August 17, 2010

I Did Not Want to Write About This...

Let me tell you, I tried to avoid this topic. When I saw other bloggers writing about it, I quietly backed away, not wanting to get sucked into the debate. It's not an easy subject, and while on the surface it seems to be one over which many disagree, that is not really the case at all. The majority of Americans are in agreement.

And that troubles me, greatly.

We have become a country of kneejerk reactions. We get caught up in emotion, and we don't want to be influenced by anything that contradicts the emotion. Once in a blue moon, as in this case, an overwhelming majority of Americans agree on a topic. We begin to think if the majority agrees, then it must be right.

But maybe we're wrong in that assumption.
  • Sometimes the majority agrees because emotion carries the day, preventing a reasonable discussion of the facts.
  • Sometimes the majority agrees because they are presented with superficial choices.
  • Sometimes the majority agrees because it's easier than reaching difficult and painful conclusions.
  • Sometimes the majority agrees because we have forgotten who we are as a nation, where we came from, and what we stand for.
I woke up today to a discussion on Morning Joe about former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and his assertion that New York City should not allow a Islamic center to be built near Ground Zero as long as the government Saudi Arabia does not permit churches to be built in their country.

Excuse me, but a former Speaker of the House of Representatives thinks the government of  Saudi Arabia should set the standard for the United States of America?

As Americans, the standard for our government is set by the Constitution of the United States. A Constitution that protects all of us. A Constitution that permits freedom of worship for each and every one of us. For a former Speaker of the House to suggest that we should lower ourselves to the standard of a country that does not afford its citizens those freedoms is beyond my comprehension.

But what bothers me much more is not the constitutional issue. As a follower of Christ, the standard for me is much higher than the Constitution. The standard for me is Jesus Christ himself.

September 11 is burned into my memory, as I'm sure it is burned into yours. I watched the second plane hit the World Trade Center as I was leaving for work. I arrived at my office to learn that the Pentagon had been hit, as well. One of my coworkers had a son who was working in the Pentagon that day and it would take several agonizing hours for her to learn that her son was safe. I work at a high school, and we crowded into a storeroom in the library with teachers and staff and watched in dismay as the first building fell. I looked into the faces of our students and wondered if they had any concept of how much the world had changed that morning. I drove to church that evening for a prayer service, and as I drove, I thanked God that I didn't have children to raise in a world that could be so cruel. At the service, I was honored to light a candle for the victims of Flight 93, the plane that crashed into a Pennsylvania field. In the following days, we learned of the courage of those victims, who were determined to do everything they could to keep the hijackers from crashing the plane into another building.

I remember the pain of 9/11 vividly.

But I know that all Muslims were not responsible for that pain, just as all Christians are not responsible for the crimes of a handful of those who call themselves Christians.

I know that God calls me to love.

I know that God calls me to be a witness to a world that is lost, a world that lives in darkness.

I know that even if I believed for a minute that all Muslims were connected to the attacks on 9/11, I would be called to forgive.

Matthew 5:44 - But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. 

Luke 6:27-28 - But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Luke 6:31 - Do unto others as you would have them do to you.

Luke 6:35 - But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.

Luke 23:34 - Jesus said, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

Christ forgave those who put Him to death, even as He was on the cross. As horrific as 9/11 was, do we think it was worse than the crucifixion of Christ?

I am humbled by Christ's words. Reading them, I can still feel the pain I felt on 9/11;.pain for those who were lost and for their families; pain for those who are still suffering nearly 9 years later. But I can't hang onto the anger. I can't hate. I can't set conditions for forgiveness.

There were actually a lot of other things I was going to say, but in the light of Christ's words, none of them matter. After all, this is blog about faith. You might disagree with my conclusion. You might think it's time for me to change the title of my blog to Single and Insane. But I hope you'll consider the words of Christ, and how they should impact the role His followers should play in any public debate, particularly one filled with such emotion.

Until next time,

P.S. - If you're still reading, here are a couple of links if you would like to read more about the Islamic center.
    Fareed Zakariah wrote a column for Newsweek on the topic, and in it he spoke of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who is spearheading the building of the Islamic Center. Zakariah reports that Rauf "routinely denounces all terrorism—as he did again last week, publicly." He goes on to add, "His [Rauf's] vision of Islam is bin Laden’s nightmare." To me, that alone is a reason to think the center might not be a bad idea.

    This is a link to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's speech that is referenced in the article above. It is an eloquent call to rise above the fray, even if the Wall Street Journal chose to call it quasi-elegant.


    1. I just wanted to say thank you for writing this post. Because its one that I have been thinking that I need to write, but I haven't been able to find the words.

      It seems like people have become comfertable with spreading hateful words to the point where the public conversation just feels like a frighting twighlight zone.
      We need to remember that a lot of Americans are Muslim. We need to remember that Muslims died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. We were not attacked by Islam. We were attacked by wackos.

      Thank you for the reminder that we need to love. Its easy for me to get upset and dismiss the people I disagree with, but seeing Christ's call for use to fogiveness, his call to love is really powerful.

