Sunday, November 16, 2014

Muslims In The House?

Some people in this country are in an uproar once again because they're just not happy with the First Amendment. Oh, they like when it allows them to say whatever they want to say about whatever topic they choose. They just don't like it because the amendment gives that same right to everyone - even those with whom they disagree.

They get angry because people they don't like can say things that go against their core beliefs. They tend to believe that only like-minded people should have the right to free speech and that certain other groups should not. They believe that if the beliefs of a certain group are beliefs they don't share that that group should not have the right to express those beliefs publicly.

You probably think I'm talking about liberals. And it's true - they do fit the mold of everything I've said. But in this case I'm once again talking about Republicans and conservatives. 

The United States House of Representatives opens each session with prayer. It's rather surprising really, considering how hard the Democrats have been working to remove every aspect of God from every aspect of the government. But it is a tradition as old as our nation and so far it hasn't changed in the House.

What has changed is that a Muslim cleric was invited last week to offer the morning prayer. Republicans and conservatives nationwide are going crazy, denouncing the act of allowing a Muslim to pray before Congress. Many are saying it should not be allowed - that Muslims have no business orating the opening prayer in the House of Representatives. And while I'm not thrilled about it - I must disagree that it should not be allowed.

Like it or not we have two Muslim representatives in the House. The First Amendment allows that if other religious denominations are represented by a spiritual leader for the opening prayer then the Muslim representatives have the same right to representation. If a Muslim cleric prayed every day or every other day or once a week it would be different. But that's not happening. It seems to happen about once a year. That's not unreasonable. What's unreasonable is for any American to want to prevent it from happening. The First Amendment applies to all whether we like it or not.

Now - let's jump over a few blocks to the Washington National Cathedral. On Friday, the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington, better known as the Washington National Cathedral, held its "first-ever recitation of weekly Muslim prayers" in the iconic Episcopal sanctuary. 

The historic event was said to be a chance to hear leaders of both faiths call for religious unity in the face of extremist violence and hate. The Muslim leader 'called on Muslims, Christians and others to come together and make “common cause” in the fight against extremists who appropriate Islam."

“We come to this cathedral with sensitivity and humility but keenly aware that it is not a time for platitudes, because mischief is threatening the world,” Rasool said. “The challenge for us today is to reconstitute a middle ground of good people . . . whose very existence threatens extremism.”

Now see - I'm OK with that part. If American Muslims want to finally begin fighting Islamic extremism we need to support them 100%. What I'm not OK with is the fact that a Christian church allowed people to pray to someone other than the one true God inside their church. The Bible is very clear about who God is and He is not Allah. 

Reverend Franklin Graham, son of renowned evangelist Billy Graham, spoke about it on Thursday, prior to the event.

“It’s sad to see a church open its doors to the worship of anything other than the One True God of the Bible who sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to earth to save us from our sins,” said Graham. “Jesus was clear when He said, ‘I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’ (John 14:6).”

My church has Christian services in different languages, including Burmese and an African service. We invite Muslims in the area to attend our services if they wish (and some do.) But we do not and would not allow Muslims to have a service to pray to Allah.

And that's not bigoted, racist, or any other term one might want to attach to it. It's simple fact. And contrary to the situation in the House of Representatives, Muslims have every right to practice their religion but do not have the right to pray wherever they wish, particularly in a Christian church.

If it was up to me I would have hosted the Muslims for the event of dialogue against Islamic extremism but I would have not turned it into a Muslim prayer service. It would have been a civic meeting. If both groups wanted to open with a simple prayer that could be permissible but I would have tried to avoid that as well in the name of fairness to both groups. After all - it would not be polite to invite Muslims to a meeting in your church if you make them sit through your prayer without allowing them the same privilege unless you arranged that ahead of time and they agreed.

Anything that religious leaders in this country can do to get American Muslims to finally step up and publicly denounce extremism is a positive step. God knows it's something that's been long coming. If that includes Christians working side by side with Muslim leaders then so be it. That can be accomplished without Christians praying in a mosque and without Muslims praying in Christian churches.

I wonder if the Muslims have a meeting on the same topic at a local mosque if their Christian guests will be allowed to open with a Christian prayer service? Anyone want to make a bet?

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