The Playing Field at Ground Zero

Last month we published “Yea or Nay on the Ground Zero Mosque”. Thanks to each reader and each commenter.

On August 3, the Landmarks Preservation Commission of New York City gave mosque planners a green light. Opponents are promising a continued fight in the courts, and union workers are vowing non-cooperation in the construction.

Photo by Bill Longshaw at freedigitalphotos.net

That’s the news. Here’s one important take away. As some of our commenters noted, America’s pluralistic heritage means we practice freedom of religion, as we should. That does not mean, though, that all ideologies are equal in the outcomes they deliver in a society. Some ideas produce more justice, others more corruption; some more poverty, others more wealth. Some systems lead to more wisdom, others to more folly; some lead to greater wellness, others to more disease. Some to life, others to death.

An ideology that glorifies death sets itself in opposition to the Bible, which clearly regards death as an enemy.

He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.  The last enemy that will be abolished is death. (1 Corinthians 15:25-26)

Jesus Christ “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (2 Timothy 1:10)

Life flows from God. Thus the Judeo-Christian worldview of the Bible celebrates life. Because we are made in the image of God, every individual has intrinsic worth and a God-given right to life. All human life—from conception, at any level of society—is sacred.

What’s more, all people, not just Bible believers, are hardwired for life and intuitively regard death as an enemy.

Jihadists, however, are groomed to deny their natural hardwiring in favor of death. As bin Laden said in his Declaration of War, “These youths love death as you love life….”

Middle East expert Walid Phares writes in Jihad Against Democracy that Jihadists “are in love with death” but they also worship the concept of killing for the sake of ideology.

Photo by dan at freedigitalphotos.net

The gospel gives life; jihad delivers death. For a clear example of the contrast, note the physical symbol of each. Jihad’s symbol is the sword, conquering the world for Allah.  The symbol of Christianity is the cross, the Son of God giving himself that others may live.   Jihad calls her sons to kill for Allah to achieve salvation. Christianity’s God sends his only son to die for our salvation. He died to save his enemies, even Jihadists.  Jihad  says that  righteousness  is achieved by works: entering paradise by killing infidels. Christianity teaches righteousness by grace: salvation by faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross. And Christ called his followers to love their enemies, even those who would kill them.

The real struggle, the battle for individuals and nations, is one of ideas. Only truth can win freedom and peace.

- Darrow Miller and Gary Brumbelow

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3 Responses to The Playing Field at Ground Zero

  1. Dennis Warren says:

    Overall, I agree with what I think is the major idea expressed in this post,

    For instance where you say:

    …………………………………………..

    >>>”America’s pluralistic heritage means we practice freedom of religion, as we should. That does not mean, though, that all ideologies are equal in the outcomes they deliver in a society. …

    >>>…Some to life, others to death.”

    …………………………………………..

    However, I sense another idea, only implicitly expressed in your post.

    Seems like – and I hope I’m wrong here – given I haven’t noticed any qualifying phrases, are you saying there is a way to characterize Islam in general, and that way involves the promotion of physical violence in connection with the concept of “Jihad”? :

    …………………………………………..

    >>>”An ideology that glorifies death sets itself in opposition to the Bible, which clearly regards death as an enemy.”

    >>>”What’s more, all people, not just Bible believers, are hardwired for life and intuitively regard death as an enemy.

    Jihadists, however, are groomed to deny their natural hardwiring in favor of death. …”

    …………………………………………..

    When you guys use the word “Jihadists” I get the impression you’re including even the specific group of predominately westernized Muslims associated with the building plans. [ Maybe I’ll be able to discover their opinion about whether they fit the way you use that word (or not) by checking out their website at: http://www.cordobainitiative.org/

    For the most part, it’s my understanding in consideration of people who want to live their life (or death) consistent with a physical violence based understanding or interpretation of “Jihad” — most refer to westernized “so-called Islamic believers” with disdain. Physical Jihad promoters are not likely to embrace the idea of any Mosque (at any location) being associated with Kaffir “posers”, (and/or Muslims committing “Shirk”). I get this understanding through their posts in an internet based Islam forum.

