A New York City Jesus Mosque

Maybe you’ve heard ­ a mosque might be built near Ground Zero.  This has raised a significant and I think important debate in America.  And as you might guess, it has filled my inbox nearly every day with “what do you think about this” emails from politicians, pastors and business leaders.  The questions raised are real.

One thing I’m sure of, at the heart of this discussion is how we view ourselves, others and ultimately the fabric and fiber of God’s Kingdom.  It is NOT primarily a discussion about whether or not Muslims have the right to build a mosque there (or anywhere). It is NOT primarily a discussion about freedom of religion in America.  I think those have been answered.

So what’s driving the passion in this debate?  Why have Sarah Palin and Barack Obama weighed in? Why is every Christian author, speaker. Blogger in America writing about this?  And what are they missing?

The Answer: they are doing exactly what the first 12 followers of Jesus did? Asking the wrong question about the wrong topic.  They continued to ask ­ right up until Jesus was taken back to heaven in Acts chapter one – “Are you going to restore the Kingdom to Israel?”

It was a question about David’s Kingdom. About Jewish rule.  About the temple.  It was a relevant, literal question. “When will we get to be in charge of our own destiny again.”

And they asked it often of Jesus.  Throughout his three years with them.  If you are the Messiah, the Savior, the Restorer of All, when is it going to happen and what will our position be in this Kingdom.

His answer has relevance to this discussion: “My kingdom is not of this world, it is within you.”  Or his last answer before he left us was, “You will be filled with God’s Spirit and will be witnesses of me to everyone, everywhere.”

Once again, he didn’t really answer the question but redirected them to the real issue ­ his kingdom. His rule. His way.  That we would be filled with his spirit and be a witness. Not the judge. Not the jury. A witness.  Simply telling what we’ve seen and heard and experienced.  Witnesses.

So…what about the mosque?  Do we make a fatal error when we care too much about a piece of property?  Any property?  I know of churches that have fought city councils for years in order to build a building somewhere. Are maybe it’s about “holy land” in the Middle East. Or an “unholy” mosque in NYC.

What if those of us who try to follow the way of Jesus would see this as a wonderful opportunity to love our fellow Americans (thus obeying the second half of the Great Commandment) and somehow see Jesus lifted up because this Mosque is built?  What if Jesus were to fill that Mosque?  What if we so loved these Muslims that are leading the effort that they asked some of us to visit?  To even preach there? To lift up the name of Jesus INSIDE the mosque? And glorify God because of it. Why not?

Because the Kingdom of God is not held in, or withheld from, any building! It comes with those who are submitted to its King.  Come King Jesus. In a Mosque. In a Church. In a Park.  On the streets. Come.

Comments

  1. Elizabeth Taylor says:

    Carl,

    You are presenting ONE side of a debate that has been raging for at least the last 30 years within Christendom — How involved Christians should be in “politics” or “public affairs”.

    Pretend we are not talking about a mosque (in a disrespectful and inappropriate location). Pretend we are talking about the tax code, or abortion, or the wars in Afghanistan/Iraq. Are you saying that Christians should not involve themselves in these types of debates?

    If so, you have an extremely tough case to make, biblically speaking.

    You’ve got to get around John the Baptist, who called Herod out for taking his brother’s wife (and subsequently got his head chopped off). Jesus, our Christ and Savior, calls John one of the greatest men ever born of woman — for getting involved in a political/social matter that was “none of his business”!!!

    I agree that loving people on the personal level is priority #1 and we cannot place our faith in politics to solve any problems. We need to be speaking out respectfully, but are you saying we shouldn’t be speaking at all?

    Don’t buy it – and Jesus doesn’t back it up.

    1. Before we even enter the debate, the first question any of us should ask is what is God up to now? Recognizing He is in control – and that the earth is His and everything in it – perhaps we should recognize this as a test from Him within His ultimate design of Redemption and Reclaimation of His creation. Don’t we ultimately find peace every time?

      Once we feel pretty certain of His plan and design in spite of our own recognition and imagery of the evil influences that may or may not be counteracting His plan (the Bible says the evil is completely dependant upon His authority, does it not), we can better act according to His will instead of our own.

      Some say peace can only come when Christ returns to the earth. Others say He rules now and we are His servants, responsible for bringing about that peace. In the end, it is our own ideologies that will ultimately pattern our response.

      How serious a threat to God is evil? What is the ultimate purpose God has for the use of this pride, anger, and fear too often represented within the people called by His Son’s (Prince of Peace) name toward the rest of His creation – which He claims to love dearly from everything I read in His word – even if His people continued to show that they misunderstood and needed His refinement. This one takes faith.

