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Obama Backs Ground Zero Mosque

August 14, 2010

“Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial.
“Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive.
Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.

from 1 Corinthians 10:23-24.

This is the Apostle Paul, writing to the believers in Corinth about what the NIV calls The Believer's Freedom.

In verses 31-33, he concludes the section with -

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

This is the background for what I've thought about the situation with the "ground Zero Mosque".

First off - in the interest of honesty and openness - the proposed mosque is technically not at ground zero - meaning it's not at the site of the towers that were destroyed in the 9/11 attacks. It is very close - but it's not actually on that ground - it's two blocks away. For those that insist on saying it's at ground zero - it sounds good - it gets people's attention - and it's not the full truth - so I'm not going to call it that.

In any case - that's not really the point - where it stands precisely.

The real point - the real question - is over what it represents.

The real battle - that should be over what are Christians supposed to do about it.


First off though - Obama's statements - and what he didn't say - make the point quite nicely. There are lots of articles written about this - but the one I'm going to quote from is here - from an AP article posted on FoxNews.com.

The sequence went like this -

  1. Until Friday, the White House had asserted that it did not want to get involved in local decision-making.
  2. Speaking to a gathering at the White House Friday evening to observe the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, Obama said that he believes "Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country."
  3. Asked Saturday about the issue during his trip to Florida, Obama said: "I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right that people have that dates back to our founding."

So - the obvious question - what happened between Friday evening and Saturday to make this "clarification" necessary?

In a statement Saturday, Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner said the decision to build the mosque wasn't an issue of religious freedom, but a matter of respect.

"The fact that someone has the right to do something doesn't necessarily make it the right thing to do," Boehner said. "That is the essence of tolerance, peace and understanding."

Does that sound kind of familiar? Like everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial or constructive?


Now - the next question has to be - is this a religious freedom question - or is it really a question of respect / what is right / beneficial / constructive?

To answer that - let's examine a little bit of history.

To start with - what were the origins of the first mosque?

According to Islamic tradition - it was built by the angels before the creation of mankind - in Mecca. It has been damaged and rebuilt from time to time. One such rebuilding was done by Ibrahim and Ismael (Abraham and Ishmael).

In that mosque is a stone - called the Kaaba - which Islam teaches is the only remaining piece of the mosque built by Ibrahim and Ismael. Others today believe it is a piece of the moon that landed on earth. Which is it - or is it something else entirely? That's maybe a fun distraction - but it's not relevant to the real issue here.

The first building of the mosque as an Islamic site came after Muhammed conquered Mecca, when the mosque named Al-Masjid al-Haram was built around the Kaaba stone.

So - it was built after victory in a war.


Maybe that's just one mosque as a victory symbol. Are there others? What about the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem?

According to Islamic tradition - it was first built as a House of God by Jacob, son of Isaac. And the story goes from there.

That would be the same as what Jews and Christians would call the Temple Mount - where the first and second temples were built, which are considered the most holy sites in Judaism.

Muslims believe that Muhammad was transported from Mecca to al-Aqsa during the "Night Journey" on a winged horse.

Ultimately, the mosque itself was built, but the exact origins remain subject to debate. In any event, it was built after a conquest.

Gee - coincidence - or intentional?


Could there be more? What about Cordoba, Spain?

Really? Spain? That's not in the middle east.

No - it isn't. And unlike the previous examples, there's no Islamic tradition linked to this mosque.

Around 600 AD, this was a Christian Visigothic church called St. Vincent.

Somewhere around 784, Emir Abd ar-Rahman I bought the church. Yes - he bought it.

Oh yeah - by the way - he bought it after the Islamic conquest of the Visigothic Kingdom.

