August 2010: “Ground-Zero Mosque!”

It’s hype is consuming every possible media outlet: television news anchors, radio talk show schedules, newspaper inkwells, WordPress servers, and email inboxes… ‘Should we or should we not?’  President Obama approves (no surprise). NYC Mayor Bloomberg & the NYT both support the idea (who cares).  But CNN & FOX polls are showing an increasing number of Americans do NOT approve of the idea.  I know that when I first heard it, I had mixed emotions.  Now, a few days later, I believe the following response to be better than my first.

A Careful Response

“The time for a center like this has come because Islam is an American religion,” Daisy Khan, executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, told CNN. “We need to take the 9/11 tragedy and turn it into something very positive.”

I trust you’ll put off passing judgment on my opinion until you’ve heard me out; as well, let’s be careful not to hastily rush into condemning anyone’s motives for this project.  I can’t say that I understand or agree with Ms. Khan’s spin, yet how many times have I not totally justified my own actions.  Therefore, I must be as patient with others as I am with myself.  I see this issue opening more wounds than it is healing, but who am I to condemn a man’s motive?  I agree with what Pastor Charlie Clark tweeted recently: “Over 100 mosques in Manhattan, 1 ind Bap Ch that I know of! That’s a problem! Stop complaining-Help start churches!”  We should be careful to jump to conclusions and to fall into the negative hate-mongering – it doesn’t change anything, nor does it do anybody any good (especially you).

A Constitutional Response

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The Constitution addresses this issue.  Our founding fathers helped frame our nation on the principle of ‘Religious Freedom’ – not necessarily religious purity.  Even though I don’t agree with what Islam and Muslims believe, I know that our nation affords them the freedom, right and privilege to worship the god of their choosing.  In this case, it might be convenient for me to want a law prohibiting  a certain religion from building a mosque in a certain neighborhood – but who’s to say that next time, the laws would prohibit a Christian or a Baptist from building a church in a specific area.  The laws of our land are clear: no law should interfere with the free exercise or establishment of religion.

The right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.  – J. Edgar Hoover

What about when supposed freedoms collide?  I realize that this is a sensitive issue: the placement of the mosque is offensive to many of the families of 9/11 victims.  It is tactless and tasteless, but it is not an issue for the courts or our government.  Technically, neither President Obama nor Mayor Bloomberg need comment on it.  There is no Bill of Rights for bereavement nor indication of rights for the grieving.  The Constitution never guarantees our happiness.  It does NOT protect us from being offended (although some have attempted to take this to court) – this is why the Christian response is so vital.

A Christian Response

Respect vs. Revenge
I just found out that while this controversy rages, a Greek Orthodox church is still waiting on approval to rebuild since 2001.  It is sad that the term ‘equal rights’ has come to mean ‘special rights for certain groups’ (GLBT, Muslims, minorities, etc.)  But that’s still no excuse for us to get all worked up into anxious knots.  Christians are called to respond without vengeance.  As a follower of Jesus Christ, I am committed to trusting God for any feeling of revenge, allowing God to act how He desires upon who He desires.  I am not God, but the attitude of revenge puts me in the place of God.  O LORD God, to whom vengeance belongeth;  Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense , saith the Lord.  Vengeance is mine; I will repay , saith the Lord. (Psalm 94:1; Hebrews 10:30; Romans 12:19)

Grace vs. Justice
I find that most of the people interviewed on the news outlets and most of the people I talk to have this to say: “They don’t deserve it.”  Most Christians appreciate that Christ offers them an everlasting time-line of mercy and grace, but few reciprocate that mercy and grace to others.  We ought to love justice – but not only when it comes to others.  God isn’t fair – He’s better.  For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations. (Psalm 100:5)

Love vs. Hate
Not only did Jesus command us to ‘love thy neighbor‘ but also to ‘love your enemies‘ (Luke 6:27, 35).  This is perhaps the greatest rule in responding to Muslims, especially in this debate.  This response is distinctly Christian: showing more love than you have been shown.  If you don’t like it that the mosque is within three blocks of Ground Zero, then how far should it be?  Why stop there?  I hear many so-called Christians blurting that we should ‘send them back where they came from.’  Perhaps Providence has brought them here to hear the Gospel and to be eternally saved.

I am a student of the Bible & of politics.  This is my heart-felt opinion. What’s yours?