    2. What a lovely post. It is indeed the spirit of Christ, and in most circumstances I would agree with you. However, I don't agree with you in this circumstance. I think building a mosque there is actually a very unkind thing to do. I believe it is not only unkind but unwise. It will cause a lot of people a lot of pain.

      The governor of New York is against the mosque being built at ground zero, and has already offered the developers state assistance if they build the center at a different location, but the offer was rejected. That speaks volumes.

      Forgiveness is a very difficult concept for most people, and I do believe in forgiveness.


      The Burlington Coat Factory -- the location of the proposed mosque -- was one of the buildings destroyed in 9/11 when the landing gear and fusilage from Flight 175 crashed onto the roof and down three stories of the building. And while we know -- obviously -- that it was not done by all Muslims, it was done by Muslim terrorists, who are probably the wealthiest and most organized army in the world. They are not just a handful of fanatics. And it was done in the name of Islam. Americans were the victims here, not the perpetrators. A few weeks ago another terrorist tried to blow up Times Square on a Saturday night while it was full of families taking their children to see "The Lion King". My family had been in that exact spot at exactly that same time on a Saturday night just a few months prior to that. There but for the Grace of God... He was funded by the same people who funded 9/11.

      Iman Feisal Abdul Rauf is not a moderate. In 2004, he said the U.S. and the West must acknowledge the harm they have done to Muslims before terrorism can end. In an interview on 60 Minutes, he said, "The United States’ policies were an accessory to the crime that happened." That's a reason to kill innocent people? Blame the victim? That is like saying a woman deserved to be raped because she was wearing lipstick.

      The Constitution of the United States comes with certain obligations -- laws. Freedom and trust have to be earned, not demanded. Those terrorists took away all Americans' rights to get on an airplane freely without having to be body searched, or take off their shoes, or get rid of nail clippers, or carry any fluids... and so on. In fact, since 9/11, you have had a lot of rights taken from you.

      And no, I don't think you are "Single and Insane", Margaret. I think you are quite brilliant. This mosque situation is one that takes the wisdom of Solomon. However, believe it or not, they are still finding body fragments there, and under the circumstances, to build a mosque over that would be improper -- if nothing else.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. Thanks to both of your for your comments.

      The problem really goes beyond the Islamic center. There is a church in Florida that is planning to burn the Quran on September 11th. There have been protests led by Christians at Mosques. There are recent reports of such a protest in Connecticut where protesters called Muslim children murderers. This is unacceptable both for Christians, and for Americans. If it doesn't stop here, where will it stop?

      As for the Iman, there are those who say he is a moderate, and there those who strongly disagree with that characterization. Jon Stewart showed a clip the other night of Glenn Beck attacking RAuf for the comments you cited, Jo. Then he showed an earlier clip of Glenn Beck suggesting that some of our country's policies in the Middle East have contributed to the hatred of Americans there. Clearly, I don't think Glenn Beck was blaming the victims of 9/11 for the attacks. No one would ever accuse Beck of such a thing. He was merely pointing out that we have repeatedly intervened - sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly - in a part of the world that we do not understand and that does not understand us. If Glenn Beck can say that, then it might be worthy of discussion.

      It also might be a reason to consider showing that we are not waging war on Islam, instead of looking like that's exactly what we're doing. That behavior is not worthy of the United States, and is not worthy of Christ's followers.

      If it doesn't stop here, then where will it stop?

    5. Many will argue that a mosque will attract the "wrong kind" of Muslim, and so should not be built.

      But - churches can also attract the "wrong kind" of Christian, and they are built every day in various places.

      I don't like Newt Gingrich. That's all I'll say about him.

      What is the motivation for the people wanting this mosque built in that particular place? Is it to say a) We are a peaceful people, we build this as a testament to our peace, which we extend to you in this place that needs healing - or - b) we are a peaceful people, but we'll rub your noses in it that some of "us" got some of "you"? -or - c) (insert opinion here)?

      It seems the symbolism of "what" is suggested for building and "when" it will be officially open is far too emotionally loaded for people to make a rational decision.

      If someone wanted to build a temple or a church, would people react so strongly? If someone wanted to build a casino, would anyone care? If someone wanted to put a grassy park with flowers and a pond, would people march in protest?

      I think there is room for a mosque - but is there also room for a reasonable compromise? Could the "grand opening" be moved to a different date?

    6. Very nice thoughts. I agree totally.

      I confess I am not very religious any more but I do agree that Jesus Christ would have asked for tolerance and forgiveness in this situation.

      I work with a man who claims Jesus is his buddy and that Jesus suggests what tie he should wear with his suits, etc. Conduct like that I find quite silly since I think Jesus Christ and religion is much more serious. To refer to Him as your buddy and to say He helps you decide whether to have toast and jam or cereal I find demeaning.

      But with this nutty guy and his kind aside, I have a lot of respect for people with deep religious convictions.

      Regarding Mr. Gingrich, he was at the Iowa State Fair the other day signing his book. I find him and his followers rather scary primarily because of their intolerance.

      I am rambling. Excellent post and I enjoyed reading it. Take care.

