Friday, May 28, 2010
Building a Mosque at Ground Zero
One is called to live nonviolently, even if the change one works for seems impossible. It may or may not be possible to turn the US around through nonviolent revolution. But one thing favors such an attempt: the total inability of violence to change anything for the better.
It takes four generations to recover from every act of violence.
As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, "If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes."
Over at Beliefnet, Rod Dreher wrote a piece condemning plans to build a $100 million mosque a few blocks from Ground Zero. He proclaims that this will just "rub salt in the wounds of the 9/11 dead," constrasting it with Pope John Paul's sensitive removal of a Christian convent on the grounds of Auschwitz in 1993. Dreher actually calls the whole plan "insane."
What is actually "insane" is the still widespread understanding in the US that the planners and perpetrators of 9/11 were actually adherents to Islam. In the aftermath of 9/11, these atrocious acts were consistently and loudly condemned by all major American Muslim mosques and organizations over and over again. There is quite simply not one thing that we can isolate and say, "This is Islam and it represents all Muslims." Al Qaeda is an extreme brand of fundamentalist Islamo-fascism that should never be associated with mainstream Muslim views on peace and justice. The planned mosque is being funded by the Cordoba Initiative, which has been established to improve Muslim-West relations through education/research, interfaith dialogue and leadership training. Instead of rubbing salt on the wounds of 9/11 victims, the building of this mosque will remind all of us Americans of the complexity of faith and the power of hope, forgiveness and love amidst diversity. It can be a vital aspect of our national recovery.
However complex it may be for the Modern World, this is a simple concept for EasyYolk Christians to understand. Whenever Pat Robertson or John Piper spout off theological answers to why people are suffering, I have an automatic impulse: roll my eyes and desperately differentiate by blurting out something like "Yeah, I am not that kind of Christian." When "Christian" political leaders like George W. Bush ("crusade") and Sarah Palin ("God's plan") use religious language to justify war against "Muslim nations," how does that make the Body of Christ look to 1 billion Muslims all over the world? (fortunately, we have Christians like Shane Claiborne who travel to Iraq under the banner of "the peace of Christ") In addition, we "Christians" have plenty of well-documented baggage over the centuries: the crusades, indulgences, witch hunts, justification of slavery, the de-humanization of indiginous peoples and the current Americanization of Christian faith which justifies war, corporate greed and the withholding of rights of certain vulnerable people groups (suspected terrorists, homosexuals, illegal immigrants). My point is that there is not one thing called "Christianity" that the world can lump all Christians into. 500 years ago, Protestant and Catholic Christians were killing Anabaptist Christians who adamently got baptized in adulthood (making a real commitment to Christian discipleship in a society of nominal Christians).
Yet, as I continue to plead with my atheist brothers and sisters who read the works of Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris and Maher, this does not disqualify "Christianity" from having any claim to legitimacy. Any time we are talking about any religion or worldview it is always a matter of what kind of Christianity are you espousing and living. We should be critically wary of any faith or worldview that preaches hatred, bitterness, revenge and violence towards certain groups of people, while claiming a monopoly on absolute truth. Neither Christianity nor Islam are the problem, but fundamentalist brands of these that, clinging to certainty, breed followers that wreak havoc on our world.
Dreher's words flow from a strong current of Christian triumphalism, represented in recent statements from Brit Hume and Franklin Graham, that claim that other faiths are fundamentally flawed, while their brand of Christianity would never produce something like that. The building of this Manhattan mosque would help bring redemption to a neighborhood demolished by fundamentalism and hatred. The American people should endorse the bolstering of religious freedom and goodwill that is reflected in the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. Instead of warning about the inherent evils of other religions with fear and manipulation, Christians of all stripes should work on our own practical ways of joining God in the redemption of the world by loving the other and embracing humble honesty about our own shortcomings.