Of late, one of the current topics I’ve spent the most time thinking about has been the debate surrounding the plan to build a Mosque near Ground Zero. Below is a video which has garnered significant attention on YouTube. I would like you, the dazzling readers of Mere-O, to watch this video and share your thoughts about it—whether negative, positive, the outlandish, etc.. In the next day or so, I’ll plan to further this discussion on how Christians ought to navigate the desire for religious liberty while simultaneously upholding the virtues of Western Civilization.

What say you?

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Posted by Andrew Walker

Andrew T. Walker is an Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.


  1. The virtues of Western civilization?

    Versus what, the evils of Eastern civilization?

    I’ll admit to being a little bit concerned with this idea. Christians need to uphold Christ, not their own civilization. Aside from the truth that those who embrace Islam follow a false God and need Him desperately, I’m not sure Jesus would care that a mosque was built near ground zero. Maybe He would care more about the salvation of their souls, not ‘the virtues’ of a civilization.

    In other words, maybe we should revise our priorities.


  2. Kara,

    This post is not meant to insinuate animus towards Eastern Civilization. A desire to uphold the Western Tradition does not automatically mean direct opposition to all things ‘Eastern.” Supporting “A” does not directly entail opposing “not A.” Semantics are important in this discussion; in the same way in which Christians ought not use terms like “Crusade” that President Bush did soon after 9/11.

    But moreover, while I do believe you propose an important insight, the idea that Jesus has no concern or care over a Mosque being built does strike me as odd and maybe even a tad gnostic. While I would by no means equate the operations of a Mosque with the operations of an Abortion Clinic, both could be said to have fallen sway to the god of this Age and thus, not in line with the Kingdom. It would appear, I believe, that your logic would not have earthly concern for more Abortion Clinics being built. All that to say, why would we argue for either to advance? “The salvation of souls” which you refer to is resoundingly correct, but I fear the salvation envision is limited in scope. I assume, by your logic, that Jesus does not care (or his Kingdom is not concerned) about entire civilizations or cultures which follow a false god because Jesus only cares about “souls”, right? I don’t mean to come across as rude, but I want to distance both myself and Mere-O from any accusations of bigotry or nativism.


  3. I’ve been studying in Jerusalem for the last three years, and have, therefore, had time to observe and come to some conclusions regarding Islam. I in no way believe myself to have a handle on all of the specifics, but I do have some things I feel very strongly about concerning Islam overall. For the sake of honesty, I’ll just say that at its core Islam is rotten (I say rotten, because I do not want to use the word ‘evil’ and, thus, have to provide an entire definition of what I mean). I have found the information in this video to be absolutely true, even having a few Muslim friends here in Jerusalem. The bottom line is how all of this will turn out in the end, because if America continues making choices that blinding ignore the facts of history and of the dual nature of Islam, in the end we will pay a very heavy price. It is the private world of the Muslim that is their true world, not their public world. Please, do not hear what I am not saying. I believe in the power of the Trinity to use Christian believers and dreams, etc, to win the hearts of these people, but just because their souls can be saved does not mean that their intentions and actions should go unchecked in the mean time. I would encourage any American, Christian or otherwise, to read up on the history of the Islamic conquest in the 600s and following. The mentality has not changed. One result of the Islamic conquest that many are unaware of is the Dhimma Law, under which those conquered by Muslims must live and under which our brothers and sisters of the Orthodox faith still live in many countries in the east. I recommend reading anything by Bat Ye’or on the subject of the Dhimmi status under Sharia law. I think that is really all I have to say for now. Again, I’m not an expert, just calling it like I see it.


  4. Andrew,

    Thanks for your clarification. I apologize for hastily condemning your words; it was thoughtless of me.

    At the risk of sounding gnostic, as you said, I don’t know if I would associate Christ’s concern over the spread of Islam, or, to use your other example, the murder of children with the building of a mosque or an abortion clinic. I believe that Christ’s concern over the spread of Islam, etc. would be associated with the people (or “souls”, although I’m very aware that a person’s body is as important as their soul, again semantics are important…) involved in its spread – if the New Testament is any indication – not with how many buildings those people can build. I hope that makes sense.

    I understand that this hits a very sensitive spot here in the United States, when one of the ultimate symbols of our country, at least since 9/11, becomes associated with the symbol of a false religion. But that’s all they are – symbols. Wouldn’t you agree that it’s always more important to care about people, and not just symbols?

