Evangelicals' Opposition to Mosque Undermines Their Own Faith

Michael Gerson was the chief speechwriter and a senior policy advisor for George W. Bush from 2001 thru mid-2006 and a member of Bush’s White House Iraq Group. A Presbyterian, he graduated from Westminster Christian Academy and Wheaton College. He is now an op-ed columnist for The Washington Post.

In yesterday’s column, “In mosque controversies, some Christians undermine their own faith,” Gerson writes,

“Christian fundamentalists who undermine religious liberty in order to target Muslims are playing a game of intolerance roulette. That First Amendment might come in handy someday…”

“…The purpose of social influence for Christians is not to favor their own faith; it is to serve a view of universal rights and dignity taught by their faith...”

“…Freedom of religious worship and expression is essential to human dignity -- which makes blocking the construction of a mosque for religious reasons a violation of Christian belief.”

Good for Gerson, who breaks from the pack. He has the guts to not join the many conservative pundits and politicians who are jumping on the bandwagon of the religiously intolerant hoping to grab ratings or votes from conservative evangelicals.

As an evangelical myself, I look at this whole mosque controversy, scratch my head and ask, “What happened to our desire for religious liberty?” Evangelicals, of all people, should be on the side of religious tolerance in the public square.


Byron Harvey said...

The answer, though, is that this controversy isn't about religious liberty or religious tolerance. Granted, there are idiots like Bryan Fischer and others who protest the construction of mosques in general; these clowns deserve to be called out.

But it has nothing to do with rights, as it seems to me some of those conservative pundits have made clear; nobody with a brain or a minimal understanding of the Constitution is arguing this. It's rather about sensitivity and appropriateness, that's all, and there have been offers made (I'm not privy to details) to the Muslim community there to sell property a little further removed from Ground Zero to be used for the same purpose. It's not bigotry or intolerance in the least to simply say ask that the Muslim community---given that Islam (at least some version of it, perhaps twisted) gave rise to the monstrosity of 9/11---be sensitive to the location of their building.

Gerson reaches a wrong conclusion because he begins with a wrong premise, that people are "blocking the construction of a mosque for religious reasons". No..., while a small percentage may be, most people are objecting because of the gross insensitivity displayed there (and, additionally I believe, because of some of the statements made by the Imam that are questionable as well). I couldn't care less if they build their religious center somewhere, and don't question their freedom to do so one bit (so much for the "religious liberty" or "intolerance" angle, Bob), and I think that a high percentage of objectors agree with me on that, but it would seem that just a little bit of sensitivity to the concerns of the families of the victims would be in order and would portend a solution to the situation which would satisfy all parties involved.

Galen said...

But where is the sensitivity when it comes to the Christians in Florida planning a Koran burning day? That's even more insensitive, but does it represent all Christians? No, and the Mosque being built at that location doesn't mean all Muslims are being insensitive either.

Byron Harvey said...

Here's what I wrote on that subject:


No, I agree, not all Muslims are being insensitive---but the ones wanting to build it are, and that's what folks are protesting: crude insensitivity to the feelings of 9/11 victims' families.

Bob Robinson said...

It seems rather strange to me that those who are so strident on defending the literal interpretation of the Constitution are so ready to turn their backs on it because of "insensitivity and appropriateness." To reframe the issue away from the Constitution only ignores the real issue.

Sensitivity never trumps the 1st Amendment.

As a college minister, I was recently told to that I must be "sensitive" to students' belief systems while on a state campus, or else I may be asked to leave.

No. According to the Constitution's Article I of the Bill of Rights, I have both the freedom of religion and the freedom of speech - no matter where I am, not matter what context. Sensitivity does not trump the Constitution.

Byron Harvey said...

Bob, I don't disagree with a word you say. But who is reframing it AWAY from the Constitution? Again, besides the idiots like Fischer, who is arguing that the Muslims don't have the right to build it? Can you name names? The arguments I've heard have nothing to do with the Constitution whatever; seems to me that you are introducing an angle that isn't really there. Again, all I can go off of is what I've heard. O'Reilly has made a big deal of it---and has been abundantly clear that they clearly have the Constitutional right to build it.

I'm not turning my back on the Constitution one whit: they have the right to build it, just like the loon in Florida has the right to burn Korans. Should he? Should they? That is the question. The only question.

Bob Robinson said...

When you reframe the argument like you have, focusing on what is "insensitive" or "inappropriate," then you are reframing the conversation away from the Constitution.