    7. dear margaret,

      as always very thought provoking and reasonable.
      one of the things i LOVE about our country is that
      we are allowed to disagree. i enjoy hearing both
      sides of issues, because i think it is dangerous for
      the people on the left to only listen to liberals or
      people on the right to only listen to conservatives.

      with great respect,

    8. I agree with you. When I heard about this, I saw it as an opportunity for Americans to do away with hatred. let's not lower ourselves to the level of terrorists, and let's accept our fellow Americans as they are.

    9. I have forgiven the terrorist who brought down the towers in NYC and caused the ripple effect that has changed our country.

      But that has nothing to do with my being totally 110% against the building of an islamic center next to Ground Zero.

      It has to do with my knowledge of the mentality of islamic progression. It is a slow progression, started out with peaceful families settling in an area... then small mosque is built... and the area is claimed to be islamic. Then with overseas money, more families are moved in and soon they become the majority. And then they start taking land from the "infidels" by building just a tiny portion on land belongs to those of other faiths. And they claim the entire land to be theirs. With intimidation and bullying and sometimes murder, they get that piece of ground.

      This is not some "urban legend" I've read... this is something I have personally watched happen in Ethiopia and in Kenya and in Tanzania. Friends homes and whole chuches taken over, destoyed.

      And because of what I have witnessed, I do not believe for one second that the placement of the "Ground Zero Mosque" is by chance. I think it is a calculated thumbing to the US.

    10. Teri - I think we need to realize that not all Muslims are the same, just as not all Christians are the same.

      We don't have to go that far back in History to remember all the really horrific things so called "Christian" Imperialists did on the continent of Africa.

      There are millions of Americans who are practicing Muslims. Millions. I happen to live in the same apartment building as many of them and I can tell you, unless they are trying to kill me with kindness, I don't think any of them are actively plotting my down fall.

    11. Margaret, I appreciate your wonderful articles, enjoy them very much, and agree with almost everything you write, just not this time.

      You're right,this is an issue filled with emotion. Americans want to be sensitive and fair to all people, and it touches a tender spot if we're thought insensitive or intolerant, personally or nationally. America is a very forgiving nation, both corporately and individually. We've forgiven and given aid to those who have been our enemies throughout history.

      We are told by Christ to forgive our enemies, and as a Christian, that is what we strive to do, whether it's a personal grievance or a national one. Forgiveness comes from a heart and mind that is willing to extend grace to others, as Christ has done for us. We can certainly extend that grace to the terrorists of 9-11, but whether a Mosque should be built on Ground Zero is not a matter of forgiveness but of what is right, appropriate, and in our best national interest.

      To build a Mosque on this site, where Allah, in whose name this terrible attack was perpetrated will be worshiped, is a great injustice and insensitive to those Americans who lost their lives, to the families who will live with this grief forever, and to Americans who hold our homeland dear.

      There should be an outcry against radical Islam by the Muslims who say they believe in peace.
      The proposed Mosque does not represent remorse and a desire for peace by the Muslim population to most Americans, but it represents a
      continued desire to declare their beliefs to American and to the world. This would be a great victory for them, and a sad day for America.
      America needs more unity, not less, and this proposal by the Muslim community continues to further divide our great country.

    12. Above article is signed by Virginia

    13. I appreciate everyone's comments and the effort have to have a civil discussion of a highly emotional topic.

      A couple of thoughts - the families of those were lost are divided on this issue. Some feel that not allowing this project to go through gives victory to the terrorists as it shows that we say one thing and do another. Those feelings are every bit as valid as the feelings of those who oppose the location.

      The location for the proposed center is near Ground Zero, but not on Ground Zero. It is 2 blocks away. What would be acceptable? 3 blocks? 6 blocks? A mile? Who decides what is far enough away?

      As Christians, we have become a people who are known not for love, but for indignation. We cannot control other people's actions, but we can control our response to those actions. That is all we are called to do as followers of Christ. We cannot get indignant over everything under the sun and show that love.

      It's not our role in the world to be outraged all the time. It's our role to be civil and loving. It's our role to be forgiving. It's our role to show the love of Jesus Christ and to die to self.

      That's a struggle for American Christians because, as Americans, we get caught up in worrying about our individual rights. As Christians, we're called to put our individual rights aside, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. If we could just do that, not just in this instance, but as a matter or routine from the local level to the national, maybe the world would actually see Jesus in us.

    14. You know I struggled with this (and still am slightly) since it first came out that the Muslim community had lobbied for the mosque. After reading your blog though I have to say my heart was significantly challenged on the idea. Thank you so much for sharing from your heart and from God. He laid that on you for me specifically.

    15. While I agree with their right to build a mosque there, I think it shows incredible insensitivity and since they have said that their goal is to reach out, my opinion is that they aren't doing such a terrific job of it. You're a brave one for tackling this topic!

    16. I wish I could delete my comment above. I am obviously not a very nice person. Gosh. :-(

    17. Jo, your comment, as well as everyone else's, was well thought-out. I'm proud of all of you for saying what you think. =)