RHETA GRIMSLEY JOHNSON: More than fried chicken motivated Florida's would-be book burner

FISHTRAP HOLLOW – I’ve spent the past few days being grateful that Florida’s pistol-packing Pentecostal wasn’t from Mississippi, where we generally save our book-burning matches for insidious works by Mark Twain and John Steinbeck.
It would have been all we needed, having a native nutcase making international waves, right after we’ve been declared the fattest state in the entire nation. One’s image, shaky to begin with, can take only so much.
I’d really like to ride the bandwagon decrying the media for paying so much attention to a preacher whose flock is smaller than the one on Brokeback Mountain after the shepherds got distracted, but I cannot. Not in good conscience.
Many slow Sundays as the only reporter in Mississippi’s United Press International office, I’ve vaulted a non-story to stardom – or at least the front page of The Grenada Star – just because I was hired to type at least six stories before closing down the bureau.
I imagine Brother Terry Jones shocked himself by all the attention his latest stupid ploy generated. It’ll take him at least a month to top himself. For a man who craves the spotlight and apparently can’t afford a shave, time is of the essence.
Book burners always have one thing in common: They don’t read books, especially the ones they want to burn. They do what we used to do as pimply 13-year-olds when The National Geographic arrived. They seek out the “dirty parts.”
Jones admitted that he’d never looked at the Koran he planned to torch. That’s a blind date of a book-burning, but not that unusual.
In 1984 in Brandon – the last time I personally covered a book-burning event – a group of Primitive Baptists convened to get a teacher fired who had allowed Stephen King’s “Cujo” in the school library. And once the alarm was sounded over that shaggy dog, other suspicious books were found.
I went to the meeting and watched as the school board attorney tried to tell the congregation that he would look at their list of offensive books, including Steinbeck’s “The Red Pony,” and report to his employers. But, he said, “Total censorship is out of the question.”
He was asked to leave the meeting.
Anyhow, I was glad that the reverend in question this time was from somewhere else – Florida by way of Germany. In Germany, Terry and his second wife had been accused by church members of financial improprieties. A German court once fined Jones for falsely claiming the title of doctor.
It’s not hard to figure what motivates this preacher, and it ain’t fried chicken.
A lot of folks think any publicity is OK so long as the papers spell your name right. In this case, I’m hoping everyone gets the dateline right. And it’s not, for once, thank goodness, Mississippi.
Rheta Grimsley Johnson is a syndicated columnist who lives in the Iuka vicinity. Contact her at Iuka, MS 38852.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson

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