    I hope that we can both agree that the Kingdom of God, as Jesus described it in the New Testament, belongs to the people of God (not to one nation or civilization, per se). It’s true that throughout history Western civilization has more or less embraced Christianity while the East has not, and perhaps the West will be blessed for it. I don’t know that for sure. What I do know for sure is that if I weep over a mosque, it will be for the countless people who follow the false god and who are enslaved to a lie – not because it’s one more mosque and it’s in my neighborhood.


  5. Kara,

    I agree completely! Very well stated!


  6. Why I might be concerned about the preservation of my culture: in Jeremiah 29:7 God told Israel that wherever He would spread them, they should settle down there and seek the welfare of that city. This is a major part of Old Testament Diasporia ethics. Now,

    (1) I believe that Christian believers are also in a state of Diasporia, spread out among all the nations of the earth, and therefore this verse applies to us as well; we are to seek the welfare of the city/state/country/cultural context that we live in.

    (2) In seeking the welfare of our city, we should seek to bring it in line with the good principles of God’s Word, and should recognize that our current setting is not a perfect place and is deserving of criticism and needing of change; this prevents us from exalting our culture and falling into tribalism.

    (3) Even though our culture is not perfect, we are still obligated to defend it from threats–war, cultural assimilation (the concern outlined in this video), and so forth; it is noteworthy that some of the earliest Christians fought in the Roman Empire’s army to defend their country, even when that Empire was at work persecuting believers. I believe they did this in order to fulfill the directive of “seeking the good of the city”.



    1. Andrew Walker July 24, 2010 at 4:12 pm

      Sean, I very much like what you say. You’ve navigated this terrain without following into silly escapism or rigid Reconstructionism.

      Question: Does seeking the good and welfare of our city, in your opinion, favor the building of a large mosque?


  7. Two principles overlap in concentric circles: religious liberty and Western Christian values. Religious liberty is a qualified good. Religious liberty was a reality in a mostly Christian nation for two centuries in America.

    Western Christian values means that we respect others views and allow them to worship openly in whatever manner they deem appropriate, provided it doesn’t infringe on the human rights of another. The fact that worshiping as one sees fit is a human right is a credit to the flourishing of Christianity, not Islam. I’m saying that religious liberty and Christian ethics are intrinsically related, while religious liberty and Islamic values are not intrinsically related.

    The fact that Muslims want to practice Sharia law in parts of the West is a utilization of our own principles against us (I’m going beyond the WTC debate for a second). We want freedom of speech and religion, and so naively allow Sharia law to be practiced in some places (ie in some parts of the UK). BUT, Sharia law doesn’t want freedom of speech and religion, and so doesn’t allow it. Whether we call these a clash of Islamic and Christian values, or Islamic and Western values, doesn’t make much of a difference. In one way or another, Islam is clashing with common sense human rights everywhere, and it ought to be stopped in whatever avenue is possible.

    To say that this is a matter of individual ethics, or “souls”, is naive. That’s because “souls” are bodies being killed all over the world for the sake of Allah.


  8. Andrew,

    The welfare of our city MAY favor the building of a mosque, if that mosque was a strike for religious freedom in a deeply repressive communist regime. Such a move would create an avenue for free religious discussion, the unhindered sharing of ideas, philosophical debate, and the Christian propogation of the Gospel. Those are all good things that might result from Mosque-building.

    But that isn’t the case in modern-day New York City, in the United States of America. In the modern USA, building of mosques is a great thing: it continues a tradition of Freedom of Religion, which is a good policy under which evangelism can flourish.

    But there are other considerations to be made in this case. In this case, we are looking straight in the face of an attempted cultural takeover by Islamic groups (allegedly). If that’s true, then we have to look at it this way: if they succeed, is that going to be the best thing for this country? Will our cultural context be better off if this happens? If the answer is no (and I believe it is) then it is our Diasporic Christian duty to oppose it.

    At least, those are my thoughts.


    1. Andrew Walker July 25, 2010 at 6:23 am

      Sean and Dave,

      Fantastic! I’m planning on writing my follow up post today and both of your responses will be very important contributions.


  9. Dave and Sean,

    Loving your thoughts on this. They say what I did not and communicate more particularly than I would have. Thanks.


  10. Thanks all- I do love this blog and the serious conversations they provoke.

    I guess the only thing I’d add, by way of empirical data, is the nature of freedom of speech and religion geographically. Where has it flourished? The West. Where has it not flourished? The Middle East, India (caste system for centuries), China.

