Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Am I a Hypocrite?

I was reading this Worldnutdaily article in which the pastor of the Florida church planning to burn the Quran on 9/11 said that he expected that there would be some retaliation that could endanger American troops:

Terry Jones, leader of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainsville, Fla., also admitted his plan could put Americans in danger.

Jones was speaking in a radio interview yesterday with WND’s Aaron Klein, who hosts an investigative program on New York’s WABC Radio.

Asked by Klein whether he believes the “Burn a Quran Day” ceremonies will put Americans in danger of Muslim retaliation, Jones replied, “Yes, of course that is possible. That is definitely not what we want. We realized whenever we did this, it could cause some sort of retaliation.”

And it suddenly occurred to me that I have supported, and continue to support, lots of other forms of expression that may lead — indeed, already have led — to violent retaliation. Not only did I support Salman Rushdie publishing The Satanic Verses, I criticized bookstores that refused to sell it for their cowardice. Likewise for the Danish cartoon controversy. I wholeheartedly supported the publishing of such cartoons and I republished them myself because I thought it was very important to stand with those who were being threatened with violence.

There’s no question that those events could — likely did, in the case of the cartoons — provoke retaliatory violence that affected American troops in Iraq. Yet if Gen. Petraeus had said that we shouldn’t publish those caricatures, or that Rushdie should not have published his book, because it might hurt the war effort by provoking violence among Muslims, my natural reaction would have been totally the opposite.

So what’s the distinction? Is it because the people being criticized are conservative Christians rather than great novelists or cartoonists? Perhaps so, I admit (though in either case, I do support the legal right of the church to go ahead with their protest).

I’d like to think that it’s because of the differences between the actions being criticized. I don’t think book burning is ever a good idea, while publishing one’s own thoughts is quite the opposite act. But I’m not entirely sure that’s true. It’s possible that I’m just reacting differently because I perceive the church to be on the other side, as opposed to applying principle rationally and consistently — something I always try to avoid doing.