This week, two different religions were mocked and disrespected in the United States and the followers’ reactions couldn’t have been more different. While a lone preacher in Florida burned a copy of the Koran, a Broadway show opened in New York making fun of the Mormon faith with irreverent humor and sacrilegious musical numbers. Some Muslim followers in Afghanistan reacted to the burning by storming the UN compound and killing innocent international public servants. The Mormon Church reacted to the musical by pointing the public to the superficial nature of it and the supernatural power of their faith.
While burning the Koran is religiously intolerant and insensitive to our Muslim brothers and sisters, to suggest that it endangers American lives in and of itself is ridiculous. What endangers Americans’ lives is the over-reaction to the burning by extremists, not the act of free speech. The assumption that people will kill because of the burning of a book and therefore the book shouldn’t be burned justifies the over-reaction and makes it a rational answer. There should be a universal condemnation to the killings because it isn’t rational or acceptable. Radical followers of Islam killed innocent people in reaction to a radical follower of Christianity’s lighting a book on fire. I would characterize both radicals as not truly following the God they claim to be following. Islam and Christianity teach peace and acceptance not provocation and death.
To assume that people are going to be killed if a Koran is burned is a dangerous supposition. The patronizing reaction by many liberals and politicians to condemn the burning of the Koran on the same level as the UN killings – and many times in the same sentence – left an assumption that the reaction was a natural outcome of the action. President Barak Obama’s statement on the UN murders also wasn’t helpful in teaching religious tolerance. Obama elevated the Koran burning to an extreme offense and therefore gave comfort to an extreme reaction. “The desecration of any holy text, including the Koran, is an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry,” said Obama. The White House’s use of the word extreme was inappropriate for this situation.
Compare American liberals’ reaction to the Koran burning with their gleeful embrace of Trey Parker’s and Matt Stone’s Broadway musical about the Mormon faith. A musical with a song called: “Fuck you, God” and described by the authors as an “atheist love letter to religion”. New York Magazine said, “What’s so uniquely winning about The Book of Mormon is its scruffy humanism, its eagerness to redeem its characters—even its smaller ones.” And Jon Stewart was left speechless after he said “it was so good, I almost don’t know what to say.” The reviews for the musical have been the best any modern Broadway show has ever seen. And very few liberals have condemned the defilement of the Mormon Church’s holy text as Obama has for the Koran. If we believe that desecrating a religion’s holy text endangers lives then so does the accolades and support for The Book of Mormon on Broadway. I, for one, don’t accept this premise.
For American Mormons, the Broadway show and its embrace by the mainstream and liberal media has been embarrassing and humiliating. But the even tempered official Mormon Church reaction should make everyone take a second look at the religion. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints issued a statement saying, “The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people’s lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.” The actions of some Afghan Muslims who killed UN officials as a reaction to the burning of a Koran in Florida cannot be justified or even confused to be a rational response.