Faithlink Discussion: Religious Freedom
And, it is important for me as a United Methodist.
But, as I’ve listened to news reports about the “Ground Zero Mosque” and the proposed actions of the Dove World Outreach Center, I find myself conflicted about religious freedom. I believe our Muslim neighbors should be given the opportunity to worship where they please (the first amendment guarantees them the right to worship where they please)–and– I whole heartedly disagree with the burn a Qur’an day scheduled for this coming Saturday (and wouldn’t be that upset if the government, violating the first amendment, found a way to shut it down as soon as Terry Jones or one of his adherents lights a match). Regardless of what I believe, or disagree or agree with, both have the right to practice their religion as they please, where they please. As Bishop Park, commenting on the “Ground Zero Mosque,” points out:
Denying the fundamental right of a religious community, as long as it fulfills the same legal requirements applied to all other religious communities…compromises the integrity of who we [as the United States of America] are at our core. If allowed, a serious crack opens in the foundation of our nation. Once opened in one place, soon more will be opened in other places. It makes us less as Americans and weaker as a nation. America cannot afford it. …it is necessary to stand firm on what America believes in and be willing to pay whatever the price to protect and preserve freedom and equality for all. Our resolve to do it must grow stronger for such a time as this. It is my prayer that someday peoples of all religious communities and faith traditions will embrace the vision of liberty, peace and justice in reconciliation, harmony and mutual respect and it is incumbent upon us to do whatever we can today to hasten that day. I ask you to continue to pray that our conversation will be a positive force that reflects who we are as responsible citizens, as well as faithful Christians.
From Bishop Park’s Letter regarding 51 Park Islamic Community Center and Mosque by Bishop Jeremiah J. Park, United Methodist Bishop of the New York Annual Conference (September 1, 2010).
While I want to promote religious freedom for my Muslim neighbors and deny it to my misguided Christian brothers and sisters in Gainesville, I must continue to “urge policies and practices that ensure the right of every religious group to exercise its faith free from legal, political, or economic restrictions” (The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, 2008; page 109). I don’t want my religious rights infringed upon; therefore, I don’t think these groups should have their rights denied either.
All that being said…
We, as Christians, have a responsibility to hold each other accountable. I think it is incredibly reassuring that so many Christian organizations and denominations have denounced the proposed actions of Terry Jones and the Dove World Outreach Church. The United Methodist Church, United Church of Christ, Roman Catholic Church, American Baptist Church, National Council of Churches, World Council of Churches, and the National Association of Evangelicals have all made statements, at various levels, denouncing the proposed acts of the Dove World Outreach Church.
It is in the face of such perversion that we must remember the radical message of Jesus. We cannot forget Christ’s command to love our neighbors (Mark 12:31)–and, even, our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). Yes, this makes us vulnerable and weak, but God’s grace is sufficient: it is through our weakness that the power of God dwells within us. For when we are weak, then we are strong (c.f. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
1Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, 2and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Ephesians 5:1-2, New Revised Standard Version
A Prayer for Peace with our Neighbors
By: Safiya Fosua
How quickly we have transitioned
From alien and stranger in this land
To Home Team Captain
From being the stranger
On Plymouth Rock (or did we arrive some other place?)
To the notion that we are entitled
To direct traffic, and pronounce:
This one clean
And that one unclean
In your eyes.
How quickly we have forgotten
The days when we were strangers
To this soil and to your Kingdom —
Not only strangers, but unrepentant enemies
Spiritually — bent on remaining as we were
Socially — determined to mark every tree that we passed
In our neighbors’ backyard.
Yet you loved us all
In spite of us all.
Teach us, O God, your ways.
Exchange our impulse to devour and destroy
For your impulse to turn swords into plowshares and pruning hooks.
Teach us how to love enemies, to do good to those who hate us (Luke 6:27)
and to love strangers as we love ourselves (Leviticus 19:34).
Strangers become friends
And enemies become neighbors. Amen.
Copyright General Board of Discipleship. www.GBOD.org Used by permission.