Thursday, September 9, 2010

Where is Flannery O'Connor when you need her?

Pastor Terry Jones has called off his Koran-burning exercise:
Pastor Terry Jones today canceled his plan to burn Korans at his Florida church after claiming he has struck a deal with a New York Muslim cleric to relocate the so-called Ground Zero mosque.

Jones emerged from his church in Gainesville, Fla., to announce his decision which he said came after days of prayer and said he viewed the supposed deal as "a sign from God."

The fiery pastor said that Imam Abdel Rauf, the leader behind the Ground Zero mosque in Manhattan, will meet with him in New York on Saturday.

"He has agreed to move it," Jones said referring to the Ground Zero Islamic cultural center and mosque. "And we have agreed to cancel our event on Saturday."[...]

Jones appeared with Imam Muhammad al-Masri of the Islamic Society of Central Florida who said "the placement of the mosque near Ground Zero is unnecessary and it has become a clear provocation to many people to be violent against mosques across the nation."

It was al-Masri who brokered the conversation between Jones and Rauf.

But as soon as Jones and al-Masri finished speaking, denials were issued that the Islamic community center and mosque would be moved away from its current controversial location.

"The Muslim Community Center called Park51 in Lower Manhattan is not being moved," read a statement from SoHo Properties, the developer of the community center that is being called the Ground Zero Mosque.

All of this comes, of course, after we read that Pastor Jones had ties to the Westboro Baptist group and that his church had cult-like tendencies, and that he'd been expelled from his church in Germany for creating a climate of fear, spiritual abuse, and irregular accounting practices.

What a gift this news story would have been to Flannery O'Connor! The characters almost seem to spring from her fertile imagination instead of mundane reality. If Pastor Jones isn't the spiritual kin to half-a-dozen or more O'Connor characters, I'll eat my non-existent hat. If she were alive today, I can only imagine what an 85-year-old Flannery O'Connor would have said to all of this hullabaloo over a spiritual con man who played the worldwide media for the dupes and rubes they really, at heart, are.

While I'm as glad as anybody that the proposed Koran burning has been nixed, I have to wonder whether Pastor Jones ever really intended to do any such thing; he'd be taking a personal risk that might reap really unpleasant consequences, the way things are. And men like Pastor Jones tend to believe in personal risk about as much as they believe in a personal Savior--which is to say, from the measure of the actions that reveal the heart, not really very much at all.

UPDATE: And now Pastor Jones says the burning is not canceled, only "suspended." Like this story...

UPDATE TWO: ...and now Pastor Jones says his church will never burn Korans. Okay...


Anonymous said...

What is wrong with people? He said he made the deal? I wonder what Lord he is praying to and talking to? All this religious intolerance is scary, especially in a country that was built on religious freedom. I am praying to my Lord for understanding, more tolerance, and especially love for a fellow human beings.

Amy R said...

Actually, we ARE in a Flannery O'Connor story.

Tom Hanson said...

Absolutely true, Amy R. And this, unless it ends really badly, will in retrospect be remembered as one of her funniest unwritten tales.