Burning the Book
by Rev. Frank Julian Gelli
Barking! As in barking mad. He really is. Pastor Terry Jones. He who is going to burn the Quran. (La Samaha Allah!) Just look at his picture. That handlebar moustache! Don’t mind jumping to conclusions. The guy is totally barking. Typical nutter. Crystal clear. You are dealing with a lunatic. One who belongs in Bedlam – the old English name for a loony bin. I wish I could leave it at that. Ignore the Moronic Moustache. But I cannot. The barking madman’s action has consequences. It matters – alas, deadly so.
Cui Bono? A Latin tag meaning ‘who benefits from it?’ To whose advantage will burning the Quran be? Christianity? The Church? Hardly. Ill-will, hatred towards the people of the Messiah will grow. Throughout the Muslim world enraged believers will take revenge on Christians. I prophecy churches will burn in Nigeria. In Indonesia. In Pakistan. Consigning the Muslims’ holy book to the flames will ignite fires that will devour many a cross-bearing church. The Handlebar Moustache obviously doesn’t care but I do.
US General Petraeus warned about Taleban reprisals. But the Taleban need no excuse or incentive to shoot at NATO forces. And fighting is, after all, a soldier’s job. Rather, it is innocent people, civilians, who will suffer most. Nuns ministering to the sick in Sudan, charity workers in Malaysia, lay Christians in Turkey, all sorts of ordinary, harmless folks - what wrong have they done? Yet, they could all come to grief.
Cui Bono? Who profits? Not believers. Of either faith. Because all religious faith will take some knocking. The average bloke, ‘the man on the Clapham Omnibus’ (cripes! That expression really dates me!) will lazily think: ‘Here we go again. Religionists are a bunch of fanatics. They always cause trouble. They quarrel, they attack each other. They burn books. They make war. They kill. Religion really is the problem. The root of all evil. Why can’t they learn to live in peace? Would it not be a better world if religion disappeared altogether?’
As to the actual, official, card-carrying foes of faith, of any faith, chaps like garrulous, atheist Professor Richard Dawkins and the pathetic British Secularist Society mini-membership (they could hold their annual general meeting in a telephone booth), they will be cock-a-hoop. ‘Here is our chance! Our golden opportunity. To get at our hated enemies. Kill two birds with one stone. Muslims and Christians – equally fanatic, intolerant, murderous lot. Fantastic. What a propaganda, PR gift! We can paint them all out as thoroughly barking lot. Christians and Muslims. Deluded people who believe in God, claim to be innocuous, peace-loving folks whereas they fight and murder each other for trifles. If we believed in that silly old superstition, heaven, we’d say this thing was heaven-sent!’
Cui Bono - who will benefit? Pray, consider another useful Latin tag, Divide et Impera. Divide and Rule. The slogan of Roman imperialism. To best dominate and subjugate your subjects, your enemies, you sow discord among them. You divide them, so they cannot unite and fight back. The book-burning of the Quran will drive a further wedge between the peoples of the Book. Separate them. Reciprocally antagonise them. And so they will be morally disarmed. And easily dominated. It will certainly benefit…the dominators.
Who do I mean? Who are they? Do I discern a hidden hand here? And invisible hand pulling the string somewhere? A dark force behind the handlebar moustache loony? A diabolical power at work? I am no conspiratologist but…best to keep an open mind.’
On the contrary, dear reader, the priest’s message, his mission, is to urge people of faith to resistance. To join together. To resist the forces of disintegration, of sin and evil in the world. To affirm the shared values of monotheism, of spirituality and ethics. To affirm the culture of life against the culture of death. To point to a better, holier way of life than the one the impudent followers of Mars and Mammon brazenly advocate. To create a Holy Alliance, one between Cross and Crescent. To bring together worshippers of the One True God. A task morally and spiritually imperative. Deus Vult! God wills it (with apologies to Peter the Hermit). I do feel a bit prophetic here.
Should Muslims be smart and leave this thing alone? Refuse to give the Florida nutter the oxygen of publicity? Too late for that. Regardless, I sympathise with them. I know how it feels to have the sacred tokens of your faith desecrated. Gay actor Sir Ian McKellen is reported regularly to tear out pages of Gideon Bibles when he stays in a hotel room. Pages from the book of Leviticus, where his kind of sexuality is condemned. Apparently, his action has encouraged imitators. I suppose the priest could lurk somewhere and take a terrible revenge on Sir Ian. Cui Bono? No, I think it is best to let our thespian slide into geriatric obscurity. He has long lost his good looks. Terrible thing for a gay, as homosexuality - le vice splendide - is really a cult of youth and beauty. Time is the best avenger here.
However, I have a little confession. Before I was ordained I taught religion at the City of London School. Fine public school near Blackfriars. I was disgusted when I discovered a boy had defaced his Bible with obscene scrawls. Look, I found it hard not to wish the little sod ill. Maybe a little burning at the stake? Pity it was not on.
My friend Kamal has forwarded me a letter sent by a Syrian priest to the Moustache. As a fellow Christian, the priest begs the nutter to reconsider, giving reasons why he should not burn the Quran. Sorry, brother priest, with a madman you do not reason. The Moustache will have his way. To paraphrase the Duke of Wellington I fear I must conclude: go ahead and be damned!
This lunchtime Al Jazeera TV will interview me on this sorry affaire. A chance for me to plug my Holy Alliance line. Verily, God can bring good out of evil.
FATHER FRANK’S RANTS
Rant Number 410 9 September 2010