When you consider the Ground Zero mosque controversy, I cannot help but think of the Orthodox Idolatry post at Judah’s Lion (courtesy of PJ Miller) of concerning the lengths that Christians will go to in order to defend the American system because they perceive the American system to be some Christian ideal and the result of God’s providence and part of His special plan for the redemption of mankind with a unique role in salvation history, and as a result defending America is tantamount to defending the gospel of Jesus Christ itself. From Calvinistic covenant theologians like D. James Kennedy who proclaim America to be the crowning achievement of that system to free will Christians who want the power of man to choose or resist God’s grace to be constitutionally protected by the most powerful nation on earth, there is a lot at stake in claiming that there is Godly virtue in America’s secular freedoms, secular freedoms that are truthfully – according to Judah’s Lion – are actually morally neutral. Nothing of real spiritual value is morally neutral – meaning that it can be used for either evil or good – because God cannot be the origin of evil (James 1:12). Instead, it should be stated that things that are morally neutral can be used to perform God’s purposes. And that is no evidence of the virtues of morally neutral – or amoral – things because even things that are incontrovertibly evil have been used to fulfill God’s purposes too (as in the slaughter of the innocent Jewish children by Herod, which fulfilled a Messianic prophecy).
Now a lot of things have been written by Christians on this mosque topic. So, I will focus on two issues: the need of Christians to submit to the government (Romans 13) and the need of Christians not to be hypocrites. On the first, the Bible makes it clear that failing to obey or respect the law when the law does not force Christians to violate scripture is a sin. To put it another way, attempting to defy or subvert legitimate government is a sin, because legitimate government is a servant of God because of its serving to restrain evil. This means that not only are we to adhere to the law ourselves, but we are to desire that others do so also, and further we are to desire that the law is applied justly, which means fairly and evenly.
With that in mind, make no mistake: the First Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the applicable state and local laws give Muslims the right to build this mosque. For Christians to go about looking for ways to hinder or intimidate Muslims from exercising and enjoying their legal rights is to attempt to subvert and reject our system of laws. It would make the Muslims the lawmakers and Christians the subversives, the rebels, the seditionists. It would be Christians attempting to subvert the rule of law and undermining a just application of them. Other nations, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel, do not have any pretense of equal treatment under the law. They do not have an equivalent to the Bill of Rights or the equal protection clause. So those nations can have different sets of rules for religious minorities and be justified in their own eyes. But it is America who has those things, and there is no justification for a Christian to attempt to prevent a nation from living up to and enforcing its own laws. Indeed, the Christian who does such a thing is guilty of promoting injustice and lawlessness.
Now a lot of people have taken the stance “it is legal but it isn’t right” under the grounds that it is offensive. The problem is that the First Amendment and other applicable laws are designed specifically to protect things that are offensive. To pretend otherwise is ridiculous. Now of course, most people are willing to respect the wishes and feelings of the majority. That’s not the point. The point is that they have no legal obligation to. Instead, the law is designed to protect people who have no regard for the majority, and indeed are opposed to the majority.
I don’t believe that a lot of Christians, especially those of a conservative political persuasion, have come to grips with the true nature of the founding of our country. This country’s founding was an act of rebellion, sedition, treason or what have you against England, who (notwithstanding the Native Americans) were the rightful rulers of this nation. Rebelling against a colonial power was a radical act, and it was justified not with the Bible, but with the radical Enlightenment thought that produced – among other things – the murderous French Revolution and ultimately spawned socialism, fascism and communism. So why are we surprised that a bunch of radical seditionists would produce a Constitution that protects the right of radical people to express themselves and organize? So, back then, it was the deists, humanists, rationalists, atheists, unitarians, freemasons (Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and similar) plus Jews and Roman Catholics who demanded these protections from our overwhelmingly Protestant nation, and thanks to a revolutionary (seditious) mindset that overthrew the previous experiences of nations from the Roman Empire to Calvin’s Geneva to Bunyan’s England which taught that the long-term survival of a nation (we have only been in existence 300 years!) requires limiting religious freedom, they got it.