    For some reason or another, Islam and the pantheists don’t have quite the same impetus for human justice as it is seen in free speech and worship. But in the West, these rights remain. I won’t go so far as to say Christianity is the philosophical cause for the exercise of these rights (though I believe it to be so). I’m making a more modest point that human rights is intrinsically correlated to the West because the West is strongly historically correlated to Christianity.

    How does this relate to a mosque at the WTC? Even “moderates” like to use the pretense of free worship to smuggle in anti-free worship ideas into America. The symbol is too powerful for this to be allowed.


  11. […] would happen, the readers of Mere-O have responded both with class, sensitivity, and elegance to my original post, in which I provoked conversation about the Mosque Controversy in New York City. In this post, I […]


  12. In America, we value religious freedom.
    In Christianity, we emphasize God calling an individual to free response to his love.
    As Christians, we are called to love those around us and no person is our enemy.
    Building a Muslim center on the proposed area is legal and appropriate to the building codes in NYC.

    Opposing the Muslim center in NYC is misguided. We are called to love all, and if someone is to hit us, we are to turn the other cheek. Have you forgotten? If 5 million Muslims moved to the US with the express desire to convert and take over America, we as christians should welcome them, hug them, invite over to dinner, and demonstrate God’s love in any way possible, even if that means being killed by those who do not know God’s love.

    We need more communication and connection between the Muslim world and the US. Islam is going to be around for a while, and I would prefer our societies not to be in perpetual war, and it is possible for us to co-exist with annihilating the other(we did it remarkably well until the crusades). Islam is a religious system that has both bad and good parts, with as its source a monotheistic deity who created the world and loves humans. We coexist with many others like this: Mormons, Jews, etc. Look at the UAE; areas of the Muslim world that have embraced modern science and economies can overcome fundamentalism, and the rest of Islamic world will eventually follow.

    Even if that wasn’t true, our calling would be no different; love our neighbor and honor them.


  13. James,
    I appreciate your comments and agree with some of them. We must absolutely love the heck out of Muslims. I do this. I do it regularly. I have Iraqi friends who are precious people to me. But, we must absolutely oppose Islam and its aggression in all its forms. Islam is a total worldview that seeks domination over all parts of life- economics, politics, culture, and religion. It is not merely a religion. You said:

    “Islam is going to be around for a while, and I would prefer our societies not to be in perpetual war, and it is possible for us to co-exist with annihilating the other(we did it remarkably well until the crusades). Islam is a religious system that has both bad and good parts, with as its source a monotheistic deity who created the world and loves humans.”

    Quite simply, there are a lot of falsities here. Muhammad, when he moved to Medina, regularly killed Jews and Nestorian Christians and other Arabs. After he moved from Mecca to Medina, that’s when many people see the theory of abrogation coming to the fore in the Quran- passages about killing others, passages denying the mis-informed view of the Trinity, and passages about being hostile to anything but Islam’s view of who Allah is- all supersede any “nice” passages. Saying the Crusades brought on war between Islam and Christianity for the first time is just plain false, and a myopic, albeit currently popular view on the Crusades (read Rodney Stark’s book on this matter).

    After about 300 years of the existence of Islam, it’s adherents started to raid the Holy Land and take over Jerusalem. This involved the unjust killing of thousands of Jews and Christians. Islam spread by the sword all the way across North Africa into Spain via the Moors. It spread all the way to Germany in the Middle Ages via the sword by the Ottoman Turks. The Crusades, the Inquisition, and the Protestant Wars against the Ottomans illustrate this: Islam has MOST OFTEN been spread by the sword.

    Why? Because the Quran tells them to do so. Moderate Muslims are, frankly, Muslims who disobey the clear intent and a plain reading of the Quran. Read it. You’ll be shocked. It isn’t a peaceable book, and any true adherent to the Quran (radical Muslims make up about 10% of Muslims worldwide, which is over 100 million Muslims) will behave in the way Muslims have for 13 centuries: not peaceably, radically killing all infidels. Also, Allah is not a ‘loving’ god as you posit. Again, read the Quran. Allah is “transcendent/great”- the idea behind it is that he virtually has no other known attribute besides his incredible sovereignty and transcendence. Allah is not loving according to the Quran.

    We must have the intellectual capacity to oppose a violent worldview, just as we did with Nazism, in all places and in all forms. I might also add we must overcome our ignorance in understanding Islam. But we must also have the radical Christian love to love all people, despite their persecution of us. We must do both.


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