Religous Freedom and Location

I have certain opinions about the Mosque being built in NYC near Ground Zero, and as a religious leader in the United States I have opportunity and perhaps obligation to share those thoughts.  Here they are.

  • Historically: This is not a new concept or controversy.  At Auschwitz there has been conflict between Catholics and Jews about religious imagery at former concentration camp.  Is it right to have crosses at a place where thousands of Jews were killed through genocide and the church was part of those acts?  If as a Christian, I say, “Yes.”  Why?  Do I believe that Catholic and German churches of the 1930-40’s did not represent truly and fully what Christianity believes and lives?  Yes.  How can I make such an audacious claim?  I just do.  What are the differences between Auschwitz and Ground Zero?
  • Legally: I believe that government needs to have limited involvement in telling religious institutions where to build their structures.  Those structures can benefit communities when working in partnership, but too often governments can be antagonistic to local religious institutions.  How many churches have had their ministries changed by government regulations.  The mosque in NYC seems to be following the laws thus local government needs to follow the law.  The United States becomes less safe to live when laws are rewritten or rejected by public whim, that is mob rule.
  • Philosophically: The war on terror was not a war against Islam.  President Bush was very clear that Islam was not the enemy, but radical Islam.  Today, every Muslim seems to be an extremist.  Why the paranoia?  When the towers fell the whole world, excluding the Taliban, was American and that includes 1.5 billion Muslims.  So, why a decade later do we feel the compulsion to exclude.  America is not a Christian country.  America is a country where all are welcome to build a better life whether you come from Western or Eastern Hemisphere of the world.  I am a pastor and I hope for less mosques in the world, because I think the message of Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection is transformational.  However, it is not the role of governement to make that change.  It is the role of Christians who live lives that display transformation, healing, and hope.  When Christians are reduced to fear then the power of the cross is diminished.  Our leaders lack courage today, so I am drawn to my knees to pray for God to raise new leaders to rise up and speak prophetically to a country fearful, self indulged, and hopeless country.  May we speak grace, serving, and hope…may we embody the best of what it means to be a Christian.
  • Politically: Freedom.  The war on terror is against those folks who deny freedom.  I have great disdain for madrassas, the Taliban, and Saudi Arabia who practice a faith that denies people ways to express their faith.  The rhetoric of the United States is close to harmonizing with these countries, are we not better?
  • Spiritually: That mosque has nothing to do with my life.  There is plenty enough evil where I live.  There are gangs, poverty, homelessness, and broken families…my mission field is here.  So, refocus and work on your own mission field where you life matters…so, I begin practicing what I preach. 
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