When I first caught a passing glimpse of Pastor Terry Jones I thought he was a cast member from Sons of Anarchy. I paid him no attention; if he wasn’t a character from FX’s Justified, I wasn’t interested. Then I saw him again, and this time I heard him. He was an appalling example of how dangerous a little information can be in the mind of a person determined to keep it closed at all costs. According to the pastor, he’d read a few pages of the Qur’an, which I’m guessing was his reason for declaring Islam “of the devil.” Perhaps Jones’ media rep forgot to advise him: If you’re going to condemn a religion, burn a book, (holy or otherwise), and talk about it to the media, come up with a better justification than “I’ve read a few pages.” Instead of burning books, he should be holed up in a library making up for his miseducation.
From the obscure leader of a 50-person flock, Jones graduated to appearances on CBS, ABC, NBC, cable news and any and all media outlets willing to jam a mike into his face. In the age of the internet his image and his proclamation made their way around the world at warp speed. Despite the direct appeal of General Petraeus and a call from Secretary Gates Jones was determined to move forward, putting the lives of US troops in danger – the same people sworn to defend the country that gives him the right to pull this horribly misguided stunt. Instead of Qur’ans to burn, his fellow zealots should send him American history books. Maybe he’d understand just why he’s free to utter and act with such stupidity.
Just when it couldn’t get any more bizarre, Jones claimed that a deal had been made. To keep him and his not-so-merry (and armed) band of Doves from burning copies of the Qur’an, he told the world that Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf had agreed to move the “Ground Zero Mosque.” That delusional announcement should have signaled the end – turn off the microphones, pack up the sound trucks and pull out of the Dove World Outreach parking lot. But Jones gave them another teaser to whet the newsperson’s first-to-report appetite – will he, or won’t he?
This morning Pastor Jones made it back to morning television. The good reverend should have been yesterday’s news a week ago, but there he was again, stumbling through another convoluted explanation. At the end, he claimed the burning was off. But it’s still September 10, so who knows? No matter what, it’s time to tune him out.
One day, in the best of all possible worlds, Pastor Jones will come across a clip of himself behaving badly in the late summer of 2010. “Lord, what was I thinking?” he might ask. Perhaps the Lord will answer. “I don’t know, Terry, but it sure wasn’t about me.”