge those who don’t believe and show them how wrong they are by insulting thier beliefs. We may not like the Muslim response to Christianity, but God is still sovereign. We do our part (go and tell), and leave the outcome to the Lord.

    As I am writing this response, I’m hearing that the pastor has cancelled his plans to burn the Qur’an, and is instead going to New York to visit the Imam planning the mosque near Ground Zero. God is sovereign.

  13. cloften says:

    It would seem he has “achieved his goal” of _____________ . I will let you fill in the blank. A cynical person would put “to be on TV and get his 15 minutes” in that blank.

  14. Kim Blanchette says:

    moving the discussion about whether to build the mosque near Ground Zero into the appropriate forum – a discussion among religious leaders about the appropriateness of it, rather than in the government and/or media where nothing gets accomplished.

  15. Scott Sutton says:


    As one who shares your libertarian views, I pretty much agree with you on this. The “Florida 50″ are ridiculous, but I would not give the slightest ground to the government in regard to religious freedom. Today, the majority of politicians fall somewhere between “vaguely Christian” and “couldn’t care less”. Any intrusion into the sphere of religion would likely be pretty rational and inconsequential (like “don’t burn other people’s stuff”). But what if 20 years from now, DC is full of Hitchens, Harris, and Dawkins drones? And what if they put their crosshairs on Christianity? The less precedent they have to tread on this amendment, the better. Government should be kept at a far distance from this (and pretty much everything else, in my opinion).

  16. Steve says:


    We are not called to “critique” Islam in any way form or fashion. It is a false religion. Period. Nothing more needs to be said. Any attempt to make it anything else is giving it too much credibility.

    Jesus stands apart and is lovely and will call unto Himself those that He desires a relationship with. It is time for us to recognize the amount of influence we have on God’s plan for salvation. We are called to live a life as a reflection of Jesus and when God calls us to share the GOOD news, we step up and do it courageously and faithfully. That process is much more about what He does in us through obedience than it is adding to His Kingdom. The rocks will cry out should we shrink back – evidence that God’s love will be proclaimed.

    Looking for a fight to prove someone wrong or ourselves right is foolhardy and demonstrates a complete lack of both faith and understanding of Scripture. Islam will only expand and dominate if God the Father allows it.

    Again, let’s worry about our little domains before we flinch about what happens elsewhere.

  17. Brian says:

    I’ve read through all these comments careful and have decided to share some prayerful thoughts.

    Rights, Rights, Rights
    As Americans, we are seriously bent on ‘our rights.’ Having rights has made America into a great nation of freedom, undoubtedly and I am very thankful for my constitutional rights. In America, does this Pastor have the right to burn the Koran – Absolutely. As a Christian he, however, certainly does NOT. Our requirements are different. Furthermore, I hear many Christians (everywhere) talking about ’security’ and some even equating America w/ the tenants of the Bible and how we have Government given rights. To this I have to ask the question – who is sovereign over America, who protects it, who decides if we prosper or not? Is it not God? We are supposed to give up so many of our rights as followers of Christ. Our reaction to things like this should not be through the “I’m an American” lens, but through the “Im a disciple of Jesus” lens. He NEVER guarantees safety, lack of trouble, or even that we wouldn’t have to interact with people who violently disagree with our faith. We think that because radical Muslim countries burn the Bible daily we have the right to return the favor. We think it’s not FAIR that we don’t ‘overreact’ like many Muslim nations when they do so. We think it’s unfair that because they will overreact, our constitutional rights as American’s have been trampled on. Our rights went out the window when we were redeemed and now we are slaves to righteousness, are we not?

