Monday, August 23, 2010

More on the Mosque

As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him.
Genesis 15:12

“We don’t need another mosque.”

“There are already enough mosques.”

“Anybody who wants a mosque can find one.”

Those statements did not come from random people on the street. They came in a panel discussion among supposedly well-educated and thoughtful people, professional commentators who are used to talking on television.

At first, I was shocked. What if someone said those things about churches: “No one needs to build another church because we already have enough of them and anyone who wants to go to church can find one”? And then I realized that I have actually heard those exact sentiments expressed about the proposal for a new church.

And this brought me to a new thought.

I think part of the opposition to the mosque is not just anti-Muslim; it is anti-religious. I have not done any research on this. My experience is limited and anecdotal. Just a few thoughts over a cup of coffee on a rainy day, but this is how it looks to me.

Our culture is an odd mix of secular and religious folk. And it includes all sorts of strange ideas about what is and is not acceptable in terms of religion. Someone once said that Americans are most comfortable with vague beliefs that are deeply cherished. Many Americans don’t really understand people of faith.

They think that we believe all sorts of weird things. And it makes them nervous. They do not have any context for understanding religious thought. It is like that "deep and terrifying darkness" that engulfed Abraham.

That was part of the problem with Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Not very many people understand Black Liberation Theology (or Liberation Theology in general). I heard one commentator describe it as “exotic.” People are scared by things they don’t understand. And in religious matters, they believe that things should be simple, and above all, nice.

The truth is that from a secular perspective, Christianity really is weird. But not for the reasons that secularists think it is.

The weirdness of Christianity, which makes it perpetually out of step with the culture, is not that we hold a non-scientific world view or believe in strange and supernatural disruptions of the natural order. The real weirdness of Christianity is that we believe (or try to believe) in loving our enemies, and turning the other cheek, and loving our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. We believe in lifting up the poor, and we believe that we really are supposed to be looking out for our sisters and brothers. We believe that we should live as if the Kingdom of God is among us.

Each of us, said Paul, must “work out our own salvation in fear and trembling.” This is not because we should fear God, but because it is costly and difficult to be a follower of Jesus.

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