Sometime last month, on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” Time Magazine World Editor Bobby Ghosh said the following:
“The Bible is a book written by men. It is acknowledged by Christians that it is written by men. But the Koran … is directly the word of God. That makes it sacred in a way that is hard to understand if you are not Muslim. So the act of burning a Koran is much more inflammatory than if you were to burn a Bible.”
He is correct that there is a difference in how the Muslims and the Christians see their respective Scriptures (would someone please remind the overzealous Evangelicals?). But it’s not fair to the Christian belief that Scripture was “divinely inspired” to say that the Bible was “written by men.” If you are curious about exactly what “divinely inspired” means and what it implies, catholicanswers.org is a great resource. But this topic is tangential to what I really want to talk about, so I won’t go into it here.
From what I read, Mr. Ghosh was discussing the relative sacredness of Muslim and Christian Scriptures to explain why we see such strong, violent reactions from the Muslim world whenever someone burns (or threatens to burn) a Koran. Also, by extension, why Christians are comparatively calm when the converse happens.
But the relative sacredness of Koran vs. Bible doesn’t explain the disparity in reaction. For example, let’s take the Eucharist (body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ), which is infinitely more sacred than the direct word of God. There are plenty of examples of actual or threatened Eucharist desecration – google or youtube “Eucharist desecration” and you’ll see what I mean. But do you see Catholics getting violent? Noooo. Why not? Well, most of us live in societies where most people have an inherent respect for the rule of law and individual rights (i.e. in this case, the offending individual’s right not to be murdered / violently assaulted). But also, you don’t solve anything when you retaliate by depriving someone else of their sacred, God-giving right to life.So let’s go back to the Koran-burning, shall we? Shall we get all violent / murderous in response? In comparison with the desecration committed by burning the holy book, murdering someone created in the image of God in response is an infinitely greater desecration.