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.