Admittedly, one man’s sect is another man’s sanctity. And there is a difference between Reverend Jim Jones and Pastor Terry Jones. The former was a smart, charismatic and dangerous psychopath masquerading as a messiah. The latter is a doofus. But both make me wonder why people think any God worth worshiping would want people to follow fallible fellow humans anywhere.
Bottom line is that Pastor Terry is a garden-variety cluck that no one would listen to if he didn’t have that “pastor” in front of his name. He’s the kind of guy who talks a lot about reading the Bible, while the rest of us marvel at the thought he can read at all.
But he has muscled his way to the national microphone for his 15 minutes in large part because equally unhinged religious fanatics elsewhere on the planet are eager to play the same game of hysterical one upsmanship.
Traditional media are quick to insist the country will go to hell in handbasket if major news organizations lose their ability to their gatekeeper function and the bloggers take over. But their collective failure to shut the media gate in Pastor Terry’s face now means that there are a whole string of whackjobs emboldened enough to take his place if he cancels his book burning. (Pastor Bob Old of Tennessee now says he’s burn Korans on Saturday. Rev. Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church, the odious organization that holds “God Hates Fags” protests at veterans’ funerals, cannot resist getting into the act as well.)
Can’t we set up a separate network where they just agitate each other and leave the rest of us alone?
But it isn’t really fair to blame the media alone for this debacle. It was impossible for news organizations to ignore Yosemite Sam and his pyromaniac pals once General David Petraeus, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and even the president elected to weigh in.
Why would Obama and company come out strongly against this powerless doofus while failing to push back against a truly dangerous religious fanatic like Glenn Beck? Is our troops’ safety in Afghanistan truly so perilous? Not a good sign in itself.
Remember when Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell were ruminating about 9/11 and their view that our tolerance of gays and lesbians, as well as feminism, would be our downfall? Jerry famously said, “God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve.”
If we are indeed a secular society that believes in separation of church and state, how about encouraging the media and the government to ignore so-called religious leaders. The deference paid them risks being our undoing if we really want to promote peace around the world and at home. On the eve of 9/11, can we just have more than a few moments of silence?