Monday, August 23, 2010


There’s lots of talk about the mosque near ground zero. Should it be built or not? It sounds like the proposed center has every legal right to be built. The big question is whether it’s wise to break ground.

But bigger questions and issues swirl through my mind.

I get e-mails. I view Facebook postings. Most are from people calling themselves Christian. There’s a disturbing message coming through. It goes like this.

Terrorists caused the destruction of the Twin Towers and huge loss of life.
Those terrorists are Muslim.
All Muslims are terrorists.

Flawed logic. Coming from people of ‘faith’ it’s disconcerting to say the least. And out of this flawed place comes far too much rumor, innuendo, misconception and flat out lies.

I wrote on a Facebook thread recently that if I ever died in a terrorist attack I’d want to be remembered by friends and family with fervent bridge building efforts towards those who killed me. I wouldn’t want my memory to be tarnished by finger pointing, taunting, and exclusion. I certainly wouldn’t want a holy war to erupt. Christ beckons us to travel a more costly path.

Listen, I know there are extremists in the Muslim camp. They are ugly, ugly tools of Satan. We need to be ‘wise as serpents’ in strategizing against the dangers they bring. But we dare not put the label of extremist on all who pray to Allah. And we’re doing that. In the process we are creating an even greater divide.

Throughout history we have labeled certain people groups as ‘them’. Ask the Jews, ask African Americans, the Irish felt it, so did the Italians, certainly Hispanics. ‘Them’ are always portrayed as the enemy of 'us’. And we have paid the price for doing that. We will pay the price for doing that now.

Could it be that a whole lot of folks are just flat out afraid of the world that is changing before their eyes? We now live in a pluralistic culture. What was will never be again. The times have changed. And they are changing rapidly. But our Jesus hasn’t. He says:

Love your enemy.
Go the extra mile.
Don’t be surprised when you encounter evil.
Do good.
Pray for those who persecute you.

I don’t know what the right solution is regarding the ‘mosque’ in New York City. All I know is that there’s a lot of ‘hate’ being wrapped in red, white and blue. Hate isn’t the American way. It’s certainly not the way of Jesus.

If I was a Muslim listening to the rhetoric of recent days I’d be defensive and afraid. I certainly would not be open to embracing the Christian God. And I’d be very wary of even those who say “We don’t mind that a mosque is being built. Just not there.” America has a long history of NIMBY (not in my back yard). And so how close will be too close to ground zero …five blocks, a half mile, a different borough, a different state, or a different country.

I lost a colleague in the terrorist attack on America. Our church staff watched in stunned silence on 9/11. I can’t even imagine what it’s like for families who sat horrified knowing a loved one was dying and they were helpless in doing anything about it on that horrible day. So, I’m not trying to be cavalier about all this and it might be the wisest and most healing thing to not build that particular mosque in that particular place. Frankly, I don’t know. All I know is that a lot of the discussion around the issue is not the most uplifting.

‘Hate’ keeps us in a prison of bitterness. That’s not God’s place. And that’s not where we should land. I’m just thinking that the people of God need to have a different perspective and a different attitude. I’m not seeing that in the e-mail barrage of late. Hate is winning and it’s trying to disguise itself as the ‘cross of Christ’ wrapped in patriotism. Nope. Don’t buy it for a minute.

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