Killing a human being is worse than burning a book, even a holy book. A holy book may contain the words of God, but a human being reflects the image of God. Killing a human being is a worse blasphemy against God than destroying the book of God’s words, because the book can be reconstructed. Every human being is unique and irreplaceable.
James, who grew up in the same house with Jesus, Mary, and Joseph said that cursing or slandering a human being is the same as blasphemy. He said it is hypocrisy to praise God with one’s tongue and then use the same tongue to curse a human being who is made in the image of God.
King Jehoiakim burned a scroll containing the words God had given his prophet Jeremiah. Jehoiakim brought judgment on himself, but Jeremiah and his friends felt no need to be the agents of God’s vengeance. They simply made a new copy of the scroll. (See Jeremiah chapter 36.)
It is a serious offense to deface a book believed to contain God’s words. But devout believers like Jeremiah know that God can defend and preserve his own book.
There is one case of book burning in the Bible; in Acts 19:19 we learn of those who had once practiced black magic burning their books of spells after they renounced their former superstitions. They were not burning holy books of other people, they were burning their own books that now represented destructive practices. It is more like people burning their collection of pornography today.
In the same chapter in Acts, Paul was falsely accused of blaspheming the local goddess. One of the practitioners of Artimis worship defended the apostles saying, “These men have neither plundered temples nor blasphemed our goddess.” Paul had his own beliefs and he defended them with reason and dialogue–but he did not resort to violence, ridicule, or disrespectful behavior.
The misguided pastor in Florida has been persuaded that burning the holy book of Islam would serve no good purpose. But now the family of a former attorney plans to have its own Koran-burning ceremony.
These are the same people who rejoice and celebrate when soldiers die serving their country; so the thought that fanatics will kill people in response to their offense wouldn’t bother them. I wish the media would ignore them, but since that’s not likely, the rest of us can speak up in defense of tolerance and respect.