Tag Archives: religion

Ground Zero Mosque

I haven’t been following this Mosque on Ground Zero business very closely (is it actually on ground zero or near ground zero? It seems to depend on who you ask), but theologian John Stackhouse has some good things to say about it, if you’re at all interested.

From his first post on the subject:

If we don’t think all Muslims are implicated in the attack, then of course they should be allowed to build a mosque or community centre or whatever the heck they want to build wherever the zoning and funding will allow—just like any other citizens.

I’m a Christian. In fact, I’m an evangelical Christian. Am I implicated in the shooting of abortion doctors? Am I implicated in the policies of the Harper government here or the Bush administration recently gone? Am I implicated in whatever James Dobson or Pat Robertson or Franklin Graham or Benny Hinn says? If so, then I’m a pretty dangerous guy. If not, then you’ll have to treat me like anyone else you hardly know: as a neighbour, a fellow citizen, who must be allowed the full exercise of his rights and liberties until I have manifestly proven myself unworthy of them.

I think this is the strongest argument–American rights and freedoms.  I’m not sure how it could be seen otherwise.

In his second post he deals with the question of Islam and violence, pointing out that humans are prone to violence and will use whatever they can to legitimize it–whether it is Islam, Christianity, Buddhism or some other ethos:

We cannot, therefore, oppose the Ground Zero mosque on the grounds that even mainstream Islam legitimizes some violence sometimes–as if Christianity (or secular humanism, or what have you) doesn’t. It all depends on what violence is legitimized in what circumstances. And so the key point here is that the particular violence in question, the violence of 9/11, has been explicitly and repeatedly condemned by the Muslim leaders who want the mosque and community center to be built.

Doubt

Read this this morning:

“Dubious questioning”, wrote Coleridge, “is a much better evidence than that senseless deadness which most take for believing. People that know nothing…have no doubts. Never be afraid to doubt, if only you have the disposition to believe, and doubt in order that you may end in believing the truth.”

“Doubting Thomas” is the uncomplimentary title that Thomas has often been tagged with. But it would be more accurate, I think, to call him Honest Thomas. He was a man of integrity; he didn’t pretend to believe things that he didn’t really; he didn’t say the words just to feel part of the crowd. It’s much harder to own up to being the odd one out among a group of friends, and it was brave, when he found that he was the odd one out, not to go off and be by himself.  For a whole week he went on meeting up with the other disciples. Their faith and stories of visions must have made him feel uncomfortable and left out. But he still hung around. Eventually, Jesus came and met him in person. His integrity paid off; when faith came to him as a gift, it was his own and not someone else’s.  (go read Maggi Dawn’s entire post)

After Thomas’ confession of faith, Jesus says: “”Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  It’s easy to think, perhaps, that what is implied is that Thomas was wrong for doubting or perhaps that faith without seeing is better than faith after seeing.  But I’m not sure that Jesus is making a qualitative statement about Thomas’ belief.  Thomas wasn’t censured for his doubt.

I read this afternoon:

… those moments in life when awareness of God breaks through the crust of our routines — a burst of praise, a pang of guilt, an episode of doubt, boredom in worship… (Eugene Peterson in Working the Angles)

It has nothing to do with the context of Peterson’s words (which are from a chapter on spiritual direction), but the description of “an episode of doubt” as a “moment in life when awareness of God breaks through” really struck me.  I had never thought about doubt in that way before: as a time when we become more aware of God.  (Is that ironic?  I’m reluctant to say it is.)

But it’s true, isn’t it?  When we have our times of doubt, it’s God we think about and are obsessed about: are you really there?  In times of certainty, so far as that is possible, a person much more occupied with other things and not with God.  (The corresponding period of awareness is the ‘moment of clarity’, from which a “burst of praise” may come forth).  In a sense, then, periods of doubt are a healthy thing, spiritually speaking, because they slap us across the face and awaken us from our stupor, our apathy, our lukewarmness.

Getting back to Thomas: I like Maggi Dawn’s image of a somewhat uncomfortable Thomas meeting with the disciples, even though he did not share their conviction about the risen Christ.  When times of doubt come along, it does not mean that faith is absent or lost and that I should immediately leave for another faith, but simply that questions have arisen for which I don’t have an answer.  An answer will eventually come; or perhaps I will accept not knowing, accept the fact of mystery.  (I don’t mean to suggest that if an answer doesn’t come we must just accept not knowing, but that one or the other may well happen.)

Time for a sappy analogy (I don’t know why I do this):  Moments of doubt are not cause to abandon the good ship Faith–the hull hasn’t yet been breached and if you stay with the ship you may well come through the storm much stronger.

What does the common good look like?

From the Center for Public Justice (via):

The view seems to be that in public life we are essentially identical and must be treated the same. No business may refuse to serve us.  And since government must serve all equally, private groups supported by government also must serve everyone equally.

But this public conformity concept of the common good is unsustainable.  It is a new secular theocracy.  Against it there is a strong commandment.  The commandment is the First Amendment of the Constitution, which protects religion from government imposition—protects not only religious belief but also religious exercise.  It protects doctors whose conscience forbids certain procedures and it protects religious charities when they insist that only applicants who share their convictions can join their staffs.

When government honors religious exercise in this way, some citizens will have to go to another doctor’s office instead of this one, and some citizens will find they cannot get jobs with some nonprofits.  Not being welcomed everywhere seems an intolerable imposition to the proponents of uniformity.  But it is the real consequence of protecting religious freedom.  There would be no need for the constitutional protection if religious freedom did not sometimes require some people to give way.

We must face the reality.  America is home to several moral communities.  The government should not be used to enforce a single code of behavior that denies the deep religious convictions of many people and institutions of faith.  The common good that the government must foster and protect is not homogeneous but includes diverse contributions from a diverse civil society.  The common good is comprised of multiple colors. (link)

It’s about the U.S., but I think it applies here, too.

An election must be nigh, take 2 (a.k.a. John Stackhouse says it better)

John Stackhouse says it better than I did:

Mr. Duceppe seems to be unhappy about people running for office who “share an ideology, a narrow ideology.” But surely most people who enter politics do have one or another ideology, and of a quite particular sort, that motivates them so strongly that they undergo the rigors of political life.

Furthermore, one might think that someone who spends most of his political life trying to achieve a single goal–removal of Quebec from the Canadian confederation–could be characterized as having “a narrow ideology.”

. . . but it is apparently the correct narrow ideology, one that corresponds with modern times in Quebec–during which, if Mr. Duceppe had his way, only his narrow ideology would count, and anyone else’s would be properly set aside. (Link)

Indeed.