Now if it is time to state that the founders were wrong on unfettered religious freedom, fine. But should this reckoning be led by the very Christian leaders who supported the war in Iraq to “defend our religious freedoms and to give the Iraqis religious freedom too!”? If there is a fight to keep Muslims from imposing sharia law on Christians at home, the Christians who supported imposing western style democracies on sharia law on Muslims abroad should not be the ones to lead it. The reason is because such Christians do not support true justice or the rule of law, but instead only want to use these institutions to benefit Christians (and increasingly Jews, Mormons and Roman Catholics, who now all get to be called “Judeo-Christians”). We cannot continue to ignore that our system of laws was created in order to give a bunch of rebellious people that included in their ranks not a few deists and unitarians the “freedom” to reject legitimate Godly authority, which means that we also cannot persist in acting surprised that everyone from the Muslims to the feminists to the Marxists to the homosexual activists to the atheists have used this same system to pursue their agendas also.
Please note that I did not say “co-opt” or “hi-jack” because that would be dishonest. Instead, it can and must be said that these groups are properly utilizing our system according to the manner that it was intended. Our system was created by rebels for rebels. People who are appalled at the rebels of today (i.e. Muslims, homosexuals and other liberals) have forgotten how appalling the American Revolution was to the British! That’s right, the current tea party folks who oppose this mosque on the basis that it will become a breeding ground for terrorists (which it will be, trust me I have no illusion about Islam) conveniently forget how the British very properly viewed the original Tea Party and those who followed after them. Do you believe that the British had any higher regard for George Washington than many Americans have for Feisal Abdul Rauf? Why do you believe that they should have for the man that led a rebellion against their nation that killed many British soldiers? You don’t believe that the British cared any less for their soldiers fighting in America back then than we care about our soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan today? (And when you consider that unlike our troops occupying sovereign nations, the British troops were fighting to defend territory that was lawfully and properly theirs from traitors and seditionists?)
So, Christians who believe that by opposing the mosque they are defending America have simply deluded themselves as to what they are defending. It should be clear based on the Bible and our history (by this I mean actual scripture and history and not what we wish the Bible and our history to be for our own political or patriotic purposes) that seeking to either break the law or to intimidate Muslims to abandon their legal rights in order to oppose this mosque is not a legitimate expression of Christianity, which renders under Caesar that which is Caesar’s and submits to higher powers. As building this mosque will not stop a single Christian sermon from being preached or evangelist from being sent, contriving excuses to refuse to respect the law and the decisions of legitimately elected leaders (i.e. Bloomberg and Obama) makes the Christian guilty in this matter. And please, no speaking of how that site is “sacred ground.” Sacred in what sense? Not in a Christian sense, because the New Testament speaks only of the church’s identification with Jesus Christ – and through Jesus Christ God the Father – and it’s being indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The New Testament no longer even affords much special significance to Jerusalem or the temple. Biblical Christianity respects no concept of “sacred ground”, only an elect people, and stating otherwise is political idolatry.
Now the second issue is even easier: hypocrisy. Suppose this former Burlington Coat Factory site had been purchased by a Christian pastor for the purposes of building a church, seminary or similar. And suppose that the state and city governments were to deny the building of it. Suppose that the logic was that it would be inappropriate, insensitive, and a provocation. Suppose Mike Bloomberg and Barack Obama were to say “building a large church so close to Ground Zero would be an act of declaring that site a Christian site and this nation a Christian nation, and that would dishonor the memories of the Jews, atheists, Hindus, Wiccans and Muslims who died on September 11th, and it would also dishonor the non-Christian soldiers who are fighting for our freedoms.” What if devices or tricks such as declaring this Burlington Coat Factory to be some sort of historical landmark site or changes to zoning laws were done to prevent this “Ground Zero Church” from being built, and demands were made to respect it as “sacred ground.” Suppose that someone were to even propose that building a church on a site that Muslims regard as triumphialist – one where they believe themselves to have obtained a great victory over the west – would be considered a religious and ideological “counterstrike” that would incite and inflame “moderate Muslims” and provoke attacks from Islamists. What would be the response?
