Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Fringe Pastor Gains Worldwide Attention

Reading the New York Times on Friday morning, with my breakfast, I was surprised to see a couple of items in the paper. For one, there was a front page article about Protestant Pastor Terry Jones from Gainesville, Florida, who gained worldwide media attention for his inflammatory idea to burn copies of the Koran on Sept. 11th. I was concerned as to what the repercussions would be, if that ever happened. I wasn't the only one. General Petraeus warned that if Koran's were set on fire, American troops could be endangered. 
 Pastor Jones managed to be interviewed on CNN the other night and he has consented to 150 other interviews. His congregation is small but his present audience is very large. The article in the Times blamed the summer news lull and the 24-hour news cycle (the internet) for the amount of media attention given to this story. Kathleen Carroll, the executive editor of  The Associated Press, said this, "Before there were riots and heads of states talking about him, it could have been a couple of paragraphs in a story about September 11th commemorations....It's beyond that now." I'll say it is.
As stated in the New York Times article, Chris Cuomo, an ABC News anchor wrote this on Twitter, "I am in the media, but think media gave life to this Florida burning......and that was reckless." 
Getting back to my morning reading of the Times, I was surprised to see a full page advertisement, in the middle of the paper (I can't imagine what that cost!), titled, "Burning the Qur'an does not illuminate the Bible." The American Bible Society sponsored the ad but the names listed of those who supported the message were impressive. Among them Catholic Archbishops: Archbishop Charles Chaput, Archbishop Thomas Wenski, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, Archbishop Wilton Gregory (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops), and Greek Orthodox Archbishop Demetrios and many other Protestant leaders, and others as well.  
When I studied at Fordham, I had a religion professor, Dr. Gloria Durka who had a favorite expression that I loved, "You can't make this stuff up." I think it applies here....this story took on a life of its own. 
I ask: When will we all learn to live in peace and respect each other and our common beliefs that are good and holy? Maybe future generations will learn to live in peace and goodness.  I hope so. Having said that, I'll go to sleep.