“Mr. Braveheart? Florida Pastor burns another Quran”

We drove up to the Dove World Outreach Center, a non-descript church tucked away off of a main road in Gainesville, Florida.

Eventually, the locked doors opened and we were led past a sanctuary, filled more with furniture than church pews, up the stairs to a sparsely furnished office: desk, sofa, two chairs and a movie poster of Mel Gibson in Braveheart.

We met Pastor Jones, a tall man, around 60, bearded and sitting at his desk with army-type boots, blue jeans, a black T-shirt and a gun hanging from his belt. Wayne Sapp, his assistant, was alongside wearing blue jeans, a black Harley Davidson T-shirt emblazoned with “I Don’t Do Fear,” and a very obvious gun clipped to his belt. He stood legs apart and arms folded, as if on guard, for the duration of our 90-minute conversation.

Jones, told us that after spending 30 years in Cologne, Germany, he returned to the US to find his beloved America awash in moral corruption, weakened by a failing Church, diminished by a gutless government and overrun by Islamic clerics and their threat of Sharia law. He says he felt “God spoke to me,” about defacing Islam, desecrating its Qur’an — and doing what he could to “wake up America.”

Our visit was the day before he planned to burn another Qur’an, a follow-up to what he had done months earlier, an event he publicized online resulting in the burning of churches and the killing of his fellow Christians.

Operating under Stand Up America Now, is an organization whose purpose, according to its website “is to encourage Americans and the Church to stand up.”

Jones concedes this had nothing to do with Christian love or evangelism, but are “acts of resistance or revolution.”

Because love and evangelism were weak, “unable to make a dent,” Jones believed it was time to cause a stir. He says that he had no idea of the public interest in the public burning of Islam’s holy book: “I didn’t realize it would create such a stir.” But he took that very stir as a sign: “God wanted me to get involved.”

Jones is disarming, articulate and interesting. He is a surprisingly good listener, gentle in his response to tough questions. He openly acknowledged that his actions were bizarre. He admits no guilt that what he did caused both harm and killing of Christians (those he readily admits are his brothers and sisters).

Four of us drove north from Orlando, including Geoff Tunnicliffe, Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) and Rev. Daniel Ho, Methodist pastor from Muslim controlled Malaysia.

It was a tough, no-holds-barred conversation.

The dialogue was respectful, direct and civil.

The focus was on biblical values, living as Jesus would have us live, caring for consequences of Christians in other lands and a review of his logic that it was he who was courageous.

Jones’ confusion over love for America — as he thinks it was and should be — and the Gospel were obvious. While clearly declaring himself a follower of Christ, he no longer believes loving others is a fair and workable strategy.

“We would not have beaten Hitler if we had just prayed,” he said.

It is time, in Jones’ view, to move past praying and acts of kindness, beyond trying to win people to faith in Christ.

Militia-like, he views the “weakness” of churches and government as being complicit in a conspiracy to degrade America.

Gun-toting pastors seem a logical extension of his strategy to bypass those unwilling to “stand for America.”

“Would you be willing to come to Malaysia and look into the faces of my family and tell them why you burned the Qur’an, if your action caused my death?” asked Pastor Ho. Jones had no answer.

Asked if he had ever met a Christian from a Muslim-dominated country, he laughed. When asked if he ever had concerns over what his actions and words did to Christians in such countries, he avoided the subject.
Pressed to line up his actions with biblical values and the call of Jesus, he referred to Abraham and Moses, examples of “biblical characters that have done crazy things.”

“God told me to do it,” is his central mantra.

Our group pressed him with his own logic: if his end game was to get the attention of the American government, why not do some outrageous act that would really get them to listen?

And if he wanted to point out the errors of Islam, why not go to an Islamic country and burn a Qur’an there?

He laughed and said, “They’d kill me.”

We pointed out that what he was doing was cowardly. We reminded him he was standing behind the defenses of free speech laws in the United States, knowing that what he is doing may very well get others killed. We told him that if he really wanted to show courage then go to where his actions will get him killed. Then you’ll be courageous,” one of us said. “But what you are doing here is gutless.”

His response? “Yes, but I’d be killed.”

Tunnicliffe closed our meeting with the story of William Wilberforce, who chose to give his life to end slavery.

In the recent movie, Amazing Grace, a government minister rose in the British parliament, after the passing of anti-slavery legislation and said in effect: “When we think about heroes our minds go to people like Napoleon. Yet when his head lay on a pillow at night, he dreamt about death and violence. Mr. Wilberforce when your head lies on the pillow tonight, you will think about those you had part in freeing across the world.”

At our meeting, Jones was asked to be that kind of hero.

It was a challenge he couldn’t take.

Brian C. Stiller
Global Ambassador
World Evangelical Fellowship

Photo from The Express Tribune with the International Herald Tribune.

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Comments
One Response to ““Mr. Braveheart? Florida Pastor burns another Quran””
  1. lidia youanas says:

    Thank you Prof. Brain for this great article and the great work of World Evangelical Fellowship

    Burning Qur’an is not the solution! America and other countries have all the authorizations to protect their countries. There is an example of what happened in Australia and the act of their Prime Minister to protect the country from Muslims and Islam..

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