Anti-Koran cleric sees modern battle with evil
NEW YORK | The Florida pastor who plans to burn the Koran on Saturday’s anniversary of 9/11 is rooted in Pentecostal tradition that believes Christians are engaged in a modern-day spiritual battle with evil.
But for Terry Jones and his Dove World Outreach Center, Islam is that evil, a worldview drawn from his politics and theology - as well as an apparent desire for publicity for his tiny, independent church.
“Our burning of the Koran is to call the attention that something is wrong,” Mr. Jones said Wednesday at a brief news conference outside his Gainesville church. “It is possibly time for us in a new way to stand up and confront terrorism.”
The pastor is under worldwide pressure to drop his plan to burn copies of the Muslim holy book Saturday. Condemnations have poured in from Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan; Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; the Vatican; and elsewhere.
“As of this time, we have no intention of canceling,” Mr. Jones said.
Conservative Christians have taken pains to distance themselves from the event.
The National Association of Evangelicals, an umbrella group for theologically conservative Christian churches nationwide, issued a statement July 29 urging Mr. Jones to cancel the burning “in the name and love of Jesus Christ.”
Yet, there is no sign that Mr. Jones will be persuaded by other Christians. He is as critical of them as he is of Islam, calling other pastors failed religious warriors in what he considers a secular world bent on silencing Christians.
“The real problem is not the politicians or even Islam,” Mr. Jones said, in his YouTube video series called “The Braveheart Show,” inspired by the Mel Gibson movie. “The real problem is not our educational system that wants to remove God from every part of our society. The problem is the church has laid down. The church has given up.”
Mr. Jones‘ road to notoriety began in 1986 in his living room, where he founded Dove World Outreach Center, which operates out of a sprawling property in Gainesville. Despite its impressive name, the church has only about 50 members.
Dove’s religious beliefs are spelled out in a comparatively brief statement of faith on its website.
The church frequently mentions “apostolic leadership” and “apostolic anointing,” terms from Pentecostalism, which teaches that the Holy Spirit can manifest itself today through speaking in tongues, healing and other miracles. But Mr. Jones has no apparent ties with any major groups or thinkers in Pentecostalism, according to Vinson Synon, dean emeritus of Regent University’s School of Divinity, who has studied Pentecostals for decades.
“It’s a church doing its own thing,” Mr. Synon said.
Mr. Jones met privately in the church Wednesday with the president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, Imam Muhammad Musri, who afterward described their discussion as cordial and polite. At an interfaith news conference Tuesday in Washington, religious leaders said some have tried unsuccessfully behind the scenes to reach out to Mr. Jones and stop him.
“I’m hoping and praying they’ll change his mind and express his views in a different fashion that is more appropriate,” the imam said. “I believe our hearts are in the hands of God, and God can change his heart.”