There have been many headlines the past week or so regarding the construction of a mosque near the site of the 9/11 attacks in New York City. It’s kicked up quite a dust storm of controversy. And it’s caused me to reflect quite a bit.
The past few days I’ve wondered what a wise response might be to the situation. I’ve tried to listen well, read up on all the information and think critically – and Christianly – regarding the issue at hand. I’ve wondered what a proper response would be – not as an American, not as a American Christian, not as a Republican or Democrat, not as a liberal or a conservative, but as a follower of Jesus and who seeks to honor Christ in the way I live and think and act and speak.
The issue is such an emotional issue that if we’re not careful we can allow our passion to get the most of us.
What has caused the most controversy are the comments of President Obama recently at a White House Ramadan dinner, where he said:
“As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances.”
First of all, let me strongly and clearly state that I do believe we need to all make sure that we are not lumping all hateful Islamic terrorists in the same category with all Muslims And if Muslim/American relations are to be improved (as I think they must be) it would be best if we befriended Muslims first. This doesn’t happen through policy in Washington, but by action in your – in my – local community.
Let me further say to answer what seems to be the key critical question and issue of: Is building a mosque at Ground Zero the wisest thing to do?
I think clearly most Americians (as the polls indicate) think no it is not!
Yes,many on the political left have argued that Americans and particular Christians, we should be more “tolerant” on this issue. But that knife cuts both ways.
I also wish that the Islamic community in New York City would also be “tolerant” of the situation, realizing how volatile, symbolic and emotional this area of the U.S. is and what it means to Americans. It’s a lightning rod of American ideology. Our lives changed forever on that fateful day. And quite frankly, not enough time has gone by for the American people to truly heal from such a horrendous experience of September 11, 2001.
For more on this point and other related thoughts, check out this link:
Pamela Taylor is a moderate Muslim and her editoiral I believe is worth reading on this point.
Now the more important question practically speaking needs to be: Could a compromise be struck? This is my hope and prayer. Could the mosque be built in Manhattan 20 or 25 blocks away from Ground Zero, rather than just two? Wouldn’t it be an act of tolerance by the Islamic community to voluntarily choose to back away from this situation with some perspective and be willing to move it a further distance away?
However, as a Christian, I have to take seriously Jesus’ teaching of peace and love. Christianity is about making peace. Jesus Christ said: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God" Christians should be more eager to work towards peace with the religion of Islam, and not placing the responsibility of being "first peacemakers" upon the Muslims. That is wrong.
Times of hardship and tension have often been ideal opportunities for demonstrating the truths of our faith. Regardless of our personal political beliefs or the outcome of this scenario, Jesus did not come as a political revolutionary but as one bearing a message of transcendent spiritual truth. Part of his example, although unconventional and unpopular in the wider pop-culture, was a mandate to “love our neighbors,” to “love our enemies,” and to “pray for those who persecute us.”
For those of us who consider ourselves Christians, we’re called to love our neighbor as yourself. But it gets more specific than that. Our call is care for the Triad close to the heart of God: the alien, the orphan and the widow. What does it mean for us to care for those who are foreigners, immigrants, those non-citizens in the U.S and abroad? I believe this includes Muslims, yes even Muslims at Ground Zero in mosques.
I know some reading this will disagree. Some my object asking, “Does this mean I am abandoning my spiritual or moral positions in favor of religious pluralism?” Absolutely not. I do not pretend that I see the Muslim faith and Christian faith as compatible and I do not rescind that I believe the best hope for healing in our communities is found solely in the way, the truth and the life of Jesus Christ. Political correctness aside, I am not ashamed to say this.
But still importantly, and much related to this is to also kind of go along with what Pamela K. Taylor writes in the link above, one of the most important contributions her article makes is how this debate is shaping the perspectives that the rest of the Muslim world has on Christians in America. Christian missiologists should take heed.
No doubt, the situation is quite complex. I’ve not tried to over-simplify the issue at hand, but simply force us to look at the situation critically – as much with our heads as with our hearts.
May the Lord give us wisdom and sensitivity as we discuss these matters.
Oh, on a more lighter note, but still an effective response to consider, check out the following article and post: