In the past weeks, we have heard everything from: pastors having Koran burning ceremonies (source: James-Michael Smith), to Christians being up in arms about an Islamic Cultural Center being built near “Ground Zero” (source: Chad Holtz). I can understand why fear has gripped many within the American church and why some concerns about ‘radical Islam’ exist, but lets make sure that we do not characterize all of a religion based on a single sect. I wonder, if you are in the frustrated camp about the mosque, if you share the equal concern for ‘radical “Christianity”‘ in the worst sense? Like the Baptist church that holds signs saying: “God hates Fags” or those who bomb abortion clinics? My belief is that these issues arise from hyper-fundamentalist-literalistic readings of the Bible (and some demonic influence). I think we need to recognize that our camp (although I would personally say that those I have just mentioned are not true Christians [which would be what most Muslims would say about the terrorists]) has similar types of radicals. Ok, granted that they have not done quite what a few terrorist Muslims have done. Nevertheless, radical Islam, like radical fundamentalist (pseudo) Christianity, is only a slim minority and should not be the brush we paint the whole of either group with.
My second thought is that if we were to take the Bible fully literally without a robust exegetical/ theological/contextual approach to it, there are many acts of ‘terrorism’ within its pages as well; especially in the Old Testament (I am not saying that the Bible has terrorism, but could ‘appear’ to contain such is our interpretive method is flawed!). But, of course we understand the flow of the biblical narrative and have a theological understanding, which allows for such nuances. Think about this: if a Muslim or anyone for that matter were to pick up a Bible and simply read ‘this text and that one,’ we Christians could be accused of supporting many things that we simply do not. I think the same is true of peaceful Muslims (which make up the largest sect of the faith). They too, understand their ‘revelation’ through the lens of a theological grid rather than the selective literalism that I see many of my Christian friends applying to their sacred text. Perhaps if more Christians had better exegetical methods for approaching the Bible, then maybe many would not jump too quickly to unfair fundamentalist based conclusions about the Koran. I think we need to be fair in that regard and not allow the minority (terrorists) to overwhelm the majority (peaceful Muslims).
Finally, this current issue is about religious freedom… THAT’S IT. If you value your freedom to worship anywhere in the USA, we cannot condemn a peaceful group of Muslims for doing the same. They acquired property and it is their constitutional right to hold religious gatherings wherever they want to. And, I am sure that they will do many good things for that portion of the City of New York. We must ask ourselves questions about how this little issue makes the church look to the world… it makes us look like fear-driven religious bigots… it damages the mission of God and our influence towards nonbelievers.
If you support the Islamic Cultural Center, I invite you to join this group that a Facebook friend recently started!