The Proposed Muslim Mosque and the Bigger Gospel Picture

Ok…I am wading into treacherous territory with this post but since it is my blog, I can do that.  By now, everyone is aware of the proposed construction of a Mosque for the Muslim community near ground zero.  Opinions vary in support or opposition, and in the degree of civility (or lack of).  But for all the Christians living in America, are we thinking about this issue through the lens of the gospel…the lens of biblical witness?  My thoughts also have to do with the wider issue of immigration.

Several things come to mind as I reflect on the biblical witness, on what God is doing in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  First, the land is God’s land and it has always been.  The notion that there is American land, Mexican land, Canadian land, etc… must be tempered by the fact that ultimately all of creation belongs to God, for it exists by the will of God alone.  Second, Christians ought to read what the Bible says about treatment of the aliens and foreigners living among God’s people and then – and only then – begin deciding how we ought to respond to the reality of Muslims and other immigrants (legal and illegal) living amongst us.  As an Evangelist/Preacher, I have heard far too many Christians offer a response to this issue that is rooted in fear and national politics rather than gospel and biblical witness.  Surely we hinder God’s will when our actions are rooted in fear (rather than faith) and national politics (rather than gospel/biblical witness)…and this is a scandal since it is we who also profess the claim of truth and salvation in regards to God.  Third, rather than being fearful of Muslims and other immigrants living among us, we ought to see their presence as a missional opportunity.  If we take our faith seriously, we are instructed to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” (Matt 28.19, NRSV).  Typically this assumes the sending of missionaries to other lands of the world for the mission of God.  However, now God is bringing those from other lands of the world into our midst.  What shall we do?  Shall we complain because of some extra hardships the presence of the alien and foreigner may place upon us?  Shall we protest because of the danger some may potentially pose?  Or shall we live by faith in God, rooted in the gospel/biblical witness and teach them to become disciples of the One – Jesus Christ – to whom we believe is the way, truth, and life (cf. Jn 14.6)?

Of course, the answer to that last question presumes we are living as disciples of Jesus Christ ourselves.  And yet, the comments I hear by many professing Christians does not bear witness to a life of discipleship.

I don’t know what the best solution is to the proposed construction of a Muslim Mosque near ground zero (or the larger issue of immigration).  I understand the sensitive nature that such a proposal presents to the families of those victims who were murdered on 9/11.  However, I do know this: we who claim to be Christians cannot allow national politics to inform our faith.  Furthermore, if we take the gospel and biblical witness seriously, we must conclude that the world will not be a better place if this issue is resolved through national politics and fear.  And so we continue to pray that our Father’s will be done here on earth as it is done in heaven (cf.  Matt 6.10).

Feel free to leave your comment(s) if you like but please remember to keep them civil.  Uncivil and/or slanderous comments will be edited out.

10 responses to “The Proposed Muslim Mosque and the Bigger Gospel Picture

  1. Good to see you blog on this topic. Citing the feelings of families of 9/11 victims seems particularly worrisome to me, as it leaves the impression they present a unified front. In fact, there are 9/11 families that support the effort to build the community center. What should prevail are the rights to private property and free speech, guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Anything else and we are no better than those Muslim nations we so easily criticize.

  2. Thanks for the clarification regarding the varied views and feelings among the families of 9/11 victims. That is certain important for everyone to keep in mind. My mentioning of these families was simply to show that I am not unaware of the great grief and disappointment they continue to suffer, having lost a loved one to such violence.

  3. i believe the construction of this mosque, in light of the current response, is unwise at best (hurtful, inconsiderate, and rude at worst). but i don’t believe, as christians, our response is to protest, argue, complain, and whine about what others do that might be or seem unloving or unkind. and certainly our response should not be to return hurt for hurt and uncaring for uncaring. i can’t imagine a Jesus who would protest this build (though i’ll admit i’m merely imagining and can’t make that statement with absolute certainty).

    the reaction of christians, though, bothers me a great deal more than does the intentions of muslims to build a community learning center and place of worship.

    if only they’d allow some good mom to enter the situation on the national scene, i’m sure she’d know just what to say:

    http://jamesbrett.wordpress.com/2010/08/18/a-mothers-response-to-the-ground-zero-controversy/

    • James,

      Thanks for the link. The post is very well said. For those Christians who are hoping for a government intervention in preventing the mosque being built as planned, I do wonder if they have given thought to what sort of precedence that would set…do they realize that the government telling one religious community today where it can and cannot build a meeting place could very well be the government telling Christians tomorrow where they can and cannot build meeting places.

      Grace and peace,

      Rex

  4. Rex, I think we’ve both been wrestling with the some of the same thoughts this week:)! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Sober-minded and Christ-like in my estimation.

    You may also be interested in a recent editorial entitled, “Wisdom Lacking on All Sides in Ground Zero Mosque Affair,” from Pamela K. Taylor, a moderate Muslim that I believe is worth reading. This post was part of the On Faith series that is hosted by the Washington Post. To kind of go along with what you’ve written, 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.

    May the Lord give us wisdom and sensitivity as we discuss these matters.

    Also, thanks to James for the link to the a mother’s response to the ground zero controversy….thought it was pretty good!

    Robert Prater

    • Robert,

      Thank you for your comment and referencing of that article by Pamela K. Taylor. I would like to read it…do you have a link?

      One of the things Dr. Huffard at HUGSR (who has extensive mission experience among Muslim communities) always told us is that Muslims do not understand American separation between church and state. Therefore no matter how much the American Christian says that the actions of the American government are the actions of the state and not the church, the Muslim still understands them to be the actions of Christians…of the church. But there is so much that both sides do not understand about the other that until each side has a better understanding (which seems almost impossible), we will continue to talk past each other…and we know, just as with a troubled marriage, when two parties fail to understand the other and simply talk (act) past the other, it will only end in disaterous results for both sides.

      Grace and peace,

      Rex

  5. Good questions about the Mosque. My first visceral reaction was to oppose it, but that reaction was also formed by a presentation that had a distinct political spin, I have since learned.
    I am finding the editorial to be published Sept 10 in Commonweal, sent to me by Fr. Patrick Reardon and Jim Forrest of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship to be helpful, and in line with what brother Rex has put forward.

    http://www.commonwealmagazine.org http://www.commonwealmagazine.org

    • Ben,

      Like you, I was first opposed to the building of the Mosque that close to ground zero. Now I would say I am indifferent, although I do question wisdom behind to decision to build it there given the sensitive nature of ground zero and what it represents.

      However, my main concern now is the witness (or lack of) that Christians opposing the Mosque construction. Frankly, I think much of the protest reveals a deeper issue of concern…that for more and more Christians, fear and national politics inform their understanding and practice of the Christian faith.

      Grace and peace,

      Rex

  6. Robert,

    Thanks for the link…it is a really good article.

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