There’s been a lot of debate recently over the building of an Islamic Mosque and community center just two blocks away from ground Zero in New York. The issue took on more steam this past weekend as President Obama endorsed the group’s constitutional right to construct the building. But then on Saturday, the President was reported as saying that while he upholds that “Muslims have that right, that doesn’t mean he believes it is the right thing for them to do.” There sure are a number of ways to look at this. I understand and have felt the same knee jerk reaction of many who have pointed out that the men who flew those planes into the Twin Towers in New York were led by a strict inner interpretation of the Qur’an (Koran). So the initial thought of a group of Muslims meeting yards away from where such a tragic event happened can cause one to wince. But when the dust clears and the heart beat slows down, I believe the group in question ought to be allowed to carry on with their plans. But my main reason for such a position may not be easy to see at first. Here’s what I’m thinking.
1. The President has correctly stated that these people in NY have a Constitutional right to construct their center as long as they abide by the laws of the land. This is the same right of any other American religious group.
2. Not all Muslims in America have declared Jihad or live by the same interpretation of the Qur’an as the terrorist of 9/11 did. Not all Muslims hate the West or America. I don’t hate Muslims.
3. But the real reason is my faith in the power of the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ. Paul stated that he was not, “ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes”. In short, I am not threatened or fearful of Islam. I have a friend from Iran who came from a Muslim faith. I believe that when the simple elements of Christ are placed alongside the basic tenants of Islam on an equal playing field, Christ will win. I say that not because Christ followers are better than Muslims. Rather I say that because Jesus answered the inner cry of our hearts like no one else ever has- how can we have peace with God? Islam says keep the Five Pillars and maybe you’ll get in. Judaism says keep the Torah and maybe you’ll get enough points. But Christ came and said that in and of ourselves we are bankrupt, but that he loves us anyway. We are unable to appease God, but Jesus came and took our brokenness and sin on the cross. That is where true transformation comes from. That’s love and power and true change. That’s why I’m not too hot and bothered by a Mosque two blocks from ground zero. I’m actually excited about more opportunities to share the love of Christ with those in New York and around the world who don’t know him.
The real answer for NY is not a court battle over property, but for someone to move there, share the love of Christ, and thus plant a living Christ centered community there. Any takers? I might be able to get you connected.
Though I would agree that the gospel is stronger than Islam, though a focused Islam may prove more resilient than an immature and self-indulgent West.