Since it’s been several days since that whole business with the proposed mosque at Ground Zero hit, the Christian blogosphere has lit up with all kinds of opinoins. As usual, I’ve waited a few days to think about the situation before I spoke up.
As with most controversies, I have my gut instincts about it. But the realities are much more complicated than we’d like them to be. People are fired up and ready to come to fisticuffs over this thing.
Here’s what I’ve come up with in favor of and against the so called “Islamic Center.”
Pro: Two Blocks from Ground Zero Isn’t Ground Zero
I understand that building a mosque or “Islamic Center” two blocks from Ground Zero is offensive to a lot of people. Ground Zero is sacred. That said, I have to ask just how far does the “sacredness” of Ground Zero extend? There’s already a building project at Ground Zero. Two blocks away from that site probably isn’t even in view of Ground Zero. If two blocks away is inappropriate, what distance is acceptable? Of course, some people would answer, “Back where they came from.”
Con: The Islamic Center Will Be Sacred Ground
Something that not too many people are discussing is the idea that Muslims build mosques on sites that they feel they have “conquered.” You could say the same is true for Christians too. More Christian Soldiers = more churches. However with jihad being the point of the WTC attacks, it makes you wonder just what is the real, non-politically correct significance of the mosque.
Has anyone else noticed the interchangeable use of the term “Islamic Center” instead of “mosque?” I don’t know what an “Islamic Center” is, but I think it’s the same as a Christian “Worship Center.” It’s just a hip new word to disguise the fact that it is indeed a “church” or “mosque.”
At this point in the conversation, someone will chime in by saying, “We need to stop perpetuating the stereotype that all Muslims want to change and / or conquer America.”
No, silly billy! We don’t need to stop perpetuating that stereotype. Of course most Muslims are lovely, gracious people, but they do want to change America. They aren’t so different from Evangelical Christians and their culture war. The Muslims are even starting to become a bit more like Evangelicals these days. In my own city there’s a billboard advertising for Islam. Every faith, political party, ideology, and philosophy, no matter how peaceful and lovey-dovey wants to mold the world in its image. To say that Muslims don’t want to change the world is to say they don’t have beliefs worth changing the world for.
Pro: We Should Be More Tolerant
Yeah, there’s that whole thing Jesus talked about about loving our enemies. And the fact is that as Christians, our allegience is to the Kingdom of God, not the Kingdom of America. These were the things that Rachel Held Evans reminded her readers of this week. I respect her opinion, and wholeheartedly admire her allegience to the teachings of Jesus, regardless of the cost. As Christians, we’re going to have to learn to co-exist with the Muslims that are here (along with the Mexicans, Asians, Hindus, Indians, Atheists, and everyone else.) And as Americans, we have to come to terms with the fact that we really don’t have any good legal reason to not let the mosque be built. All that stuff about freedom of religion kind of loses its punch if we just don’t let Muslims build a mosque.
Con: There is a Huge Double Standard Here
Actually, there are three double standards here.
I’m all for loving thy neighbor as much as you are. But let’s be honest. Americans are told way more often than anyone else that we need to try to “understand” our enemies. Maybe the people behind the mosque can try to understand the 70% of Americans who think it’s in bad taste.
The second double standard is the fact that a Greek Orthodox church was denied a permit to rebuild a church that already existed near Ground Zero. I don’t know, but something seems fishy, like this isn’t all about religious freedom. Last I checked, no one was particularly angry with the Greek Orthodox guys.
Lastly, we’ve got a real double standard about which enemies we are trying to “understand” and be loving towards. I don’t see anyone trying to understand Fred Phelps’ feelings or give him a hug, and he hasn’t even blown up a building. I don’t think people have ever comprehended the full implications of what it means to love your enemies. The cost is much higher than a mosque. Which isn’t to say that we shouldn’t be trying. But even if we think we’ve done our good deed for Jesus by letting that mosque get built, we still don’t have a clue about what it means to love our enemies.
Which brings me to think of this…
Con: This Isn’t Helping Ordinary Muslims
When a New York cabbie gets stabbed repeatedly because he’s a Muslim, you know tensions are hot. Now, I’m not trying to throw cold water on loving your enemies. But since when did “love” equal “always give people what they want”? God doesn’t do that with me. You don’t do it with your kids. If Christians always gave people what they wanted because we “love” them, we’d probably shut up about Jesus, quit trying to making disciples, and mind our own dang business. Loving people is sometimes giving them what they don’t want, or taking away something they want that’s not good for them.
The fact is, people don’t know what’s good for them half the time. The people who are pushing for the mosque to be built aren’t going to be the ones to pay the price when people fail to love their enemies when they get into a cab.
There are already dozens of mosques in NYC. That’s why I don’t think this mosque is just about religious freedom. If it were, think about all the goodwill that would be engendered toward Muslims if the builders realized that most Americans would appreciate it being moved a few blocks away. Then, we could all hug it out.
Perhaps we’re loving the peacenik Muslim Americans more by not letting the mosque be built. Or maybe we’re giving in to our over-sensitive and selfish sides. Or maybe we just have nothing to say about it. What do you think? Is the future of America at stake? Or are we obligated to love our enemies by giving them what they want?