Destination Armageddon

Sep 14, 2010

By Gode Davis, political staff columnist – September 14, 2010

When I think of Pentecostal Pastor Terry Jones, America’s latest “man of God” to achieve celebrity status, I’m reminded of one of my favorite Biblical tales – the story of Abraham sacrificing his beloved son Isaac by burning him alive, then calling off the God-prescribed test at the last minute. Isaac is long dead now, but this latest episode involving the torching of Korans and Jones of the Gainesville, Fla.-based Dove World Outreach Center and its smattering of adherents (approximately 50) was also called off at the last minute, which some are being led to assume is an act of God.

I’m reconsidering that belief on this Tuesday after. The “Burn the Koran” day – planned to mark the ninth anniversary of the infamous and horrific attacks of September 11, 2001 – was no act of God, unless it was conceived by a god named Baal. According to the Holy Bible, Baal appealed to humankind’s baser instincts, and so does book burning. As a writer, I’m not a big fan of book burnings. Book burnings have been a morbid predilection for those claiming to possess the Truth, from rabid Catholic clergy during medieval times to Nazis spawned by Adolf Hitler – a human plague culminating in horrors during the Third Reich of 1933 to 1945. Book burnings in those instances devolved into people burnings.

In fact, in the case of this most recent abortion of personal responsibility involving 200 potentially destroyed Korans in Gainesville (a place that serial killer Theodore Bundy knew well), only two human lives can so far be laid at the blessed feet of the naïve Jones. On Sept. 12, two protesters died and four were injured near Kabul, Afghanistan as anti-American protests continued for a third straight day and Afghan soldiers opened fire on hundreds of protesters who were attempting to storm the local government headquarters in reaction to Jones’s stunt.

Jones would deny any responsibility for his bloody hands. After all, he did postpone his proposed “celebration” as of Sept. 9. Many in the media – as well as the “god-fearing” Pentecostal pastor – assumed that by desisting, he had defused an international firestorm subsequent to telling the media that he’d been promised that a planned Islamic community center and potential mosque would be moved farther away from New York’s Ground Zero in its borough of Manhattan – a face-saving hypocritical gesture if ever there was one, considering that the chances for such an illogical promise being made would be virtually nil once logic travels beyond the inevitable “he said, she said” dialogue.

The chapter heralding this media storm began at least a month ago, when the Dove-man ostensibly possessed by the Holy Spirit granted an interview to Michelangelo Signorile, the long-time gay rights activist, and on Aug. 9 appeared on Signorile’s show, The Gist, which is a staple of Sirius Satellite Radio’s OutQ. When Signorile asked him in that precursor interview, “Why aren’t you burning the Torah?” Jones replied that he believed that the Koran and Sharia law were responsible for 9/11.

Jones’s intrepid band of outraged Pentecostals states their church’s mission in stark judgmental terms – “To expose Islam for what it is. It is a violent and oppressive religion that is trying to masquerade as a religion of peace, seeking to deceive our society.” But the inspiration to burn Korans came – perhaps with an assist from Holy Spirits – from a Facebook page called “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day,” an earlier stunt initiated as a reaction to threats against cartoonists and artists drawing images of the prophet Mohammed – forbidden in Islam – which had first ignited controversy and rage at a magazine in Denmark.

By the time of Pastor Jones’s interview with Signorile, the Dove World Outreach Center’s website was already hawking “Islam is of the Devil” T-shirts.

When The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) first weighed in on the proposed Koran burning, they called upon Muslims in the Gainesville vicinity to host a “Share the Koran” event by distributing copies of Islam’s holy text to neighbors, public officials, law enforcement officers and members of the press. Meanwhile, the publicity-seeking Jones was calling upon Christians throughout the U.S. to mail copies of the Koran to the church so that his Gainesville congregation could ignite a massive bonfire. In defense of these actions, Jones publicly asserted that “free speech is not Sharia-compliant and the Moslem Mafia (CAIR) is openly opposed to our signs and message. But this is America and we have the law on our side.”

Perhaps in deference to the latter point – that Jones’s Constitutional protections, especially the First Amendment, do allow freedom of speech as a rule – as Sept. 11 ominously approached and media coverage had spilled over far beyond the confines of Signorile’s Gist, influential people began their own campaign of persuasion to deter the Pentecostal Pastor from his intended conflagration.

Voices on the right such as Palin and Beck mounted their condescending platitudes, distancing themselves from the Dove-man’s “intolerant” actions while simultaneously attempting to paint their own recent outbreak of sham outrage – the supposed building of a mosque at Ground Zero – as “a much more legitimate concern.” Glenn and Sarah didn’t pounce on the lone Pentecostal though until U.S. military figures like David Petraeus –citing dangers to occupation troops in the Middle East, soon echoed by political heavyweights such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama himself at his September 10th press conference, his first such scheduled event since May – voiced similar concerns. A personal call to Jones even arrived via the humble phone lines from Robert Gates, the U.S. Secretary of Defense. Even the photogenic sea turtle visible as a background on my personal computer doesn’t merit that degree of high-level scrutiny.

But anti-Muslim sentiment, along with a preponderance of misinformation, has been rife lately. Media pundits, opening their gobs without checking their facts, have been citing a mosque that an irresponsible imam is planning to erect at Ground Zero in Manhattan ad infinitum, riling up the masses. The media has ignored the fact that the project is actually being built by a not-for-profit known as the Cordoba Initiative, which has been granted the appropriate authorization in lower Manhattan to turn a former Burlington Coat Factory at 51 Park Place into a community center (which is two and a half blocks – about 1/3 of a mile – from the destroyed World Trade Center). And while the Cordoba Initiative is headed by an imam known as Feisal Abdul Rauf, this gentle man has made a lifework of standing against the likes of al Qaeda, and desires to teach young Muslims that America is a place where one can freely worship and go and be patriotic and upstanding Americans. The proposed community center was to include a basketball court and space for different religious communities in New York City to conduct interfaith relations. And there was even to be a place for Muslims to pray if they wished – not even what a fair-minded person might construe as a proper mosque.

But this community center was presented to Americans by their factually-challenged media and its associated parasitic pundits as a “Ground Zero Mosque.” It wasn’t even that close to Ground Zero. As anyone who has watched CBS’s Sixty Minutes knows, or anyone who has watched a television in recent years should know, is that Ground Zero is the site of a humungous municipal construction project, a space ugly as sin. Nobody wants to build a mosque there. In fact, Ground Zero is not even a lower Manhattan neighborhood these days, although a mosque already exists and has since 2002 at another site even more proximate – perhaps one quarter of a mile distant from the Ground Zero – to where the proposed community center would go. New York in Lower Manhattan is a densely populated section of the megacity, and it is perhaps less well known to most Americans that a McDonalds and a Burger King – among hundreds of businesses of every description – exist in all their desecrating glory within two blocks of Ground Zero. I have dared to eat a Big Mac in that McDonalds, and may have swallowed at least several mouthfuls while facing Mecca. I tend to burp, too.

Jones probably realized in the nick of time, when this was pointed out explicitly by General Petraeus and by the president of the United States, that his intention to burn Korans, if actually expressed, might well lead to unfortunate consequences for American soldiers. But does he realize even now what a Holy War between Christians and Muslims would lead to, or does he even care? What about Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, and a gaggle of others spreading misinformation and contentiousness with deliberation and malice? Are the means worth the end, if it means that the destination is Armageddon?

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