Saturday, August 21, 2010

Church (not) at Ground Zero

A few weeks ago I posted an article about the proposed Islamic visitor center and mosque that will be built near the ground zero site. In the weeks since city leaders in New York cleared the way for the mosque to be built a number of conservative news outlets have claimed that there is a double standard at work when it comes to these kinds of approvals. They have supported this accusation by comparing the case of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church and the recently approved Islamic center. The St. Nicholas congregation has been trying to get approval to rebuild their church, which is the only house of worship destroyed in the September 11th attack, but have not been able to clear the necessary administrative hurdles. The fact that the city would approve a mosque to go forward with development plans while holding up necessary approvals for a church to rebuild does raise questions especially when the church was already there prior to the attack. Most of these stories have been reported in such a way as to imply that there is a pro-Islamic or anti-Christian agenda not just in New York but also extending to Washington and the Obama administration.

First, let me be clear that I do not doubt that there are anti-Christian agenda’s at work at many levels. As a Christian, however, this doesn’t surprise me. I expect that the world is going to be constantly working against the gospel and I also recognize that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers in the spiritual realm. We have a powerful enemy who is able to advance his anti-Christian agenda by working through people who have no conscious interest in undermining the faith. They are blinded to the fact that they are working against the very kingdom of God.

Second, the purpose of this blog is not political so I am not going to discuss the relative merits (or demerits) of the leadership of New York, the Obama administration, etc. My reason for raising this issue is much more basic. As Christians, whether politically conservative or liberal, we should be champions for the TRUTH. We should not look the other way when people who agree with us twist facts, leave out important information, or spin things in a misleading way. Unfortunately this often happens on both sides. I happen to be politically conservative and am often ashamed at the way that some conservatives use information to scare and manipulate people. Oversimplification, false associations, and unsupported innuendo are often standard fare on both sides and it seems to be getting worse. As a Christian I find this to be reprehensible but what is even more unfortunate is when we participate in that process either wittingly or unwittingly. We need to be informed and be honest. Being informed does not mean just watching CNN or Fox News. We often need to dig into the “facts” a bit before we become participants in their news agendas by repeating their information.

Is the approval to build the mosque and the refusal to approve the building of the church proof of a pro-Islamic agenda? Perhaps, perhaps not, but there are important differences between the two cases that have not been highlighted very well. For example, the Islamic center is privately funded while the money to reconstruct the church was to come from public funds. This means the mosque only needed to get basic zoning approvals while the church needed to get multiple levels of approvals. Also, the buildings are very close to one another (see photo… the circle is the mosque site, the square is the church site) but the Islamic center is technically not located at ground zero and the church is. This exposes the church building plan to all sorts of complexities related to building on the ground zero site. For example, there is a planned underground vehicle center which will run under the church location which introduces all sorts of security, building, and logistical complications. The Port Authority offered the church 20 million dollars to rebuild on an alternate site that is close by to make handling these and other issues easier but the church refused the deal.

Over the past few days I have had a number of outraged brothers and sisters ask me my thoughts on this matter. Most were apparently under the impression that the approval process for these two buildings were similar and that the city simply approved one and denied the other. It seems to me that it might be a bit more complicated than that. I also think that many media figures that are pushing this story are less concerned about Christianity than they are with weakening certain political figures with key voting blocs. There is no question that there are powerful forces at work against the church in our country. Some of those forces are deliberately against Christ and others are working against Christ simply as a result of their blindness (they don’t even realize it). Whether this decision was the result of an overt attempt to advance an anti-Christian agenda or if it is the result of normal bureaucratic hurdles it is unfortunate because the enemy will have yet another base from which to spread his lies. As a Christian (not as an American) I support the building of bible believing churches and oppose the building of mosques in any neighborhood.


  1. NFI said...
    As always KG thank you for pointing out the complexities of the issue. Things aren't always black & white. And I agree, dig and get the facts before jumping on the band wagon. However, there are some issues and arguments that don't need a whole lot of digging to make a stand, this is one of them. The fact that is creating huge stir in the media and most are opposed to building the mosque is all the "facts" we need. This is just a bad move period. If the Muslim community and this Eman character really cared to demonstrate peaceful intentions, the best thing to do is simply to withdraw their request to build the Mosque.

    Another point, I'm sorry my friend but there aren't any liberal Christians from where I sit. You can't expect a liberal to be a champion for the truth either politically or religiously. The best you could get out of a "liberal Christian" is a confusion idea of truth and the what the Bible is.

  2. Thanks for re-posting my comment. Next time would you please prove read it for me? ..."confused idea of truth and what the Bible is."