Saturday, September 11, 2010

Soft Corinthian Leather?

I think you'd have to be sealed in a glass box for the last month or so in order to avoid the screaming & hollering about the Cordoba House, an Islamic community center that is planned to be built very near Ground Zero, the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

Of course, I'm the right age to hear the word "Cordoba" and flash on a much younger pre-Wrath of Khan Ricardo Montablan purring about "Corinthian leather."

For those of you not old enough for that, just laugh politely at the old fogey writing his blog... and keep reading.

I don't think I'm qualified to argue the details of the entire situation - but I wanted to just put some things out there for you to think about.

What's In A Name?

It's not called Cordoba House any longer... it's the Park51 Project. That doesn't end discussion on the historical origins of the original name, but it does indicate some level of sensitivity on the part of those who are attempting to build this community center that will contain a mosque.

We Were Not Attacked By A Religion

The terrorists who attacked the United States on 9/11/01 were Muslims... but that does not mean that their particular set of beliefs (including those that justify terrorism & suicide bombing) are representative of all Islamic religion.

I'm a Christian - but I don't want to lumped in with the "anything goes/who cares what the Bible says" branch of the American Episcopal church (best represented by Bishop Spong) or with the "God hates everyone but us... and esp. homosexuals" rantings from the Westboro Baptist crowd. I can certainly imagine Muslims who feel the same way about the pole-dancing Muslim beauty queen and the 9/11 terrorists.

Just Because You Have the Right To Do Something Doesn't Make It Wise...

For those of you who have been enjoying taking President Obama out behind the metaphorical woodshed for his support of the Park51 project, here's what he ACTUALLY said on August 13, 2010:
As a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are. The writ of the Founders must endure.
And the next day, speaking to reporters:
I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there... I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That's what our country is about.
For comparison purposes, Mike Huckabee's comments at about the same time:
Even if the Muslims have the right to build it, don’t they do more to serve the public interest by exercising the responsible judgment to not build it, given that it’s really offensive to most New Yorkers and Americans?
Which brings me (finally!) to my point - we must acknowledge that there is a distinct difference between the RIGHT to build this project and the WISDOM of doing so... and stop acting like the best thing we could do to stop this unwise project is limit religious freedom because it makes us angry, uncomfortable and/or offended. That kind of manipulation of our laws will end biting us (evangelicals!) in the hindquarters someday.

Hey, if President Obama & Mike Huckabee can both do this, why can't we?!

Just Because You Have the Right To Do Something Doesn't Make It Wise (Part 2)...

I hope it goes without saying that burning the holy book of another religion is an act of abject unchristlike stupidity.
  • Want a Biblical book-burning buddy? How about King Jehoiakim burning Jeremiah's prophecies?
  • Want a historical book-burning buddy? How about the Nazis?
'Nuff said.

This Will Be Important In A Minute

Here are the six countries in the world with the largest Muslim populations, according to the 2009 Pew Report:
  • Indonesia - 202,867,000
  • Pakistan - 174,082,000
  • India - 160,945,000
  • Bangladesh - 145,312,000
  • Egypt - 78,513,000
  • Nigeria - 78,056,000
Egypt is the only one of those countries which is considered to be part of the Middle East, while Pakistan, India & Bangladesh are all part of the Indian Subcontinent. Nigeria is considered to be Sub-Saharan Africa and Indonesia is in Oceania/Southeast Asia.

Also, please note the major drop off in population numbers from the Asian countries to other nations which we more typically think of as Muslim.

The "Take Our Toys & Go Home" Argument

Newt Gingrich (and numerous others) have advanced an argument against the Park51 Project that runs along these lines (the following is written by Mr. Gingrich):
There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia . The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over.
I understand the appeal of this argument - why doesn't everyone play by the same rules? It's the same impulse that leads to church meetings with the little red book (not Mao - Robert's Rules of [dis]Order!), the replay challenge in NFL football & the griping/whining about soccer refereeing at the World Cup every four years.

At the same time, applying this kind of argument means that we as Americans are lowering ourselves to the religious freedom standards of a nation that has a history of religious oppression & persecution (even of various Muslim sects which are not in favor with those in power).

Worse yet, it borders on a nearly-racist correlation of Muslims & Arabs which is not supported by the actual population data. (Told you that list of countries would be important in a minute.)

I would suggest that this "tit for tat" logic does not become a nation founded on the principles of religious freedom - what Newt (and others) are saying is "We won't give you religious freedom if you won't give it to us." It sounds more like petulant children pouting in a sandbox than it does people who wish to be devoted to the better angels of our nature.

Permit me one final problem with the argument - asking any nation to permit the building of synagogues & churches assumes something about the religious makeup of the United States. We are not simply a nation of Jews & Christians... almost 18% of the U.S. claims a non-Judeo/Christian religion or lack of religious faith.

In Closing, Some Questions For Followers of Christ

  • Do our feelings of anger & grief at the tragic loss of life at the hands of terrorists outweigh our obligation to follow the Great Commission?
  • Have we, in our quest to honor those killed by criminals, become criminally negligent in how we present the Gospel to the Arab world and to the worldwide Muslim community?
  • Are we slamming doors of opportunity shut for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ by our politicized vitriol and grandstanding?


Mark Haberman said...

I'm with you all the way, except I don't understand the comment about the building of the Mosque as "unwise".

I'll be honest and say I don't know a ton about the subject, but if you told me someone were building a Mosque near the site, it wouldn't even have registered as something that would cause this much uproar and debate. I'm pretty flabbergasted about the whole thing.

Now that they are where they are, I think the most unwise thing that could happen would be to give in and not build where they had intended. It is basically admitting that there was a problem building there in the first place, and that we are willing to give up our rights as Americans when push comes to shove.

Sort of like dealing with terrorists, if they were to give in now, wouldn't it spark more of this kind of behavior in the future?

I really am asking a question here, since I haven't followed the issue. Why do you say it's unwise?

Mark (aka pastor guy) said...

Thanks for the comment, Habes.

I meant "unwise" in a public relations sense for Muslims... the Imam admitted as much in his interview late last week when he said "had I known this would happen, we certainly would never have done this,” and “If I knew this would happen, this would cause this kind of pain, I wouldn’t have done it." (reference:

On the question of building elsewhere, I'm not sure what is wise. I see what you're saying - but I really do believe that they could potentially build a community center that, due to security issues, couldn't really be used by the community.

An aside: terrorists don't thrive on getting their demands met; they thrive on the terror they create. Demands are only part of the payoff.

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