We seem to be dead set on keeping the message of a pastor in a small church in Florida alive and pertinent at a time in which we also seem to get more and more of our national dialogue from knee-jerk reactions instead of rational, thoughtful reflection. In fact, there is almost nothing thoughtful about the dialogue surrounding the burning of the Qur’an in Florida, which should be offensive to all of us as Americans first and then by our faith practice. But we are often assailed with the opinions of fools in the media circus that is required to pump “news” at us all day. There’s no time for thoughtful reflection, we have to get the ticker notice up – “breaking news” that is so important it can be relayed to you in fewer characters than a tweet! Mark Twain is often quoted as saying “It is better to stay silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”
I would argue that the main reason we have a controversy over this pastor is because he gets airtime. Why not ignore him? There’s no reason to do this except for the publicity. Terry Jones is, as Senator Rice said recently, the “Fred Phelps” of Islamophobia. And the best way to contend with Phelps and his gang of hate-filled loonies is to ignore them. Who cares what they think? I listen to them no more than I would listen to a Neo-Nazi’s take on race relations. Let it be a non-issue and it becomes one. Let the media go into a complete blackout on that little complex in Gainesville on Saturday and show instead the numerous gatherings of interfaith groups celebrating our diversity and standing arm-in-arm with our Muslim brothers and sisters defending their right to worship freely. That’s the thing that the Taliban and Al-Qaeda don’t want to see…believe me, they are fine with Terry Jones.
At what point does the general public’s feeling – which I think is overwhelmingly opposed to the burning of the Qur’an – outweigh the lunatic fringe? When does the message get spread across the country of the many ways that Americans reach out to one another, regardless of race, gender, class, religion or sexuality? That is my beef with the media. But, my friends, we get what we deserve. We have stood by as corporate America has slowly bought up the media and now the same forces that bring you “Wife Swap” and “Cougar Town” now bring you the nightly news. Should we expect anything other than the latest shock-story force-fed to us every night? It truly is the blind leading the blind.
We need not be driven by those forces. Don’t watch the news. Get to know your neighbors. Visit the houses of worship in your town and see for yourself what is going on. Learn on your own terms without relying on the opinion-factory that supposedly passes for journalism these days. Learn to examine information before consuming it…for, as Jesus told us, it isn’t what goes into the mouth that defiles us, it is what comes out of it.” We can see consume all kinds of information, but if that turns us into hate-filled, angry people – centered on lies and slander that serve to only pollute us and each other then we have ourselves become defiled.
This is a dangerous time. A time in which we are being asked to stand up for what we really believe in and if we don’t, there are many people willing to take the wheel and drive us to places we don’t want to go. “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph”, Edmund Burke once said, “ is for good people to do nothing.”
And what I propose that we do is to start to find, create, write and tell the stories of hope, perseverance, cooperation and goodwill that are surrounding us right now. The sparks of a whole new world are arcing in our peripheral vision if we will but look. Hold onto those embers and tend to them, that they might grow into an all-consuming fire that will clear out the underbrush of our neglect and casual treatment of one another and make possible the new growth of unity. I’m not sure that kind of story will bring the satellite trucks in for coverage on the 24 hour “newsertainment” channels, but then again…who cares?