    Fear -
    Fear comes when we aren’t confident in the Lords promises or our true identity in Him, when we aren’t focused on him. Fear is what is happening in New York right now (sparked by what we believe our ‘rights’ to be). Fear is what is happening in Florida right now. The belief that we HAVE to strike back at radical muslims is only derivative of a lack of understanding of God’s sovereignty and a denial that His promises are true. Everyones in the world paint themselves as tolerant people, but how many of us get on an airplane and see an arabic looking person and the thought runs through our mind, ‘Oh crap, he’s a terrorist.” Let me give you another example. Where I live I’m fully allowed to enter the mosque and debate the tenants of Islam, PEACEFULLY and in a civilized manner. No one has tried to cut my face off at a mosque that has more than 300,000 members. I’ve even been able to talk regularly to the imam of the mosques in a Godly manner. Most of us don’t realize that the Koran ACTUALLY teaches that true believers are those who seek the truth and are willing to be peaceful in all things – Muslims IN THE KORAN are described as people who are supposed to subscribe to peace wholeheartedly. Furthermore, the Koran speaks very highly of followers of Jesus and that they are to NOT be persecuted – ignorance breeds fear, does it not? Yet, our churches get really uncomfortable when someone of another faith is among our congregation OR even someone who is different that then general makeup of the congregation. We are fearful of this Muslim Community Center – whose written agenda is to promote inter-faith conversation and cultural understanding. We are fearful that, “Oh no, what if it’s just a safe haven for Muslim extremists?!” We are fearful that to enter into a conversation about who God is and then who Jesus is with a Muslim, Buddhist, or atheist will wear our faith down – we in effect deny the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives AND our lives, to do his work with that person do we not? We refuse to even know what the Koran says because we are fearful and not confident that Jesus it who He said He is. Please please don’t hear a universalist statement here – God says that there is NO gospel but the gospel, but he also said to love those different than you – even those who make you fearful, persecute you, and are set against you. How does this NOT describe how we are to react to Muslim Extremists (who are defined by the Koran as NOT being Muslims actually)

    Humanity -
    It’s easy to strip the humanity from a group of people you have never met. Heck, it’s easy to strip humanity from those you even LOVE. Like I’ve mentioned on my blog, my neighbors are muslim, my friends are muslim, the guy whose giving me a ride to the airport on wednesday is a muslim who knows I’m a Christian and heaven forbid still likes me! We forget the message of Christ was not one of earthly power or where we are on the religious/spiritual food chain. These are people that GOD sovereignly choice to create and put on this earth and we are called to love them the best we can with how God enables us to do so. The Word is clear that ANYTHING we do outside of that is sin.

    What he said –
    This Pastor has stated, verbally, that he is standing up against the ‘radical sect of Islam’ stating that we will no longer bow our knees to them and no longer live in fear. How easy is it to insert “We will NO LONGER turn the other cheek! We will no longer bow one on knee!” Seriously, what does the Word say about this? In NO uncertain terms it says this: love them, pray for them, turn the other cheek, give them your tunic (Luke 6). If this pastor hears God’s voice, like Luke says, he is a SLAVE to these things – slave = no rights. As an America, I deeply defend his right to do such a thing, as a Christian I strongly state that the Word says he doesn’t.

    Grace –
    Like has mentioned before, we by now means can expect people to react Godly who are not redeemed – this includes Americans and Muslim nations. We cannot expect non-believers to react with grace because it ONLY comes from the Father. Whether the burning happens or not, grace MUST abound and we must ask God to give us the ability to show that grace.

    My perspective on living in a largely Muslim community in a communist nation vastly impacts my opinion on these things obviously. These people are literally trying to get by in life yet we so often than not, in our hearts, tend to group them together (I speak of myself in these things).

    The events that are happening in America right now truly truly tear my heart to pieces. I’ve watched hateful things be spewed all over the place, and more often than not come out of the mouths of Christians. We are allowed to understand what peoples believes are we should not be fearful of them as well.

    Even if EVERY SINGLE muslim was an extremist, the Word of God is clear that we are to still not retaliate, still love them, still bless them.

  18. Chris Furnell says:

    I like Scott! Look me up on facebook, brother! Chris Furnell

  19. Li-Ern says:

    I think burning the bible is not the same as burning the koran. Christians have Christ as the incarnate word; Muslims don’t; the koran itself is a closer representation of God than we can understand. Protestants don’t naturally imbue objects or things with sacred importance, but we must understand and be sensitive to other faiths who do. Burning the koran is worse than sacking a mosque and destroying property, and it is certainly more than just burning a book. I don’t think we should not burn the koran because Muslims may retaliate—you are right in saying that people must be responsible for their own actions; I think we don’t have the right to burn the koran because we need to understand and respect the koran from their point of view, and not destroy something that is seen to be akin to whom they worship. Our personal rights do not extend that far.

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