Disclaimer: the following post is a rant about an issue of controversy that has engulfed our country for the past few months. My husband and I have discussed it much in our house, but not in public. Please know that none of my comments or criticisms are directed at any one person (save one) and are opinions that I hold.
Over the past few months, great turmoil has been caused over a proposal brought forth to erect an Islamic community center near the hallowed grounds of Ground Zero in New York City. Protests have been organized, politicos on all sides have spoken out, religious organizations have weighed in, and some idiot “pastor” in Florida is undertaking a book burning. As a Christian and an American citizen, disappointment does not do justice to my feelings on this matter. I am horrified at the Christian response to the proposed Islamic center and am outraged as a citizen of a country that was built on the basic premise that all have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I understand the basis of the concern, but to blame the entire religion of Islam for the devastating events of 9/11 is a narrow-minded and bigoted point of view to take. To say that all Muslims are terrorists is akin to saying all Christians are members of the KKK. I know that there are those out there who would maintain that Islam endorses acts of violence based on religious intolerance, that the precepts for that are established in the Koran, but the same argument can easily (and maybe more justifiably) be made about Christianity.
For all our talk as Christians we have, collectively, perpetrated some massive crimes against humanity in our arrogance and misguided views of the Gospel message. We have gone from being the victim to being the bully. We took lessons from our Roman tormentors and put them to use through the Crusades and Inquisition. We have brought people to “faith” at the point of a sword and have blasphemed against the glorious love of God for all humanity. Many Christians today lament the active decline in Christianity over the past 25 years. We blame our secular society, changing values and busy schedules. But do we ever stop to look within our own organizations for the cause? Many reliable studies have been conducted by agencies such as Barna and Gallup that point to Christianity itself as the cause of its own decline. Ask any person between the ages of 25-35 why they don’t attend church, and I would put money down that they have had a negative encounter with a church in their past. We have ignored Christ’s command to love God and love others and have turned the Great Commission into the Great Judgment. If we want people back in our pews, we have to show them love and acceptance. I don’t believe we do that standing behind a picket line protesting a religious community center being erected in an impoverished area of a city in need. It’s interesting to me that the “hallowed” grounds of Ground Zero can house strip clubs and gambling agencies, but not a house of worship.
And now, to the newest twist, a “pastor” holding a book burning of sacred texts. Let’s look at the people who have hosted book burnings throughout the years. There were the book burnings of the Inquisition where any book alluding to Judaism was thrown into a fire. And let’s not forget the infamous Nazi book burning parties where anything that threatened the Third Reich was torched. Book burning, and banning for that matter, only promote ignorance and bigotry. As the daughter of a librarian, I have seen my parents fight to keep books on library shelves, even if the message of the book was contrary to the values they held. To destroy a book is to destroy a thread of humanity.
As a nation, we should be embarrassed by our response to the proposed Islamic community center. In the city where the Stature of Liberty herself dwells (“Give us your tired, your weary, your poor. Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shores. Send these, the tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”) it is disheartening to see such passionate intolerance on display. Although, as Americans, we have a great history of that as well. Give us your wealthy, your light-skinned, your Western European ex-pats…. I promise not to enter into a diatribe on immigration “reform”, but I think we need to begin to think about our responses to issues that challenge us to grow in our understanding and belief.
I know there are counter-arguments to that which I have presented here, and I am open to hearing them. But I think it is a topic that merits reasonable discussion and tempered action. To me, this is more than just a building being built, it is a way of life and living, a way of treating other human beings, and a litmus test for Christianity itself.
Blessings and Peace,