Sultan Ahmad I Mosque, Kuantan, Pahang, Malaysia: built 1991-1993 [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]
[3-25-07; edited and abridged significantly on 8-8-16]
I don’t see such an act as any different than, say, if a Buddhist neighbor of mine had their house burned down, that the neighborhood chipped in to help. Doing this doesn’t necessarily imply religious agreement or compromise. The implausibility of the contrary position can be shown by a number of reductio ad absurdum arguments:
If you are a plumber and a Muslim calls you to fix their toilet at the mosque, you refuse because that would mean you are supporting the religion of Islam? If you put in windows or do roofing, you refuse to work on any mosque or synagogue or Buddhist temple, on grounds that you are thereby helping people go to hell? How about if you are a fireman, and the local mosque is burning down. You say, “let it burn; that way people won’t go to hell”?
Let’s make it even simpler. The local mosque sponsors a night where Christians and Muslims can get to know each other and each other’s religion better. You won’t go because setting foot in the mosque means you support Islam, even though you are going there to explain and share your Christian faith?
The apostle Paul went into the synagogues and argued (apologetics) and proclaimed the Gospel. Why should we not go into a mosque and do so? I did this myself one night, in a Christian-Muslim group discussion. I defended Christianity with a Protestant friend of mine. I was also very friendly with the Muslims. They’re not my enemies. They are fellow human beings in need of salvation like everyone else.
My friend, Jim Scott IV added:
Historically in the really really old days the Church did try as much as possible to limit the proliferation of non-Catholic/Christian houses of worship but even then they allowed some of them to be built and this was way before Vatican II. In fact in once case a local bishop seized a Jewish Shul from the local Jews and transformed it into a Church and the pope himself forced the bishop to fork over the money to build the Jews a new Shul. So this is not new or unreasonable or unbiblical.
Helping to build a place of worship is not directly participating in any evil, and there is truth and falsehood in virtually any religion. It’s not pure evil by any stretch of the imagination, like, for example, an abortion clinic or a Nazi death camp (which amounts to the same thing as the abortuary).
But one does not participate in false religious teaching in so doing. Muslims are going to build a mosque in any event, and worship there. If Christians want to help them as a gesture of good will, then that is constructive for purposes of inter-religious and ethnic harmony. It doesn’t imply that we agree with the teachings. But we show that we respect their right to worship as they please, and acknowledge that their faith is just as important to them as ours is to us. That is part of charity. As long as we don’t deny anything we believe, nothing wrong is done.
If someone disagrees with my reductios above, they have to explain the essential difference between the two scenarios, and at what hypothetical point involvement in a non-Christian religious building becomes material participation in sin and false doctrine, etc.
I contend that there is no essential difference between maintaining a building and helping to pay for it. In both cases a Christian would be contributing to the continuance of a building (a mosque) that teaches what they regard as a false religion. In one instance they are contributing labor (which is exchanged for money) and in the other, money. So if we are “required” never to help fund a mosque, by the reductio, we could not even fix a toilet or a window in a mosque, either, or put out a fire in one.
I deny that either scenario is supporting a false religion! First of all, not all in Islam is false. Many Muslims, still, for example, have lots of children (like Christians used to) and frown upon contraception and cohabitation and fornication. In all these ways they often do far better than most Protestants and Catholics, so in effect they preserve those truths that Christians have largely forsaken.
Secondly, such gestures can be classified as diplomatic acts of charity. The Muslim knows it doesn’t mean that the Christian believes in Islam, but the act creates good will and harmony: a most desirable end indeed.
Thirdly, it is completely biblical to partially support the building of a mosque with a financial contribution, since this is a lesser participation than what the early Christians like Paul, Peter, and John did when they worshiped with Jews, and to a religion that takes a higher view of Jesus than Judaism itself does.
After all, Islam regards Jesus as a prophet, whereas the early Jews after the resurrection thought he was a false prophet, false Messiah, and possessed by a demon. Therefore, the early Christians supported a (partially) false religion (Judaism) by not only money but also direct participation in its worship services. Judaism has falsehood just as Islam does. And both contain truth.
There are largely good and true things (e.g., Protestantism), partially good and true things (Judaism and Islam), mostly bad things (secularism), and wholly evil things (abortion). I would say that one could donate in good conscience to the largely good and true things and partially good and true things. So I would help a Muslim in a material sense, without compromising my religious beliefs in the least.
The Muslim knows that the Christian doesn’t accept Islam anyway, and doesn’t think otherwise just because he chipped into a building fund. The Christian (unless he is a liberal, indifferentist, wishy-washy type) knows this. Everyone pretty much knows. But I have no problem whatsoever with someone deciding as an individual, in good conscience, that he personally shouldn’t contribute to such a fund.\
Meta Description: I contend that a Christian’s contributing to a mosque building fund doesn’t necessarily mean that he is endorsing Islam as a religion.
Meta Keywords: Islam, Muslim, mosque, ecumenism, inter-religious dialogue, comparative religion