Two nights ago - upset that the Dove World Outreach Center had a Facebook page with 9,000+ fans cheering on their plan to burn copies of the Qur'an - I stared another Facebook page: People Of Faith Opposed To The Burning of the Qur'an. In under 48 hours, over 6,000 people have joined. But should we be giving this small church so much attention?
The quick answer is yes. This is just the latest example in a rising sea of hostility and bigotry directed at Muslims (see Mosque, New York) in recent months. An emergency summit of American religious leaders representing many traditions - including Christians, Jews and Muslims - was held yesterday to speak out against this wave of hatred as we approach the ninth anniversary of 9/11.
Just about everyone you can think of - from the Vatican to the World Council of Churches - has condemned Dove World Outreach Center's plans (though I've not yet heard far-right groups such as Focus on the Family weigh in...they're pretty busy bashing gays this week...something they share in common with Dove World Outreach Center).
In any event, most mainstream religious leaders - conservative, moderate and progressive - have spoken out against this small church.
Margret Mead once said: A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.
The reverse can also be true. After all, it was a small group of Islamic extremists that attacked New York on 9/11 - killing people of all faiths, including Muslims. They changed the world.
What has made so many people speak up against the Dove World Outreach Center is the collective feeling across religious lines that burning a Holy book is wrong no matter what. The church's hateful teachings on Islam (rants really) are theological malpractice. The pastor and members of Dove World Outreach Center make us feel like we have to take a shower after we see them on television or on the internet because of the filth they spew.
Most people of faith - regardless of tradition - understand the Divine to be peaceful; concerned with justice and reconciliation (though we often disagree on exactly what that means). Our faith(s) compels us, regardless of differences, to stand united against hatred today the same way people of faith in America united against hate on September 11, 2001. We recognize evil when we see it.
In the end, the Dove World Outreach Center might be doing us a favor (ironically). They're forcing Americans to confront the reality of religious bigotry directed at Muslims. The result of their actions may be to bring people together. Perhaps God is working through them in ways we don't fully understand.