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Dirty Qur'ans, Dusty Bibles

If Leviticus or Jude suddenly disappeared from Scripture, would we notice?
2005This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

Surely the cause of May's riots in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, and India is more complex than a brief phrase in Newsweek. Allegations of Qur'an desecration by U.S. military officials and interrogators have often been reported since 9/11 (though almost all remain unconfirmed), but without the violent reaction that left at least 15 people dead.

Still, Newsweek's now-retracted report that Guantanamo Bay "interrogators, in an attempt to rattle suspects, flushed a Qur'an down a toilet" left the Muslim world enraged. The riots, in turn, left Americans perplexed and disdainful. Even for those of us who love our own sacred book, it is beyond comprehension. We winced when we heard that Palestinians holed up in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity in 2002 had used Bibles as toilet paper. But we didn't riot.

As writer Dale Hanson Bourke noted, "I toss my Bible into the car pretty much like I toss other books. I set it on the floor during Bible studies and drop it occasionally off my lap without much guilt." And that's from an evangelical whose Bible isn't simply sitting on the shelf.

Too often we think that the greatest threat to Scripture is an outright ban. Thus we are quick to rally to the woman fighting for a JOHN316 personalized license plate and the parent or child fighting to read a Bible passage in class. When a Canadian hospital removed Bibles from its rooms, citing infection control, some pastors decried the move as censorship.

We squirm when Scripture is ridiculed: Some of the most frequently quoted Scriptures in newspaper letters-to-the-editor pages are Levitical laws calling for capital punishment against rebellious sons and those who work on the Sabbath. (These letters are frequently drawn from a widely circulated e-mail ...

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