The New Northern Kentucky Islamic Center

As recently reported in the Cincinnati Enquirer, Northern Kentucky will soon be home to its first mosque. Here are some brief thoughts:

Freedom of religion applies to all Americans of all religions. I have often heard Christians thank God for the freedom to worship in the United States. Like freedom of speech, freedom of religion doesn’t apply only to popular, inoffensive ideas. In parts of the US, evangelical Christianity is viewed as offensive and dangerous. Should those regions be allowed to ban new church buildings?

Few Muslim countries allow freedom of religion. We should shame them by our example. Yes, it is indeed unfair that Muslims are allowed to build mosques in the US, while Christians are not allowed to build churches in Saudi Arabia, even though more than one million Catholic Filipinos live and work in Saudi Arabia. In fact, the laws of Saudi Arabia (and many other Muslim nations) directly contradict the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights – which is binding on Saudi Arabia as a UN member[*]. What would we gain by lowering ourselves to the hypocrisy of Saudi Arabia?

The Gospel spreads through relationships and truth, not government enforcement. In Rodney Stark’s book Cities of God: The Real Story of How Christianity Became an Urban Movement and Conquered Rome, the Baylor historian and sociologist demonstrates that the early church grew from 150 Jesus followers to more than 30 million through ordinary relationships: family members, coworkers, neighbors. Elsewhere, Stark has suggested that gaining its status as the state religion of the Roman Empire actually slowed the growth of Christianity. If we want to share the love of Christ with Muslims, we can do so only by building relationships with them, not by isolating them from our community.

Muslims already live in Northern Kentucky. This mosque would not be built if there were not already a community of Muslims in Northern Kentucky. By opposing the mosque, I’m not sure what we gain other than antagonizing our neighbors. Opponents of the mosque cite fears of terrorism. But is there a faster way to turn a Muslim youth against the US than by making him feel hated and unwanted?

What should we do then?

  • Welcome our Muslim neighbors as fellow Americans and support their freedoms under the US Constitution.
  • Build friendships with our Muslim neighbors so that they can witness Christian love and hospitality firsthand.
  • Share the gospel with them in word and deed, in the hope that they will accept the good news of Jesus Christ.

Today, a major problem in Muslim countries is the perception that Christians are uncaring, immoral, and hypocritical. We may not be able to do much to shape the views of Muslims overseas, but shouldn’t we ensure that American Muslims see a better side of Christianity?


[*]Tellingly, the Saudis abstained from the original adoption.

Atheism

The final “religion” in my World Religions series!  Does Atheism count as a religion? Many atheists would say that it’s the polar opposite of religion, but I’m not sure how else to cover it – I would say that it’s definitely a “religious perspective.”

I mentioned in class that the number of Americans reporting “no religion” has increased over the last 10 to 20 years. Here’s a good post that summarizes a couple of the findings about these “nones.”

It was great teaching this series, and I hope we can offer it again sometime.

Handout

Here is my Atheism Fact Sheet.  The presentation is below the jump. Continue reading

Scientology

In class, we briefly mentioned that the Church of Scientology bought the former Florence Baptist Church building at the corner of Main St. and US 42.  Here is WCPO’s story about the purchase.

I also mentioned this video, an internal Scientology training video featuring Tom Cruise. Cruise uses quite a bit of Scientology jargon in the video, so you’ll want to read the “More” section under the video for some translations, as well as my fact sheet below, in order to understand what he’s talking about. (For example, he refers to “KSW,” which is a document written by L. Ron Hubbard called “Keep Scientology Working.”)

Handout

Click here to download my Scientology Fact Sheet (PDF, 44KB). The presentation from class is below the jump. Continue reading

Jehovah's Witnesses

In class, I mentioned a recent feature about The Watchtower – the official magazine of Jehovah’s Witnesses and perhaps the most important element of their belief system – in The New York Review of Magazines. Joel Meares begins his article with a great image:

The day begins at the small, red-brick Kingdom Hall on Glendale’s Myrtle Avenue, where about 40 Witnesses gather in couples and families. Some thank Jehovah for the blessed day, others thank him for the coffee that got them here by 9 a.m. A few quick hellos in the Hall — a trapezoidal room with churchlike rows of chairs, a churchlike stage but no churchlike iconography — and the Witnesses head downstairs to arm themselves.

I found the article to offer great insight into the JW organization.

Handout

Click here to download my Jehovah’s Witnesses Fact Sheet (PDF, 55KB). As usual, my presentation is below the jump. Continue reading

Mormonism

Our World Religions class is drawing to a close, and I’m a bit behind on posting my materials. You’ll see several posts go up this week.

One of the best sources for information about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka Mormonism) is from the church itself. The LDS church has an extensive Answers to Questions section, as well as an online library of Mormon scriptures. For comparisons between LDS and mainstream Christianity, two groups called Mormonism Research Ministry and  Utah Lighthouse Ministry have extensive libraries of articles.

Handouts

Click here to download my fact sheet about Mormonism (PDF, 55KB). My presentation can viewed below the jump. Continue reading