Can we stop calling Qur'an burners a Church?

Some facts about the church and the pastor:

  1. Dove World Outreach lost its tax-exemption for a time due to the fact that the pastor ran a furniture business out of its location.
    • "Its property has served as a sometime storage site for Jones' furniture business, a violation of Dove's tax-exempt status that was punished with a county fine and partial loss of nonprofit standing, The Gainesville (Fla.) Sun reported. Jones previously founded a small church in Germany, the Christian Community of Cologne, and was accused by his daughter and a former church elder of using donations to enrich himself, the Sun reported."
  2. The pastor's certification came from the Internet. If I knew it was that easy, I woulda ditched the UMC a long time ago with all it's "education" and "accountability" requirements. Sheesh.
    • "[Jones] says he was given the diploma by the California Graduate School of Theology, an obscure school that boasts on its Web site that it's so independent, it has never been accredited. In 2002, Jones was convicted by a Cologne administrative court of falsely using the title and was fined $3,800, German media reported."
  3. The rule book for members entering the Dove World Outreach tells youth to not contact family members or go home even in case of a funeral.
    • "During Academy you are not allowed to visit family members or friends or receive occasions like weddings, funerals, and Birthdays are no exception to this rule."
In other words, a church that has (a) lost its tax-exempt status for selling furniture (b) has a pastor ordained over the internet and (c) does not practice grace or forgiveness with rigid isolationism...this location represents Christianity and America to the international Muslim world? Ugh.

The Qur'an burners no more represent Christianity than the 9/11 terrorists represent Islam.


Brian Gerald September 9, 2010 at 3:20 PM  

I think we let ourselves off the hook by saying "Can we stop calling the Qu'ran burners a church?" and "The Qur'an burners no more represent Christianity than the 9/11 terrorists represent Islam."

Whether you or I like it or not, the actions of those people, who publicly identify as Christian, reflect on Christianity. We can say from the safety and comfort of our armchairs that *those* people aren't like us, don't represent our values, aren't part of our faith. The fact of the matter is that they are waving our Bible and claiming our God.

It matters not much to those whose holy books is being burned here or whose homes are being destroyed abroad whether "those people"--be they Qu'ran burners or soldiers painting Bible verses on missiles--represent "our" version of Christianity. They claim Christianity and so we are all in this together.

It is easier to call them outsiders than to wrestle with them, but wrestle we must.

Rev. Jeremy Smith September 9, 2010 at 3:46 PM  

I don't think I'm claiming an either/or fallacy of either they are reflective of Christianity or not. Rather, the question is where do you put cults and cultish-groups into the spectrum of Christianity? When one thinks of Christianity, isolationist rural compounds, Fred Phelps, and now Dove Center probably fall more into a cult category rather than an expression of Christianity. Similarly, Islam often considers terrorists to be outside typical Islam, even if Joe Sixpack doesn't think the same way.

I think it's OK to claim the currents and movements within Christianity that can give birth to radical reactionary groups like the above. I can claim islamophobia and isolationism as currents within Christianity in a heartbeat. But the individual *expressions* of such currents are not necessarily to be claimed under the rubric of "Christianity."

Thoughts? I'm trying to not split hairs but also respond to your argument.

Carolyn September 14, 2010 at 8:47 PM  

They prevent new recruits from outside contact during their education period? Sounds like a cult to me!

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