In the wake of the decision by a group Muslims in New York city to built a “community center” across from “Ground Zero” (the site of the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001), I find, yet again, that I am under fire by my fellow Christians and political conservatives. Some say I am losing or betraying my Christian faith. Others say I am being un-American. This all because I am not willing to say that they, Muslims, can not build their “community center” or mosque or a holy building on private property that border “Ground Zero”. So I am writing this to set the record straight about my take on the issue as an American and a Christian.
As to the “Ground Zero Mosque” as it is being called, I can not come up with a legal, note that word – legal, argument based on the current laws of the city of New York, state of New York, or United States of America to prevent the construction of said building. There may very well be a legitimate legal argument that I am not aware of, but, so far, no one has articulated one. On the other hand, I believe that the Imam, who is heading up the project, Feisal Rauf , has shown questionable judgement in wanted to build a his religious building at the site of an attack on the United States by Muslims. Yes, I admit that the Muslims who carried out the attacks on September 11th, 2001 were radical fanatics (and frankly more politically motivated than religiously as far as I can tell), but many American’s don’t make a distinction between the Islamic fanatics and regular everyday Muslims. (That is an education issue that will not be solved by building an Islamic community center or mosque at “Ground Zero”.) But, to be completely honest, I have to wonder if the creator’s of this building true underlying motivations are really about reconciliation and peace and education. If that were true, wouldn’t Feisal Rauf be willing to move his project rather than pour salt in still unhealed wounds of 9/11, especially after seeing the division and anger that this project is causing? Is there something to the idea that this is equivalent to planting a flag on ground that has conquered? Is this an attempt to force America to go to war with Islam? I can’t truly, say, but it does make me wonder.
And on the subject of this same Feisal Rauf telling America they need to be Sharia Law compliant, which seems to have become intermixed with the “Ground Zero Mosque” issue, I say “No”. (I see these as separated issues.) This is the same answer I give to the Christians who wish to install a Christian theocracy in American. If you want to live in a country that has enacted Sharia Law as the law of the land, then move to one. There are plenty of them in the world such as Saudi Arabia and Iran. America was founded as a nation of freedom, which, like it or not, includes religious freedom for all faiths. As long as those faiths are practiced within the bounds of the laws of the localities, states, and the United States of American (i.e., if you stone a women to death for committing adultery, you will be sent to prison for murder whether it is okay in your religious belief system or not.) And becoming Sharia Law compliant would violate the United States Constitution as well as many of the core concepts at the heart of this nation.
Now as a Christian how am I supposed to react? Well, I guess if I take the example of many of my fellow Christians, I am supposed to get mad and lobby my government representatives and protest with signs and condemn Islam, etc. And yet, I look at the life of Jesus, and I don’t see it. What I do see is:
Jesus told us to love and pray for our enemies.
Jesus told us to turn the other cheek when attacked.
Jesus told us to love our neighbors as ourselves.
I don’t remember reading about Jesus lobbying the religious and political bodies to fix things. I don’t remember Jesus telling to us take up signs and protest when I don’t agree with what someone wants or what someone is doing. And I don’t remember Jesus telling me, or showing me through example, to use the force of law to spread his message via forcing people to behave a particular way. Laws don’t change hearts, and God has made it clear he is about what your believe in your heart not how you behave. (Although, your behavior should proceed from what you believe.)
Unfortunately, surveys have shown over and over again some of the most patriotic Americans are Evangelical Christians. These are people who have being convinced of the lie that America is a Christian nation. These are people who believe that defending there faith includes defending America. Well, I am sorry to be the one to break it to you, but America is not a Christian nation, and defending America is not defending Christianity.
America is not a magical replacement for Israel.
America was not founded as a Christian nation. (Although the first settlers in what has become the United States of America were Christians seeking freedom from religious oppression.)
Again America is, at least for the time being, a nation of freedom, which includes religious freedom for all faiths including but not exclusive to: Christianity, Judaism, Scientology, Satanism, Atheism, Wicca, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Pastafarians, and those who worship of the color purple.
Now let me be clear, I am not a universalist. I believe in the exclusivity of Christianity. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the only path to salvation. But I also believe in freewill, which means that, whether I like it or not, you can believe what you want. I will pray for those who don’t know Jesus (and those who do.) I will try very hard love those who don’t know Jesus (and those who do.) And when opportunity presents itself, I will share the Gospel of Jesus with those who don’t know Jesus. But I will not try and force people to “believe” in Jesus through fear, force of law, or violence. And I will stand against attempts by any religious groups to install a Theocracy in America, Christian or Islamic or otherwise.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not happy about the “Ground Zero Mosque” or community center or whatever they are saying it is being built. And I question the motivation of Feisal Rauf related to this project, but I don’t see a legal means to stop it. The city of New York could change the zoning of the propriety in question, or the state of New York could pass a new law to prevent the building of this “community center” or mosque, if they really wanted to. (Either of which would not violate the Constitution because not having this one building will not prevent Muslims from practicing there religion.)
I will pray for all those involved in this “Ground Zero Mosque” frenzy. But I am not going to participate in the angry protests and media fueled fervor around this issue outside of this post. (Honestly, I expect that once the media circus dies down around this issues, the city and/or state of New York will quietly make this issue go away; but only time will tell.)
So in the end, am I betraying my faith or being un-American? No, I would say I am doing my best to represent both in the difficult times in which we live.