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(Stephanie McGehee/Reuters)
(Stephanie McGehee/Reuters)

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If you're torching scriptures, consider the Bible Add to ...

What is it with white people and book burning?

I realize that's quite an inflammatory (pun intended) statement, but it deserves some exploration, regarding recent events down in Florida, where suntan lotion, fundamentalism and lighter fluid seem to go hand in hand.

Here's something to ponder in the backdraft of the Florida bonfire enthusiasts' now-fizzled threats to torch copies of the Koran: Looking at the burning of religious books objectively, if that's possible, one could theoretically come to the conclusion that, at least up here in Canada, it would be fairer to burn the Bible.

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Instances of insane book burning are reminiscent of the arrival of the Catholic Church into Central America in the mid-1500s.


Before crucifying me for saying so, understand I make this supposition on the sheer logic of history.

Look at how native people have been treated in the more than 500 years of Christian colonization.

I am, of course, speaking of the physical, sexual and emotional abuse perpetrated by church-run residential schools, smallpox-carrying Jesuit missionaries, the banning of sun dances and potlatches because they lured aboriginal peoples away from Christianity, and so on.

It seems to me more far more damage has been done to natives by people following the gospels than by any believing in the Koran. To rework Muhammad Ali's famous comment about refusing to fight in Vietnam, I've got no quarrel with Muslims. No Muslim ever beat me up for speaking my own language.

Yes, I understand there are numerous Muslim zealots out there committing atrocities in the name of God, but over here, we're much more familiar with the Christian zealots.

To a native person, in fact, instances of insane book burning are reminiscent of the arrival of the Catholic Church into Central America in the mid-1500s: As the Spanish were slicing and dicing their way across the Yucatan, they made it a regular practice to burn all the Mayan manuscripts they came across, saying they were the work of the Devil.

As a result, only a handful of those texts exist today - an entire cultural library willingly wiped out of existence, in the name of God. Spoiler alert: I don't think God actually had much to do with that decision.

If it's the same God I was brought up to respect, in fact, it probably pissed Him off, as it likely does when Florida's Pastor Terry Jones blames his bad behaviour on Him. (Maybe I'll go kick my left-handed next-door neighbour in the leg this afternoon and say God made me do it - after all, ignorant superstitious people used to think southpaws were evil too.)

I feel it should be mentioned that I'm not anti-Bible by any means. At home on my shelf, I have a Bible along with the Bhagavad Gita, the Tibetan Book of the Dead and several Beatles albums that survived the great "We're bigger than Jesus" burnings of 1966. Some of my best friends and relatives are Christians. I have one that cleans my house twice a month. Jesus even had a cameo in my last novel.

And the one thing I do remember from Sunday School is what I believe is called the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." So, if he believes so surely in the Good Book, I wonder if Rev. Jones would also accept the potential burning of Bibles. A does seem to follow B in that scenario.

I am not exactly sure what Rev. Jones thought he would achieve if he had gone ahead with his Koran-kebab weekend BBQ.

From what I understand, God and the Bible are supposed to bring people together, not drive them apart. Maybe I misunderstood the bigger picture, sitting there between the pews.

I was always led to believe that books aren't evil; only people are. I guess it's just more convenient to burn books. I read somewhere that burning people has been made illegal, although, of course, there were a couple of eras when it was a favourite Christian pastime.

I wonder if Pastor Jones has even read the Koran. I haven't, but from what I've heard, it's not that different from the Bible. Most religions teach the same message; they just use different textbooks.

And by pretty much any of their guidelines, it's guys like Rev. Jones who give God a bad name.

Guest columnist Drew Hayden Taylor is a playwright and filmmaker and the author of a new novel, Motorcycles and Sweetgrass . He lives on the Curve Lake First Nation in Central Ontario.

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