Aug 17, 2010

dear fellow christians

We really need to have a chat about this mosque thing.

The gut reaction here is understandable.  9/11 is still a psychological scar, and when you hear that a mosque is being built at Ground Zero ... well, emotions can run high.  It seems in poor taste at best.

The thing is though, that 'do as ye would be done by' still applies even if we're really, really mad.  Yes, the men who attacked us on 9/11 were Muslims, but they were representatives not of all Muslims everywhere but rather of a small group of extremists.  It is not right to condemn the many because of the actions of the few: rather, the Bible in several places states that the actions of the few can redeem the many.  God promised to spare Sodom and Gomorrah if He could find five righteous men.  Surely so many can be found among the world's billion plus Muslims--surely so many can be found among those who will make use of the proposed center.

"For in the same way you judge others," Jesus said, "you will be judged."  Yes, Islamic extremists attacked us, and many immoral acts have been justified by its dogmas.  But the same is true of Christianity: the Inquisition, anti-Semitism (look up Martin Luther's "On the Jews and their Lies"), slavery (specifically the justification from Noah's curse: "For 'cursed be Canaan' as the Bible once said / And since Canaan was gone, curse you guys instead"), abortion clinic bombings, the Crusades, etc.

Should Muslim construction projects be banned near the site of crimes justified by Muslim dogma or some perversion thereof?   "With the measure you use, it will be measured to you": should Christian construction projects be banned near the site of crimes justified by Christian dogma or some perversion thereof?  Between defense of slavery and justification for native genocide, that would exclude most of the Western Hemisphere.

I know you feel that it's different.  That those things happened in the past, that they weren't done by real Christians, or at least by your group of Christians.  That you've never seen the victims.  The crucial difference, though is that on 9/11, you were attacked (at least by proxy), and the emotions still run high.

How can I make this real?  Well, the Crusades marched through Bulgaria, where I live.  They didn't come to conquer, they just marched through.  The memory and resentment of that event are still strong enough that Campus Crusade for Christ was not allowed to establish operations here--they had to resort to the subterfuge of creating a sub-organization called something else.

It's an analogous question, then, whether or not adherents to the western strains of Christianity should have the right to build churches here, on the sites of country-wide crimes that made 9/11 pale in comparison.  There are those in Bulgaria who think they should not--and not for this reason only, but for the same sort of tribal/territorial impulse also at work in the mosque opposition.  (America is ours not theirs, isn't it?  Those who attack the Church here say the same thing about Bulgaria.)  Modern Protestants are not Medieval Catholics any more than Al Qaeda is Cordoba; it is irrelevant to the persecutors.  In them, I see unthinking opposition, hatred towards those they perceive as insidious outsiders, violence, retribution, and deep-seated anger and unreason.  I have myself been on the receiving end of such things, and how much more so the other believers here--your brothers and sisters.

I oppose this sort of thinking all the more for having seen its consequences firsthand.  Imagine then my dismay at discovering in my fellow American Christians attitudes indistinguishable from those of the despicable persecutors and demagogues to whom we have grown accustomed here.  I've heard the sort of rhetoric that you're using, and I've seen the sort of outrage that you're professing--I've read about them in history, too, but till now I've only really experienced them in the persons of the communist holdouts and orthodox theofascists.

Now that's a disturbing thought, but that's why (among all other reasons: rule of law, freedom of religion, property rights, and the fact that enlisting the cooperation of reasonable Muslims against the extremists is the only way to beat them) I have to defend the Cordoba folks: because failing to stand up against the same tribalism and lump-them-all-together-ism that I've been the victim of diminishes me.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you -- this needed to be said. Like you, I've shocked at the animosity people are showing toward plans to build Cordoba House, and I wish people would realize that we cannot stereotype all members of a religion.