I'm afraid that the "insensitivity" measure is a slippery slope for taking away American people's First Amendment rights.

It's like saying, "Sure, churches have the right to build anywhere they want, but isn't it insensitive to build across the street from the Abortion Clinic?" Or in the Old South saying, "Sure, blacks have the right to ride anywhere they want on the bus, but isn't it inappropriate to ride anywhere else but in the back?" Or, "Sure, Japanese Americans have the right to live in, own businesses in, and have worship temples in Waikiki near Pearl Harbor, but isn't this insensitive and inappropriate? (By the way, have you been to Waikiki? It is as much Japanese as it is American!)

Byron Harvey said...

Perhaps we are talking past each other, Bob. I guess that if I am "reframing the argument" away from the Constitutional issues, it is only because I don't think there is a Constitutional issue. In other words, I think you've raised a red herring. I asked you to "name names" as to who believes that the Muslims don't have a Constitutional right to build there. Other than the nut Fischer, you didn't. Again, I totally agree with your take on the Constitution---but who doesn't?

I also think your slippery slope argument is pretty weak. I can make the same argument (and it has about as much strength) regarding your position: if it's a problem to call attention to insensitivity or inappropriateness, how long will it be before it's no longer legal to voice such concerns, before we lose freedom of speech? I think your slippery slope argument is about as specious as that argument...

And again I ask: do you have a problem with the Koran-burning church? Are they acting unconstitutionally? Or are they acting inappropriately and insensitively? And if it's the latter, is it wrong to call attention to that fact? The situations aren't necessarily identical---though they may not be as far removed as one might think at first blush---but insofar as responses to them is concerned, they seem similar

Bob Robinson said...

As a Christian, I want to say that I think that the Koran-burning idea is a bad one. But this is one Christian pleading with another not to do something for the sake of our shared faith and it's witness in the world.

If I were a Muslim, then maybe I'd weigh in on the Mosque in New York. But I am not; therefore, I have no right to say it's a good idea or a bad idea.

Since I would not want anybody to tell Christians where they should not build their churches based on "sensitivity" or "appropriateness," I will not do this to Muslims.

In America, we all have the right to the free exercise of our religion. I feel strongly that, as a Christian, I cannot stand by when people ignore this right in the name of something else, be it "sensitivity" or whatever else people will come up with to bar people from their religious freedom.

Here's a chance to show the world what religious freedom looks like! After this episode, when we go into Muslim-dominated countries pleading for religious freedom, they will simply scoff at us. We need to walk the talk.

Byron Harvey said...

1 simple question I ask again: who is "ignoring the right" of the free exercise of religion?

1 statement: I wouldn't mind one whit if non-Christians alerted me, as a Christian, to an issue in which I was being insensitive in the exercise of my faith. To be sure, if it were a matter of Scriptural principle, that'd be one thing, but if it were not, and if I were truly being insensitive---and if there were ways I could respond with genuine sensitivity toward outsiders---why wouldn't I want to know about it, and respond to it as best I could?

Bob Robinson said...

Okay. Here's "One Question":
To whom exactly is the mosque insensitive?

The answers:
To those who have a simplistic understanding of world affairs and the Islamic faith.

To those who lump all Muslims into the same radical group that attacked us on 9/11.

To those who think we are at war with Islam rather than radical terrorists.

To those who make money, seek television ratings, or seek votes by getting people all riled up over something they should not be.

To those who think that America's Constitutional religious freedom is really only meant to be for Christians and other religions should have only second-tier freedoms (after all, "America was founded as a Christian nation!").

And, lastly,
To those families of the 9/11 victims who have not come to a more sophisticated understanding of exactly who attacked us and why.

Byron Harvey said...

OK, I've consigned myself to the fact that you aren't going to answer my question, and you didn't seem interested in responding to my comment either.

My answer to your question is a significant modification of your final answer: it is the 9/ll families, and none of the others. I think, though, that it's a little easier for us to make pronouncements such as you did about their lack of sophistication than it is for them to deal with the fact that Islam---albeit it likely a warped version of it---gave rise to 9/11, and gives rise to so much terrorism around the world. I won't criticize their understanding until I have, God forbid, walked a few miles in their shoes.

Bill said...

Here in Australia, we had a lawyer go on YouTube the other day and smoke pages from the Koran and the Bible. The university he works at has made a pre-emptive strike and asked him to explain his actions. What has been the reaction from the rest of the country? Nothing! As it should be.