Last week I started writing about the SBC’s decision to support the Islamic Society in a New Jersey town through writing a brief on religious liberty. Over the next few weeks I will look at both sides of the argument, for and against, and end with a post about my view.
This week, I will look at the SBC’s view and why they supported the mosque.
This process was led by Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC. While Moore led the charge, it was supported by others in leadership, including David Platt, President of the International Mission Board. Not only did other SBC members join this brief, but so did other religions: The American Association of Jewish Lawyers, International Society for Krishna Consciousness, National Association of Evangelicals, and Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry among many others.
So what is the rationale behind the support?
Moore is quoted as saying “What it means to be a Baptist is to support soul freedom for everybody.” His rationale is that when one religion is persecuted, it is only a matter of time until all religions are persecuted.
At the end of the day, the question that Moore feels is of utmost importance is whether one religion can be subject to a different land-use approval than another. Those who don’t support Moore’s views believe the question that is most important is whether Christians and non-Christians can be unequally yoked.
I posed the question to my Facebook friends: Can a Christian in all integrity to Christianity support the building of a mosque?
To say that it was a lively conversation is an understatement.
Some of the comments for supporting the mosque are:
- I believe that every religion has a right to be able to have a sanctuary in their city/town
- If we are able to discriminate…then it is just a matter of time before the tables are turned
- It would boost my trust in the leaders (who support it) that they are following Christ’s example
- Many Christians want religious liberty…as long as it is theirs alone
- Not allowing the mosque in the area hurts evangelism in that city
- There is no theological conflict with civic religious freedom and being a biblical Christian
- In Christ, we are to love all people, even those who want to harm us
Before I get into the scriptural evidences that others use to show it is ok to support the mosque being built, I want to share a quick story. This is the story about the first Muslims and how a Christian king allowed them sanctuary and the ability to grow and survive.
When Islam was first started to be proclaimed publically, the pagans in Makkan started persecuting the young Muslims severely. Many died. Many more were tortured. Eleven of the Muslims fled to Absynnia, a city that was led by a Christian king, Negus. They were offered sanctuary. Once the Muslims realized that they were in a peaceful area, they sent for more of their people. The king continued to welcome the Muslims and offered them safety.
The Christian king asked the Muslims a simple question: “What do you say concerning Jesus?”
The Muslims said, “…we can only say what our Prophet has taught us: Jesus is the servant and messenger of God, the spirit and the word of God, whom God entrusted to the virgin Mary.”
When King Negus heard this, he picked up a twig from the ground and said, “I swear, the difference between what we believe about Jesus, the Son of Mary, and what you have said is not greater than the width of this twig.”
After the Makkan’s heard about the Muslims in Absynnia, they sent a delegation to request that they be deported back to Makkan. The king refused.
This is the first instance of Christians supporting Muslims.
While that is a great testament to Christians supporting others, the next question is: Is it Scriptural?
When I posed the Scripture question to my Facebook friends, I received a TON of verses and theologies as to why we should support the Islamic Society.
- “The 10 commandments in Exodus 20 all point towards loving others unconditionally.”
- The Good Samaritan story
- 1 Corinthians 9:19-23
- Matthew 25:35-40
- Luke 6:27-36
All of those are very interesting views. the majority of those point toward one word, “love.”
But, as Haddaway sang in 1993, “What is love?” (admit it, now you are singing that song)
This is not the kind of post that is going to dig into the Christian definition of love. But I would be missing something if I didn’t at least touch upon it.
Christian love is not simply allowing everything. In Christian love, the idea of emotion, although part of our image of God, is not what the concept of Christian love, agape love, is about. Agape loves so deeply that we aren’t afraid to tell the truth and hold accountable. Agape bases love on the image of God, regardless of anything. And, since God is holy, we cannot allow evil to be part of the church.
But is this evil?
We could go on and on all month asking these philosophical kind of questions.
But I won’t.
So, getting back to the question at hand, is it ok for a Christian to support another religion?
According to Russell Moore, who spearheaded this entire debate, “One thing we need to be very clear about is that religious liberty is not a government ‘benefit,’ but a natural and inalienable right granted by God.”
He goes on to say, “When we say—as Baptists and many other Christians always have—that freedom of religion applies to all people, whether Christian or not, we are not suggesting that there are many paths to God, or that truth claims are relative. We are fighting for the opposite. We are saying that religion should be free from state control because we believe that every person must give an account before the Judgment Seat of Christ.”
He uses Romans 13:1-7 and John 12:42-43 to support his view. He says that government can only rule by the sword. The sword of government cannot save a soul. This means that it becomes a religion of external conformity. It comes from state mandate or peer pressure. This happened with those who heard Jesus’ words. They understood His truth, but they loved the glory that came from man more than that which comes through God.
He continues by saying forcing someone to Christianity will make a state of pretend Christians. He says that if you want to see people come to Christ, you do it through boldly proclaiming the saving power of Christ, not by forcing them into hiding through shutting down their personal journey to Christ.
For those who say that non-violent Muslims are inconsistent Muslims (similar to “cafeteria Christians”, then he has a rebuttal to that. He says that the government’s job is to punish evil-doers. not to decide who is most theologically sound and consistent with their religious books.
He believes that there are limits to our freedom, and government has an obligation to protect the people inside its borders from harm and violence. But, he continues, government has an obligation to protect the citizens from the government itself. It is an act of aggression to strip a religious community of its civil liberties.
This line of thinking believes that to believe in Jesus’ Gospel message means that we do not need the power of the government to carry it out. The precedent in the Bible comes from Revelation 13. This is the example of a church that is forced on its people. That is not the church of Christ.
Next week I will look at the opposing view to this.