    2. Lee says:

      Great response to this post Elizabeth -very well said, and Christ-like, in my opinion. I have been reading the posts from Carl for awhile now and have found little to agree with him on, and dont seem to respond in a positive manner as I should. Among other things, I have noticed that Carl doesn’t seem to be Christ-like in his treatment toward sin, and outright evil. Clearly, the bible, and recent history illustrates the absolute satanic hatred of the Jews. This seems to be the way the ‘wind’ is blowing in the media, liberal churches, the U.N. and any other global body for that matter. I have also observed that Carl is on a list of speakers for many apologists of Islam -why? One thing is for sure, the actual converts who escape from the oppressive theocracies of Islam -have an entirely different story to tell, one that is in direct conflict with Carl’s. He is not even sure that Hamas is a terrorist organization, that it depends on which side of the Israeli border you are living on. CRAZY.

      1. Aili says:

        I read your post, and then I reread it again. And I’m still a bit confused. In what sense do you mean Carl is not Christ-like in his treatment towards sin and evil? I’m just wondering how you come to that conclusion? I don’t know if I’ve missed the point completely, but the main thing I’ve always heard Carl speak on is to follow Jesus. And kind of to aim to be more like Jesus. And that this is something that is available for all, wherever we’re born and whatever background. It seems to me Carl is rather passionate about this, regardless which country we are from, or which faith or culture we grew up with.
        I don’t really understand what the argument is, to be honest. As in, what there is to argue about. I kind of think that if we want to follow Jesus, and Jesus is the ultimate sin free and free of evil being that we can aspire to be like, then it kind of follows that we would not like sin or evil. I haven’t really heard Carl condone or lift up sin or evil as great examples to follow, I’ve only ever heard him share Jesus’ love for everyone, whoever they are, wherever they are, whatever their background. No matter if they’re Jew, Muslim, Scandinavian or British…

  2. Deborah says:

    I’m reading your book and I can see where you’re coming from, but I have some questions about this mosque and the Muslim issue: Would Christians (Jesus followers) be allowed to enter the mosque, would women be allowed in and would they be allowed in without scarves on their heads, would they be allowed to carry and read their Bibles, speak and pray openly to Jesus? We already know none of this would be allowed in Saudi Arabia or Iran, so why is it wrong for Americans to FINALLY say, hey, enough is enough. Until we can build a church in downtown Rhiyad (sp?), there will be NO MORE mosques built in the U.S. Peace and understanding should work both ways, but so far, the U.S. is doing all the bending. I know that God’s kingdom is not of this world, but this world is where we happen to be living at the moment.

    1. ricgal says:

      Deborah, it’s not about tit for tat with Saudi Arabia. These are the aspirations of Muslim believers who are U.S. citizens as well. I’m not referring specifically to one mosque, but to Muslim Americans who want to build a mosque to worship in, in your city. American born, white anglo muslims who have been converts from Christianity! Let’s stop driving people from the church, by getting in touch with Jesus. We are supposed to be taking our world by storm, being on the offensive with the Love of Christ, and not defending our values from the offenses of others.

  3. kristi says:

    Thank you for this Carl. As a woman that has spent a little time in the Muslim world, and has a great love for the people, I have the exact same view that you do but have not been able to articulate it as well as you. I truly believe this may be a huge opportunity for good and like you I knew the question was wrong, it often is. I just couldn’t make the right connection. So far the only response I’ve made was Matthew 5:42-44 and again I owe that to your wonderful book.

    I must say that I have many friends that have found the common ground of Jesus to be a very easy topic of conversation to have with our Muslim friends, even in the mosque and have prayed with the Imam in the name of Jesus. I also have no problem going into the places of worship and talking with the ladies there.

    Thanks again Carl for helping me put my views into words. And I believe if more “Christians” would act truly with love then the Kingdom would come a whole lot quicker.

  4. Carl Medearis says:

    Just remember to argue with Jesus, not me. I’ve been learning to NOT CARE what I think and try to only care what he thinks….

    1. Lee says:

      Carl, Jesus is not doing the blogging, and that is not the way to be accountable for your opinions -to ascribe yours to Christ’s.

      1. Aili says:

        Think Carl means that his opinion is not that important, what Jesus would think is more important. I presume he is kind of encouraging people to check out the good book to see if what Carl happens to post on the blog somehow correlates with what Jesus speaks. If it does, then good, if not, then I think we’re free to go with what Jesus said. Or did. I think.