    Many believers in Islam don’t consider “Jihad” as a physical struggle that should include overt acts of violence against non-believers. From my point of view it seems easier to adopt the “physical warfare” type of interpretation when considering the later things recorded in their writings and also the increasingly violent lifestyle of the prophet as he aged. However that’s only “my point of view”, and the main reason I’m commenting here (again) is to point out that not everyone who embraces a given world view will have identical interpretations of the same “sacred writings” and/or will of necessity be motivated to act in similar ways.

    As one who claims to be a Christian, I would be offended if someone were to portray Christianity (as a whole – so most likely my views as well) as an ideology “in love with death” — even if — she/he were to cite historical precedents, such as many christian’s violent participation in the Crusades, and/or in more recent times, a few christians who killed infamous abortion “doctors”.

    As I tried to express in my comments in response to the first post on this subject, when compared with any other religious ideology, or atheistic system of thought – I personally embrace the world-view I think is most consistent with the character of Jesus as revealed in the New Testament. I think the overall effect of this “Christian world view” wins hands down if judged either by whether it inspires life affirming behavior or helps to improve the overall quality of life increasingly as it is more faithfully lived out.

    By no means do I suggest that anyone should value all religious teachings or world-views equally. I’m thinking one reason why most people appear to be inherently “hardwired for life” is because the One who originally created people quite simply happens to like life. Our desires for a peaceful and healthy world are reasonable it seems to me given they’re in sync with the reality of a good God who wants to restore the same.

    The formative times in this land when by and large Christians tended to live more like Christ, to my way of thinking play a key role in why so many people of other faiths and from other lands want to come and live here. I’ve noticed in lands/cultures where most individuals held a more pessimistic view of ultimate reality – during the same time period I called “our formative times” – living conditions there today make it easy for me to understand why they want to raise their families here (and I welcome them).

    Perhaps I may share many commonly held Christian beliefs with Crusading Knights of old (who most certainly operated on different interpretations of some of the same Biblical passages). Likely there is still land upon which crusaders one trod where the memory of their violent acts continues to be a significant factor in why I probably would not be allowed to erect a building for Christian worship.

    Though I can understand such, I’d still hope the governing authorities would allow me to explain why it’s not necessarily appropriate to assume I am motivated toward similar acts – even though I also claim those Bible passages come from God. You guessed it – I interpret the Bible as setting forth a completely different way of living.

    In addition, I’d want the governing authorities to allow other more favorable historical precedents to weigh in as they decide whether to grant my request for “religious freedom”. For instance, I’d want them to listen while I pointed to like-minded believers who have acted in ways more consistent with how I interpreted scripture and use as a guide in my decision making (i.e based on who I consider Jesus Christ to be).

    I suppose some crusaders could have cited various passages from the Old Testament (e.g. Numbers 31) as support for why they used physical violence as they pursued what I assume they thought was an attempt to advance the kingdom of God here on earth. As I mentioned in my comments after the first Ground Zero post, I feel there are more appropriate Biblical passages, which serve to help us understand in a more uniquely Christian way how God wants us to live in these newer (NEW Testament) times.

    Between the time of Moses and this current era, One has lived among us, THE ONE about whom God said “… with him I am well pleased”, (i.e. the Christ of Christianity). Those who perpetrated acts of violence in so-called “Christian crusades”, unfortunately had almost no access to be able to read the life affirming, and God clarifying words in “our” New Testament.

    For any who may not have read my previous posts, I’ll wrap up this one by reiterating why I choose the Christian worldview. Here are some highlights of images of Christ that come to mind: – Jesus’ saying to Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world”, – Jesus teaching folks on the hillside as he spoke his blessed “beatitudes”: “You have heard it was said … But I tell you … Love your enemies”, – and one of the many times Jesus walked in a manner consistent with his talk. In my mind, pretty much as a seamless single act -As Jesus was being arrested, while he was healing the high priest’s servant by re-attaching his severed ear, Jesus told his disciple to “put away your sword”.

