Unintended Consequences

There is a huge uproar right now over a plan to burn the Quran on 9/11.  The world has been quick to condemn this action, but it bears thinking through a little.  Why is this wrong?  What are the issues at stake?  And should we be concerned?

Well, let’s start with the first issues.  Pastor Terry Jones and his congregation have the constitutional right to burn books on their property within the confines of local and state law for fires.  They have the same right to burn any books they want that the Muslim group looking to build an “Islamic center” near ground zero has to build when and where they want.  We have the constitutional right to free expression and freedom of religion under the first amendment. (bonus points for being able to name the other three rights enumerated in the first amendment before clicking here)

But is it smart?  Is it wise?  Is it good stewardship of resources?  Has Pastor Jones thought through the repercussions of his actions and whether they will accomplish the aims that he hopes they will?

I doubt it.  There is a huge buzz over this issue.  General Petraeus has warned that this stunt puts American soldiers at increased risk, and other Americans in Muslim-dominated countries as well.  There will certainly be fringe terrorists who will use this kind of publicity to recruit people to their cause, and that is never a good thing.  It will further demonize America in the eyes of the Muslim world, and Christianity as well.  I pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ who live in Muslim areas, that this will not reflect poorly on their ministries and endanger their safety.

But there is one other angle no one is talking about in this whole boondoggle.  The burning of the Quran done by this church will actually completely backfire.  They hope to show that Islam is wrong and hinder access to the Quran.  However, we live in a free market economy.  They are going to have to get those Qurans from somewhere, and that will be from a business or bookseller of some sort.  (I kinda doubt that a local Mosque will hand a bunch of them over to be burned)  That retailer will not give them over at a loss; they are a business.

So from the business perspective, what the church has done is make them a profit printing the Quran.  If a business is profitable, then the business pursues it more.  Trust me, they will print more copies to replace the burned ones, and pocket the profit they made selling them to Dove World Outreach Center happily.  So what the church has actually accomplished is the spread of the Quran and increasing the profitability of printing it. 

Unintended consequences stink, huh?

Now I know, you might be thinking that their purchase is a drop in the bucket.  Well you may be right, but even if they buy 1,000 of them to burn that is not an insignificant number, and the business will just print 1,000 more to replace them that they wouldn’t have printed otherwise.  Their is not a finite supply of printing materials to keep them from making more!

And frankly, who is going to come burn the books?  No one who is moderate will; frankly, no one who is not already on the fringe will show up to the book burning.  So it will become a big mutual admiration society, with those who show up lauding the others there who they already agreed with before a match was ever struck.

So the unintended consequences here are huge.  The danger to Americans, and to Christians in parts of the world, is high.  The danger to our troops is high.  The actual effect is not just negligible, but in fact does the opposite of what is intended.  So who green-lighted this project, exactly?

The lesson here is simple: think through the consequences of your actions before you act!  Don’t rush headlong into a project or an action before considering the consequences of that action.  Pray and get counsel and consider all the angles before jumping in with both feet.

      1      The plans of the heart belong to man,
But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.
      2      All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight,
But the LORD weighs the motives.
      3      Commit your works to the LORD
And your plans will be established.
(Proverbs 16:1-3)

Think through all of the issues and really plan before undertaking something significant.  Seek help and ask for counsel that you disagree with just so that you can see their side of it.  I am willing to bet that if Pastor Jones had done that, this whole shenanigans would have turned out different.  Instead he is backed into a corner and forced to defend his pride, which means that he will stick to his guns.

Let’s pray that God gives him the wisdom not to carry out his plan, and the courage to back away from it.

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