I have watched the bile and hatred build up in all my politically right leaning acquaintances lately about this "Ground Zero Mosque". I wasn't really clear on why everyone is up in arms about this thing. It is 2-6 blocks away from ground zero (depending on how you count and whether you are driving or walking). It isn't a mosque, it is a Muslim & Middle Eastern Cultural Center (that will have a theater, swimming pool, basketball court, gym, and a prayer room) modeled after the YMCAs and JCCs that Christians and Jews have around the country. I have heard people say they are upset because St. Nicholas' Orthodox church is not being rebuilt. But the government isn't building the center, and St. Nicholas' church will receive some tax dollars when it is rebuilt. Ground Zero is not visible from the site of the cultural center. What stands on the spot right now is a slightly damaged former Burlington Coat Factory which is sitting derelict. I can not understand why this building is so offensive to people.
So I sit and I think. I try to understand. I read all the Fox News links that people post. I have only read the links that have been posted by Right-wing friends on Facebook, have only listened to discussion on Fox News, and went and got the map and Wikipedia description. My information has been overwhelmingly biased to the right. Yet, I can not make sense of the situation. Then I read a sentence in an article that talked about what "they" did to us on 9-11 and it all made sense.
American Christians are allowing themselves to be influenced by the idea that somehow 9-11 was an attack on Christianity, when it was an attack on Capitalism. It was an attack on the US government, it was an attack on our consumerist culture. After this attack we feel compelled to defend ourselves with righteous anger and indignation.
Why? What gives you the right to hate them, to deprive them of their right to buy a piece of property, build on it, and give their kids a place to play basketball? Where in scripture does God give you the right to hate them because they think you are a consumer ruled by money? God says to love those that curse you. God tells you to turn the other cheek. Now I'm not saying that the military would not be justified in attacking training facilities for jihadists, but we aren't talking about that, we are talking about a YMCA for Muslims. Where in scripture does it say because 16 men of a certain religion committed a horrible act of violence against a financial landmark that Christians should never allow anyone else of that religion to ever build a basketball court and prayer room with their own money on property they have obtained legally?
I can't help but think about R.G. LeTourneau, who became successful and decided to live on 10% of his income and tithe 90%. He was a super-conservative, super-southern, super-baptist. Yet this, slightly socialist Anglican Yankee has nothing but respect for the man. Because he did what was right. Money was a tool God gave him, he used only what he needed and gave the rest back. Why don't we think that way? Why don't we say, "I'm glad there will be a place for children, from the most reviled people group in this nation, to play safely." ? Why do we assume the worst about their motives?
Because by attacking money the 9-11 hijackers attacked our Golden Calf. The Israelites never claimed to be worshiping a god other than Jehovah. They just wanted to make an image of Him. We have recreated God in the image of the American Dollar. We swear our allegiance to the flag. We sing the Battle Hymn of the Republic in church like it has some spiritual significance. All so we can forget that the Image of God, the Imago Dei, is in the face of every single human being on earth. That to love God is to give everything for someone else, as Christ did on the cross. He hung there to save the conquering army that was ruling his nation with an iron fist and who had beaten and killed him, would set his friends on fire to light their Bacchanals, who had chopped off his cousin's head and displayed it at a state dinner.
Being despised and rejected and even attacked is never divine permission to spread hate and discrimination. It is an opportunity to love more, and to give more. When you have given all you have, you have almost given enough. There should never be an end to the charity to you give. There should never be a start to the vengeance you take.
So I think its great that a group of citizens have bought a piece of run down derelict property and plan to put something there that will give children and families a place to go and do constructive things in Manhattan. And I think that if you truly wanted to show the love of Christ to them, you would be glad they have a basketball court too. Because how are you loving them by what you are doing now? How are you showing them that Christ loves them and longs for a relationship with them by telling them that they can't build that basketball court just because they are Muslim?