A friend of mine living in New York commented on my last post: "thought you'd have something to say about Hawking......... Living close to the "no ground zero mosque" bruhaha, there's a lot to be said for athiests these days!" And Anita, who lives in Oxford, asked this morning what her friends made of the story of Terry Jones' plan to burn 200 copies of the Qu'ran on 11th September. He's the pastor of the ironically named Dove World Outreach Centre, which is I gather a very small church in Florida. It's sad when people of faith show little regard for each other, because it's true that they should know better.
That's not to say that there's no place for vigorous debate over divergent beliefs. In fact convictions would not be worth the name if they were not passionately held. But respect for another person is the minimum requirement of love. And that means not trampling on their sensitivities or desecrating their holy ground. The Barnabas Fund (http://barnabasfund.org/UK/News/Articles-research/Quran-burning-an-unnecessary-offensive-and-dangerous-gesture.html), which focuses on persecuted Christians (not least in Islamic states), called it "an unnecessary, offensive and dangerous gesture". My answer to Anita was to wonder what Jesus would do. I know that's a simplistic and speculative approach, but it does remind us of our need for His Holy Spirit. Not every religious adherent is full of that Spirit - which explains the failure to behave like Him. One man who is Spirit-filled, of course, is Canon Andrew White in Baghdad. He's written on Facebook today: "We are all under complete shut down because of major threats to kill us because of one Stupid Pastor in Florida. We are not against Muslims and never will be."
I admitted to my New Yorker friend that people of faith, including Christians, aren't always the best advert for belief in God. However, I also pointed out to her that atheists don't have a great track record of tolerance through history; and they're proving consistent in their practice today. The questions remain, "Is it true?" and "What do you make of the Christ?"