By the time it was done - the following is said about it:

The Great Mosque of Cordoba placed its importance amongst the Islamic community of Al-Andalus for three centuries. In Cordoba, the capital of Al-Andalus, the Great Mosque was seen as the heart and central focus of the capital. The master piece was created by Abd-Al-Rahman in the 8th century. The mosque’s floor plan is seen to be parallel to some of the earliest mosques built from the very beginning of Islam.The main hall of the mosque was used for a variety of purposes. It served as a central hall for teaching and to manage law and order within Al-Andalus during the rule of Abd-Al-Rahman. The Great Mosque had a rectangular prayer hall which had aisles standing pendicular to the qibla, the main direction towards which Muslims pray. The wall facing towards the qibla had an indent on it representing the direction of Mecca to be facing that wall. The prayer hall was large in size, flat with timber ceilings held up by arches of horseshoe-like appearance. The arches came from reused Roman and Visgothic columns.] The walls of the mosque had Quranic inscriptions written on them.] Some of the most prominent features were: an open court (sahn) surrounded by arcades, screens of wood, minarets, colourful mosaics, and windows of coloured glass.] The Great Mosque of Cordoba held features and architectural appearance similar to the Great Mosque of Damascus,] therefore it is evident that it was used as a model by Abd-Al-Rahman and the creation of the Great Mosque in Cordoba. 150 years following its creation, a staircase to the roof was added to the mosque, along with an extension of the mosque itself southwards, and a bridge linking the prayer hall with the Emir’s palace.] The mosque was later expanded even further south, as was the courtyard which surrounded the Great Mosque. The mosque itself was built in four stages,] each Caliph and his elite contributing to it. It is seen as a trademark of Islamic architecture. To the people of Al-Andalus “the beauty of the mosque was so dazzling that it defied any description.”

So - they did it again. Conquer - build a mosque over the symbol of the religion of the people who were conquered.


But wait - Cordoba. Does that sound familiar? It should.

Go back to the mosque near ground zero. Do you know / remember what the proposed name of that facility is?

It's Park51. Huh? What's that got to do with Cordoba?

Well - before it was renamed to park 51 - it was going to be Cordoba House.

And one other thing is related to Cordoba as well. One of the investors in this project is the Cordoba Initiative.

Interesting.

But is it more than just "interesting"?


This isn't being built on the site of a conquest. It's not even on the actual site of the attack.

Although part of the landing gear from one of the planes did hit the building.

And hard core Muslims do look at that attack as a victory.


This isn't being built over the top of a religious symbol. So what could it have to do with the other examples above?

No - it's not a religious symbol. But many Americans consider it sacred / hallowed ground - where so many people lists their lives in the attacks.


So - is the evidence compelling that the proposed mosque near ground zero is the same as the previous ones built after a conquest?

In strict legal terms - is it provable beyond a shadow of a doubt?

To be honest - no.

I don't know what's in the hearts and minds of the people who are behind it. Maybe it is a victory symbol - maybe it isn't. We just don't know.

In the looser world of civil cases - is it provable with reasonable doubt?

To be honest again - I believe it is.

That would have to be one heck of a lot of coincidences to not be the case. But - again - we don't really truly know.

Only they know - and God knows.


Where does that leave us?

It leaves us with what John Boehner said -

"The fact that someone has the right to do something doesn't necessarily make it the right thing to do," Boehner said. "That is the essence of tolerance, peace and understanding."

It leaves us with Obama didn't say -

"I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right that people have that dates back to our founding."

It leaves us with what the Apostle Paul said - way back at the beginning of this article -

“Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.

So what now? What should we - as Christians do?


A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. On shigionoth.

LORD, I have heard of your fame;

I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD.

Renew them in our day,

in our time make them known;

...

Though the fig tree does not bud

and there are no grapes on the vines,

though the olive crop fails

and the fields produce no food,

though there are no sheep in the pen

and no cattle in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the LORD,

I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign LORD is my strength;

he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,

he enables me to go on the heights.


How about doing what Habakkuk did?


Pray!

Lift it up to God.

He can handle it.

And He will.


The Sovereign LORD is my strength .