  5. Ryan says:

    I agree with what you are saying Carl. I don’t think you are saying to avoid politics or the issues, but to approach issues in a different way… possibly a more humble way? A way that yields to others, so that we aren’t fighting over other lesser things, but a way that gives us a chance to love the way we have been loved by our King.

  6. Willem says:

    Nobody has mentioned yet that it is a Sufi mosque. Which makes things different- it might even be a positive thing.

  7. tyler.yates2 says:

    Carl,

    I was just forwarded this article by a friend that recommended your writings. I have to say, I enjoyed your article. I agree with how you framed this current debate and I’m not at all surprised several people have misunderstood how you’ve chosen to frame this discussion.

    For those who disagreed with Carl: maybe you can clarify both where and why exactly you find his article to be in disagreement with both what and how Christ taught, as well as with how his approach fails to accept the unmistakable realities we citizens of a fallen, fallible, but real nation have to answer to. Nobody has actually argued anything: simple conclusions without supporting premises, let alone explained premises.

    Carl’s major premise is: Regarding the debate concerning the mosque to be built near Ground Zero, Jesus clearly taught us that the most important, most predominate issue to be considered was not whether or not Christians should be involved in politics, what political views we should ascribe to, or how dedicated of citizens we should be, but if he, Jesus Christ, is first and foremost our Heavenly Lord, our eternal government, and that every single action in this world we make echoes that reality first, BEFORE it echoes the other reality that we are, indeed, law obeying citizens as well as being both politically responsible and aware.

    If you don’t agree with that first premise, then you won’t, naturally, agree with his conclusion. So, start there.

    ELIZABETH: you asked: “Are you saying that Christians should not involve themselves in these types of debates?”

    I can’t understand where you’re deducing this from in Carl’s article. You mentioned tax code, for example. This example IS mentioned by Jesus. He DOES inform us, as Christians and citizens of an empire or nation, how to reconcile eternal citizenship with sojourner citizenship in this temporary world. Mark Chapter 12: The Pharisees ask Jesus a simple question: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Ceaser, or not?” (ESV). Jesus replied, “Render to Ceaser the things that are Ceaser’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (ESV).

    Jesus’ point in that passage: Christians are responsible to both God and to their Earthly governments. It is NO coincidence that 11 verses later, Jesus gives us, as Carl mentioned, “The Great Commandment”: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (ESV).

    The conclusion: God is supreme over, before and beyond all things. HIS Kingdom is first and foremost, and is the greatest commandment of them all. Until we get this right first, the greatest commandment, how can we ever get right the commandment to be responsible citizens and to be both politically informed and aware? Are we not aware that at some point, our Christian citizenship will be in conflict with our Earthly citizenship, and that God expects us to be obedient and joyful citizens of His Kingdom, thus sometimes, and necessarily so, becoming disobedient to our temporary world’s government, Law, and law makers?

    In Acts 4: Peter and John are commanded by the Pharisees, the earthly government established by God himself, to stop preaching Jesus Christ. Their answer in verse 19: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” These men were earlier imprisoned for this evangelism. Clearly, Carl’s point is only driven home harder by this example: what is of the utmost importance is God’s eternal purpose and Kingdom. This means that we pay our taxes, we obey the established government authority that God has, in his sovereignty, placed over us, we speak the truth as John the Baptist did about Herod, and when it comes to it, we choose God’s Kingdom. But, in John the Baptist’s example, he spoke out about Herod’s wickedness, he did not form a political committee. That’s not wrong to do that, but that specific example has nothing to do with political reformation or evaluation through pragmatic political solutions; rather, through boldly speaking the truth itself in a corridor filled with onlookers.

    Carl’s point regarding the most important aspect of this Islamic mosque at Ground Zero is exactly what Jesus taught: the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with your entire heart, soul, mind and strength; the second is like it, to love your neighbor as yourself. Therefore, the most important aspect of this debate, according to the Greatest Commandment given by God, is that we love God passionately, we love our Islamic friends and foes passionately, and we submit to Earthly government authorities until it demands we disobey our God.

    This does not at all mean, or did Carl mean, that it’s not important, required or necessary to debate and discuss the sociological, geo-political or culturally relevant factors regarding the Islamic mosque at Ground Zero: he simply was citing Christ as to what God’s ultimate, sovereign, and Holy purpose is and how that is pragmatically accomplished in our lives here on Earth.

  8. tyler.yates2 says:

    With all that said, for those who disagree with this article, you should really re-read Carl’s article. It is rich with the teachings and heart of Jesus, it is articulate and it’s relevant to our culture and times. This is the best answer I’ve heard on this debate since it began.

