Bruce B.

Bentzman Suburban Soliloquy

144. The Burning of 1000 Bibles

There appeared among the papers on my desk a sealed business reply mail envelope requiring no postage. It was addressed to the In Touch Ministries of Atlanta, Georgia. Ms Keogh, my more significant other, often puts envelopes on my desk to process, that is to lick the flap, apply the stamp, and place a return address in the corner. She usually places such envelopes to one side and in plain sight so as to not go lost and this letter was buried among my papers. I held the envelope to the light and saw there was a check inside. This envelope didn’t need a stamp, was already sealed, and only wanted our return address, but why was Ms Keogh sending a check to the In Touch Ministries?

I brought the envelope to Ms Keogh’s attention to find out what was going on. She knew nothing about it. We discussed it and could not figure out where it came from nor how it found its way into the papers on my desk. We agreed it needed to be opened to see why it contained a check.

The check was from a Mrs W in Abington, Pennsylvania, well over twenty miles away. From the printed return slip inside accompanying the check I learned the In Touch Ministry’s Dr Stanley teaches “God’s Word” and shares the gospel with “a lost and hurting world.” How the Hell did this letter end up on my desk?

Ms Keogh was all for destroying the envelope and check. At the very least, I should send it back to Mrs W and probably include a letter explaining how she shouldn’t be wasting her money on such exploitative causes. After cursory research, I learned this same Dr Stanley supported Bush’s invasion of Iraq as being an opportunity for evangelism. "We should offer to serve the war effort in any way possible," he said. "God battles with people who oppose him, who fight against him and his followers." Ms Keogh insisted that the only explanation for the envelope mysteriously appearing on my desk is that God had intervened, that God had not wanted this check delivered, why else would it have been diverted to me, an Atheist. (Ms Keogh asserts she was just being tongue-in-cheek at the time.)

It was resolved. I put the contents back in the envelope and sealed the torn edge with tape. I returned the check to its intended destiny, whether it be virtue or crime. If I knew for certain it was crime, then I would have intervened, but I know no such thing. It is not for me to interfere in the religious belief of others. And here I quote, like everyone else does, from Thomas Jefferson’s remarks in Notes on the State of Virginia: “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” Anyway, if it were my letter on Mrs W’s desk, well, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Recently, Pastor Terry Jones, a leader of a tiny congregation (fifty members) in Florida, the Dove World Outreach Center, reached out to the world with a most belligerent scheme. This small, ignorant, intolerant chauvinist was found strutting across the world stage because he planned to launch the International Burn a Koran Day on the anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center. He had hopes of burning a thousand Korans. Only at the eleventh hour was someone able to talk him out of this extraordinarily asinine plan. There it was, thought Ms Keogh, and idea to divert the attention of the world by burning multiple religious texts drawing the media’s attention away from Pastor Jones’ plans. There it was, thought I, to launch a hoax suggesting I would burn a thousand Bibles and then redirect the media’s attention to these Soliloquies, a marketing ploy. We imagined our plots unfolding.

Just suggesting such a scheme in public would likely grab the attention of the Fox News Network, a fake news network that serves to propagate the most insidious lies and prejudicial interpretations of events in support of fascist myths and corporate schemes. They are notorious for crappy research, a thorough ignorance of history, and the absolute disregard for truth. The cunning Fox News Network, self-aware of their evil intent, cleverly hopes to disarm their critics by preemptively calling everybody else liars.

Still, our scheme was all tongue-in-cheek. While stealing the attention of the Fox News Network would be great fun, the hoax would be too risky of quickly going awry. I would have as much trouble as everyone else countering the falsehoods of Fox. They would persist in their claims that I was serious about burning a thousand Bibles and their audience would want to believe them. Better to not even start.

And here we at last arrive at the true subject of this Soliloquy, my Nation’s religious freedom and all it implies. The Fox News Network still persists on denigrating an imagined mosque at Ground Zero, the site of the World Trade Center before it was destroyed. The
mosque at Ground Zero is not a mosque and is not “at” Ground Zero. Gingrich compares it to Nazis locating near synagogues. He is equating al-Qaida to all of Islam, which would be like equating Nazis to all Germans. We may as well ban Lutheran churches.

Even if it was a mosque and a block closer to Ground Zero, I would not only tolerate it, I would support it. There were Muslim victims in the Towers that fateful day. There was even a mosque in one of the Towers. A mosque in the neighborhood of Ground Zero would speak to the magnanimous spirit of the U.S. and the achievement of the Constitution. A community center for Muslims, which is really what is being established, is about a group of people peaceably going on with the routine of their lives undeterred and not harassed. To prohibit it would prove to the world we’re a bunch of small-minded thugs.

Bruce Bentzman

This essay is the most recent in a series of regular reports from the life and times of Mr Bentzman. If you've any comments or suggestions, the writer would be pleased to hear from you.
Mr Bentzman's collection of poems, "Atheist Grace" is available from Amazon, as are "The Short Stories of B.H.Bentzman"