An anonymous letter arrived in the mail, mailed by a person in our town who clearly believes the Muslim community in our city ought not be allowed to build a new mosque. The writer feared the mosque was part of what he or she called “a long range plan to destroy Western Civilization as we know it.” The letter ended with a postscript asking me to share its content with the congregation.
I’ve never had much use for anonymous letters, but this one got under my skin. To tell the truth, the letter saddened me. It’s not every day I find so much fear and misunderstanding packed into one page of type.
Since I have no idea who wrote or mailed the letter, I think it best to respond in the public forum of my blog. The following opinions represent only my own views (which is normal in Baptist life, where no one speaks for anyone else).
First, our Muslim neighbors are fellow citizens of the United States. Among other things, they are entitled to the full protection of the law and the full exercise of the rights of any citizen. The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees all of us, including Muslims, freedom of religion. Inherent in such freedom is the right to buy property and build houses of worship. Each time we attempt to deny such rights to any person or group, we in effect deny a core value of America.
Second, our nation is at war with terrorists, wherever they may be found. We are not at war with a religion. Christianity is not at war with any other religion. Instead, we are called to minister to others through prayer, worship, teaching and good works. We should trust God with the world and seek only to be faithful in the tasks God has given us.
Third, Christians should treat all persons, including those in other faith traditions, with respect. In fact, Jesus commanded us to “do unto others as we would have them do to us” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Who among us yearns to be excluded, labeled, libeled or denied opportunity to practice our faith? I suspect the answer is, “No one.” All of us, instead, wish others would include us, get to know us personally, speak carefully of us and respect our religious freedom.
Mike Smith is pastor of First Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn. He blogs at Thinking Out Loud: A Christian’s Reflections.