We know the answer. Many of these very same Christians would invoke the First Amendment and every other law in the books to support the church being built. The same laws that we are demanding that Muslims either abandon or be denied in this case, most of these same Christians would want to be enforced to the fullest extent possible were the roles reversed. The Alliance Defense Fund, the American Center For Law and Justice, and other similar organizations would be working overtime, as would so many Christian leaders and opinion-makers. They would reject the “this isn’t about the First Amendment … you can build a church anywhere, just not here!” excuse. And you know what, they’d be 100% correct in that hypothetical situation just as they are 100% wrong now. Do not mistake me, I am a Bible-believing Christian who fully knows the difference between Islam and Christianity. The issue is that our laws respect no such difference because they were written by people who wanted a legal code that recognizes no distinctions between Martin Luther and Thomas Jefferson. Our laws can show no favor on Christians or disfavor on Muslims because in going with Enlightenment humanism, our founding fathers chose darkness over light. So then, what is the justification for Christians to completely cast aside the golden rule – let alone the rule of law – with regards to this matter? Simple: there is none. Instead, you have so many professing Christians that are standing up defending the right to treat Muslims in a manner that is not only illegal, but is not the treatment that they would want to receive themselves. (Again, no claims that “I would respect sharia law if I were living in Saudi Arabia” because this isn’t Saudi Arabia. This is America, and the Bible demands that American Christians be subject to American laws and rulers, not that we try to seek ways to justify violating our laws and defying our leaders.)
Now does this means that Christians should support and defend this mosque? Of course not. Christians should never willingly play a role in the promotion of another religion. (Ecumenical Christians who do so with Roman Catholics and Mormons as well as dispensationalists who do so with Jews, please take note.) The idea that we have to defend the freedom of other religions in order to defend our own freedoms is not supported by the Bible. It is akin to claiming that we have to defend homosexual marriage in order to protect state recognition of heterosexual marriage, or defend abortion in order to make sure that those who wish to have children will be allowed to. Also, it takes the position that the protection and advancement of the church comes from the state and not God. Some Christians, especially those of the liberal bent, would claim that the Bible commands us to speak up for the marginalized and dispossessed and make sure that they receive justice. It is my position that such people would be employing questionable hermeneutics and a faulty application based on them in a case like this. Allow me to say that it would be the duty of a Christian who holds a post in civil government to do his job and follow the law with respect to Muslims in this case. Beyond that, it is the duty of our civil government to protect the First Amendment rights of Muslims. Christians should simply allow our civil government to do its job with respect to Muslims seeking to practice their religion and not interfere.
Ultimately, this Ground Zero mosque is a great example of the dangerous deceptions of political Christianity, both right and left. Political Christianity causes us to error in our thought, speech and actions, and divert those things from what God in His New Testament actually told us to do, which is to go and make converts and disciples and to live under submission to Jesus Christ ourselves.
Update: Following Judah’s Lion has the best commentary on this topic to date.
Thousands of Jesus followers around the world are being persecuted and even martyred for their faith. And just like the Amish who forgave the man who murdered their little girls, these believers endure hardships and persecution with the grace that should remind us of the Savior upon that cruel tree.
But in America a mosque is proposed to be built and millions of people who profess Christ get all up in arms and sound the alarm. The “alarm” they sound is not a call to sacrificial prayer for the souls of the Muslims who will frequent this mosque, but it is a caterwauling about America and the indignity of such a building. And these are people who doctrinally say they believe the Bible.Evidently they do not.
What more can be said?