Me, a NYC Imam, and a Florida Pastor

Most pastors I know are desperate for a conversation about building the NYC mosque and burning the Koran that goes beyond talking heads and baiting people to argue about them.  That may drive ratings.  It also kills civility and respect.  I don’t suppose to speak for all the pastors, but I do offer this as one perspective with some insights gained from talking to others.

Thankfully, our country is built on freedom. The Florida pastor has the legal right to burn a Koran and the NYC Imam has the right to build a mosque near ground zero.  We should agree on that and move to the more important question for a person guided by faith or maturity.

Instead of asking “What do I have the right to do?” ask “What is the right thing to do?”  Part of my Christian faith means limiting myself for the good of others.  The Bible says, “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.” What is the wise thing to do?  What best represents the message of God?  What is the unselfish choice?  What is the best way to love God and our neighbor?  This is where I would love the conversation to be.  This isn’t easy to sort out and we may still disagree, but they are the basis of a thoughtful conversation.

To that end, we have to acknowledge the unique tension of Islam and Christianity in America today.  As a pastor, some (in the name of conviction) want me to condemn other religions.  Others (in the name of tolerance), want me to agree that all religions are simply different paths to the same God. My effort to follow Jesus sees both of these as misguided.

Jesus made claims about himself and the nature of God that are distinct (even contradictory) from other religions.  No intellectually honest person would claim these are just different versions of the same thing, but he was not condemning toward them.  He actually reserved his judgment tone for leaders in his own faith community who were misrepresenting it or exploiting it for selfish ends.

That shapes how I would engage conversations about building this mosque or the burning of the Koran with these leaders.

Since the pastor in Florida is claiming to be a leader in my community of faith (Christianity), I’d ask him to stop his effort and his grandstanding.  I’d be very direct with him about how I think he is misrepresenting Christ and the scriptures.  I would rebuke him since his actions don’t reflect what comes from the spirit of God: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self–control.

Since the Imam is someone outside of my community of faith, I may disagree with him, but I would only treat him with respect. I would ask him to consider all the dynamics to the situation engage the conversation with the most helpful questions. What is the wise thing to do?  What is the constructive thing to do?  We know no decision will bring agreement from everyone and I would be the first to say no person should just do something because the majority wants you to.  In the end, I would pray for him and his decision, that he would give consideration to the greatest good.

Much more could be written, but for now, I’ll leave it here for you to consider and reflect on.

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~ by Greg Lee on September 9, 2010.

9 Responses to “Me, a NYC Imam, and a Florida Pastor”

  1. Thanks for such great insight, Greg. It is so evident to me your wisdom and discernment beyond your years. Thank you for always pointing back to the scriptures! I am so thankful to be under your leadership!!!
    ~Kay

  2. Greg, I agree with you. When I saw the subject title, I became very curious. As I read your response my thought was, this is a response of a respectful, compassionate man of God. I appreciate you sharing how you perception.
    Mike

  3. Greg, that is so “right on.”

    Yvonne

  4. Greg, very well said, thought out and very much in agreement! Job well done!

  5. Very well said Greg. It’s unfortunate that this is what counts as news, but more people read what makes them mad instead of what makes them wise. And, if that news paints Christians as nutters, so much the better. Anyway, before I go on a rant, I’ll stop.

  6. “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”. I think this sentiment applies just as equally to both the Imam and the Florida Pastor.

    Greg, your posting echoes my personal thoughts to the letter, although written much, much more eloquently than I ever could.

  7. Well said! I agree, we tend to get “off course” and forget to consider how we are to react as Christ-followers. That’s our acountability.

  8. Thanks Greg. Well said. You might be interested in viewing Rob Bell’s ‘BULLHORN’ from the NOOMA series.

  9. Greg, Thank you for bringing the perspective that Jesus would have us apply to this difficult issue. It only confirms even more that we need to always use the Christian principles that Jesus taught us to guide us in the judgements and decisions we make that will affect our thoughts and actions. Ruth Ann

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