  9. harambee78 says:

    Good thoughts, Carl. Personally, I haven’t heard a good argument yet that the mosque should not be built there (‘sacred ground?’ Then shouldn’t we tear down the strip club that is much closer to ground zero, or maybe the 9/11-themed souvenir shops?) and I am worried about the rise of pure anti-Islamic sentiment in the country. I think this is what is really behind opposition to the mosque for most, and it is certainly behind opposition to mosques in other places (such as the one in Mufreesboro, TN – nowhere near any ‘sacred ground’).

    But my overwhelming feeling about all this is one of sadness over missed opporunity. I can think of nothing that would have been more illustrative of Christ’s love than for Christians to have stood up and said, ‘We love our Muslim brothers and sisters and do not hold them responsible for the acts of a few extremists. We support their right to build houses of worship and seek God as they are led.’

    I am reminded of the guy who went on a murder spree in Amish country a few years ago only to then have the families of the murdered love and bring comfort to the killer’s family in the wake of his actions. I recall thinking it was the most Christ-like thing I had ever seen. There was an opportunity for a similar moment here w/ this mosque. Unfortunately we have given into the spirits of fear and missed it.

  10. bruckoii says:

    Dilemma over building a mosque/cultural-center at/near ground zero in New York exposes some front lines in the culture war raging across America. First, it reveals agendas that become visible when comparing what people say to what they do. Second, it provides opportunity to compare the relative importance of values held by sides in the culture war.

    Concerning agendas, most of the people who are pro-religious liberty for building the mosque at that location are anti-manger scenes on public sidewalks. A hidden agenda among many in this pro-mosque group may be counterbalancing their intolerance for one kind of religious expression with tolerance for another. Ironically, most of the people who oppose this location for this mosque are pro-other kinds of religious expression, such as prayer in Jesus’ name at public events. A hidden agenda among many in this anti-mosque group may be to promote one religion over another.

    Regarding differing systems of values, ethical dilemmas reveal values priorities. Telling the truth is important. However, during Nazi occupation, many Dutch families hid Jews and lied to occupying forces. Telling the truth wasn’t as important as preserving those lives. The mosque at ground zero exposes competition between at least two important values: 1) National Dignity/Security; and 2) Constitutional Freedoms.

    On national dignity and security, some believe allowing the mosque to be built at ground zero will underscore American pluralism and undercut popular support for America’s enemies. For those with overarching concern for America’s dignity and security, however, this mosque location will embarrass America, embolden her enemies, and encourage support for groups like Al-Qaeda. Based upon my personal experience among Muslims and upon what I am hearing from many scholars and reform-minded Muslim leaders, I consider the latter outcome to be the most likely.

    With respect to constitutional freedoms, many believe that, in the interests of taste and national security, the government can zone against the religious use of certain private properties. For those with the overarching concern that religious expression should be private and free from public interference, however, such a zoning intrusion would be an unthinkable human rights violation of much greater concern than any dignity or security issues.

    As in most wars, one side will win and the other side will lose. Such an outcome in this culture war would be unfortunate for all of America. Reaching a “diplomatic” solution so that both sides can win will require exposing and marginalizing hidden agendas and then accommodating and affirming both sets of competing values. In the quest for public image, the side that wins will likely lose.

  11. patricia says:

    Carl, I was greatly impacted by your seminar at New Wine several years ago which prompted me to read Pillars and Prophets. I would love to see Christians and New Yorkers involved in the dedication of the mosque. Christians invited to offer prayers of dedication. Christians being allowed to pray which would bring Jesus inside the mosque. Christian women meeting Islamic women in the mosque which would lead to ‘Let’s take our kids to play group together’, etc. Didn’t Jesus meet people where they were? Can’t we do the same? As you taught me, Jesus can defend Himself. All we have to do is introduce people to Him or bring Him into situations. He is quite capable of doing the rest.
    Do we believe Jesus is The Truth or not?
    God bless you, Carl.

  12. ricgal says:

    Unfortunately, we all have friends who will accuse us of giving in, who will make us FEAR that we are being led astray, who will tell us that what we (think we) heard from the Lord could not have been from the Lord

  13. msTee says:

    Carl is drawing our attention once again to what Jesus was/is drawing our attention to. The kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is bigger than all these things.
    Jesus met people where they were and asked them to stay there.
    If jesus meets muslims in the mosque, what will he ask of them? What will you ask of them today?

    Let us fix our eyes on things that are eternal, things above not on things below.