Chris Collins
The Baker City Herald

So it looks as though leaders of that 50-member Florida church, who

attracted international attention for their plan (canceled late

Thursday) to burn dozens and perhaps hundreds of copies of the Quran,

the Muslim holy book, on Saturday not only are experts in vilifying

Islam, they're also crack military commanders.

Wayne Sapp, an associate pastor at the Dove World Outreach Center (a

place with a singularly misleading name), seems to believe he knows

more about the dangers facing American troops in Afghanistan than does

Gen. David Petraeus.

But then why should Petraeus have any inkling of what's going on over there?

He's only the top U.S. and NATO commander in the war, after all.

Petraeus, in an e-mail he sent to The Associated Press this week,

wrote that if the Florida church does torch those Qurans on the ninth

anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the incident

"would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan - and around

the world - to inflame public opinion and incite violence."

Sapp, though, is skeptical.

"The troops knew the dangers before they went over there," he told USA Today. "They knew the radical element of Islam is there. This is nothing new."

Well, burning the Quran certainly is a new tactic for American churches.

And hey, since those Muslims are already radical, what's the problem with encouraging them to be even more so, right Mr. Sapp?

Although the associate pastor is right in saying that our country's soldiers knew Afghanistan is a dangerous place - and they know it in a way, we suspect, than an associate pastor from Gainesville does not - we don't believe they expected that a church back home would consider engaging in publicity stunts that, in effect, give aid and comfort to the enemy.

Probably the soldiers would prefer that the Dove World Outreach Center, rather than inflame the feelings of those are soldiers are fighting against, would demonstrate their support by mailing care packages with inspirational messages from the congregation and maybe some homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Yet both Sapp and the church's pastor, Terry Jones, seemed, until Thursday, unaffected by the pleas not only from Petraeus, but from sources as disparate as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Vatican, who have also urged the church to demonstrate its distaste for Islam in a manner less likely to further arouse people who are already trying to kill Americans.

"We are convinced this is the direction God wants us to go," Sapp said.

Let us humbly raise the possibility that Sapp and Jones misunderstood their directions.

We just can't accept the notion that God concluded that getting more Americans killed is a fair price to pay in exchange for a pathetic attempt to publicly humiliate Muslims.

It's possible, of course, that the Dove World Outreach Center and its supporters are merely victims, though we hesitate to use that word in this context, of their own insular and comfortable lifestyle.

A lifestyle, by the way, which they enjoy in part due to the sacrifices of the soldiers whose dangers the church leaders so cavalierly dismiss.

Suffice it to say that we haven't heard about any IEDs or mortar attacks in the Gainesville region recently.