The Mosque at Ground Zero: My Thoughts

Good morning friends!

While we're up here at the beach house, we have access to something that Sarah and I have missed a little bit more than we probably should: Cable TV. Yes friends, that endless stream of "information" is back in our lives. And while we've been using it appropriately every day (CSI: Miami, NHL Network, and Ghost Hunters to name a few), there have been times that we've turned our attention to things we probably shouldn't (CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and The Daily Show to once again name a few).

It's been interesting to remind myself of how if you watch CNN for any extended period of time, you'll come away feeling like a story is impacting each and every citizen of the union for days at a time, but the fact is it's impacting almost no one, they just use the story to keep people watching. When you go without the 24 hour news channels for a while, you quickly realize that most of the stories they offer are not as big as they make them out to be, nor will they have any impact at all on your day.

That said, I want to make sure people are reading my blog, so I'm going to imply their very same tactics and talk about the Mosque at Ground Zero here in NYC.

Truly, since we started turning on the TV here, almost all you hear about is the proposed Islamic Community Center in Manhattan. I hear CNN rant about it, I hear Keith Olberman rant about it, I hear Glen Beck rant about it, and then at the end of the night I hear John Stewart make fun of all three of them for ranting about it. It's as though this story is the only thing that matters in the United States right now.

Let's clear up a few things before we go any further. The word "Mosque" is probably inappropriate here. From what I've heard and read (which admittedly isn't that much, so feel free to correct me if I'm wrong) this will be a community center, offering activities and recreational opportunities to the community at large. It will indeed have some space to pray upstairs, but it is not an official house of worship where people gather each week. Also, the words Ground Zero are a bit over-exadurated as well. The news networks can't seem to agree on whether it's 2 or 4 blocks away from Ground Zero (we could launch into a whole debate on how it would be seemingly impossible for these "news" agencies to spin a measured distance like "blocks", but who has the time?). I spent the better part of the day walking around New York City, and 2 blocks is a bit of distance. Sure I'm out of shape, but I broke a sweat walking two blocks when Sarah and I accidentally got off at the wrong subway stop and had to walk back to our car. 2 blocks is not "right next" to anything in this city. It becomes even less so when you realize that those two blocks are often filled with sky scrapers that block out things like the sun.

But this of course is a youth ministry driven blog, and thusly a Christian driven blog, so I'd like to set aside any and all political ramifications of this issue and speak to those of us who are bold enough to claim to be disciples on how we should be responding here.

Jesus was once tested on what the greatest commandment in the scriptures were. In a stunning moment of clarity (usually Jesus answers these questions with a more confusing question), Jesus replies "Love the Lord with all your heart, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. All of the laws and the prophets hang on these two commandments." What this means for us is that if you are acting on something, and you think it jives with a piece of scripture, yet doesn't allow you to fully love God or love your neighbor, you've missed part of the message. Something is wrong. So when we Christians are taking a look at the "Mosque" story, if our hearts are filled with anything less than love for the people involved, then we've failed in some capacity. Yes, it's a messy situation. Yes, people who claimed to represent Islam did a horrible thing on September 11th. I strongly recommend we re-associate ourselves with some of the things people have done who claim to represent Christianity (The Klu Klux Klan, The Crusades, Slavery, Apartheid, and Christian Rap just to name a couple) to get a feel for how easy it is for a religion to be mis-represented. Islamic extremists are not the same as all Muslims, and in fact they are a GROSS misrepresentation of the values and ideals taught in the Koran. So when I look at our Muslim brothers and sisters, I don't feel hate. I feel compassion. I feel empathy for what they've had to endure because of the foolishness and evil intentions of the vocal few in their midst. My heart is full of love, and in fact it's because that's what Jesus insisted it needed to be full of.

The second thing is we have to be honest and look at the goals these folks are trying to acomplish. To build a community center is (I would assume) an attempt on their part to better the community around them. They are attempting to make the world a better place. Take a quick look at one of my favorite Scriptures, Matthew 25:31-46 and ask yourself a hard question: Are they doing a better job of following Jesus' commands than we are? Sure, there are Christian community centers all over New York City and the world, and they're doing fantastic work. But every time I hear a Christian spout off on one of the "news" networks, I wonder how much time and energy he or she put into that appearance to speak against the "Mosque", and how much good that energy could have done if applied in a different direction. They're trying to better the community, and we're trying to stop them (or at least that's how it's playing out in the news). What if instead of investing our precious time and energy in opposing something beautiful coming out of a different religion, we tried to create even more beautiful things in our religion? I mean, I don't want to turn this into a competition between the Christians and the Jews and Muslims as to who can improve their community the most, but honestly if we were in such a competition, we'd be getting our butts kicked, and we're the ones told to love our neighbors as ourselves.

These are just my thoughts. Again, I understand that this is a difficult subject (just wait till tomorrow when I think I'm going to tackle Prop 8!), so I welcome criticism and encouragement. But above all, let's remember the call we were given, to love God with all our hearts, and love our neighbors as ourselves. If our conversations don't line up with that, what good are they? If our actions don't line up with that, they're worthless. If our lives don't line up with that, are we truly to call ourselves disciples?



- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:W Market St,Breezy Point,United States