    Yep, that’s the servant of the same high priest who pressured Pilot to crucify Jesus. I’m hoping Images like those, painted in my consciousness by the living word of God, will help as I try to understand tough issues (e.g. How does God want me to act toward people who dont share my religious views ? … as well as: Does that also apply to folks I consider to be “my enemies”?).

    -Dennis

  2. Dennis Warren says:

    It just occurred to me how I probably should have chosen the U.S. military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan as an example of “christian conquest” – or at least seen that way some Muslims — for instance similar to how some Christians view 911.

    As I understand it, many believers in Islam don’t think their religion provides for the idea of separation of church and state in any way like we American Christians. Given this, I can understand a bit easier how some Muslims may interpret American military force as part in parcel of a “holy war” (after all, isn’t America supposed to be a Christian nation?).

    I’m just wondering if we should consider whether words about “dark side” of so-called Islam, come with any balancing words in regard to the “dark side” of so-called Christianity (or should have prefaced the names of the religions with “so-called”, i.e. BOTH religions?).

    If there are good reasons to believe the kind of Christianity we practice sits above the violent dark side some associate with so-called Christianity (and I think there are good reasons) – then we need to state these clearly and be willing to listen to any Muslims who may likewise be trying to state clearly why the kind of Islam they practice sits above the violent dark places some associate with so-called Islam.

    Especially in controversial issues like the “ground zero Mosque”, I think considering what may be going through the minds of folks who don’t seem to share our views..simply falls into world view which involves acting toward others as we would like them to act toward us.

    Again, I’m not saying I think the evidence is equal in support of whether True Christianity is more adept to be practiced in a peaceful life-affirming way verses whether True Islam better fit’s that bill (i.e. as to which produces a better yeild of the benefits of peaceful life-affirming actions).

    I’ve attempted to state briefly (in three comments now) why I personally think the idea of “life affirming” is more applicable to a straightforward reading of the New Testament coupled with what we know of it’s principle “prophet” — verses — similar evidence which I personally think would need to be presented about a straight forward reading of principle Islamic scriptures along with what is known of it’s principle prophet.

    The reason I’ve taken the time to make my opinion known here – is because I’m hoping to get some feedback from either Darrow or Gary (or both) as to whether they intend for their readers (e.g. myself…) to assume they consider all who claim to be a believer of Islam as being one who is “in love with death”?

    Darrow and Gary, I hope the short version of your answer is “no”, otherwise your position would seem a bit harsh to me …

    I can understand how a person may claim allegiance to some world view without understanding all it entails, based not only on historical precedents but also the “usual” or “most likely” effect on people’s behavior the actual words from “the book” have produced.

    For Muslims who interpret the concept of “Jihad” as an inner struggle between personal good and evil, do you consider those people so dangerous, that you believe American government should consider restricting their constitutional rights? Because that is the position I think I am hearing being stated in both of your posts which include the words “Ground Zero” in their title.

    If so …. then do you think it’s OK for nations consisting principally of Muslim believers to restrict their Christian citizens from building places for Christian worship?

    I’m not trying to be confrontational. Here is probably the main reason this subject is of so much interest to me. Some aspects of my personal “world view” (as I think you would call it) has been affected significantly by a young man from India, who believes in Islam, and who spent a lot of time with one of my daughters.

    Having four daughters, I have watch with particular interest the men who spend much time with them. I have to say I’ve been as much impressed (and in several ways more so) with this Muslim man’s tendency to affirm life in general — and specifically the life of my daughter – in comparison with other men who believe in Christianity (and who were either born in in the U.S. or have come here from other nations).

    So, for me to completely buy into what I think you are saying about how a particular religious or philosophical world view is so influential on affirming life …. I guess I need to hear one of you guys to respond about whether you really intend to associate all believers in Islam with the single (loaded) word: “jihad” (I didn’t notice either any words from you guys or any links to external sites which appeared to be likely to give much credence to their being any other way of viewing and/or practicing Islam. Please correct me if I’m wrong).

    -Dennis

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