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Freedom of Religion . . . for Some?

Aug 19, 2010 — Categories:

Last Sunday I preached at my local church, and I am attaching a summary version of my sermon here. I am speaking as a Christian pastor to my fellow Christians. During this season of Ramadan, a primary holiday for Muslims, and with “Islamophobia” being stoked by demagogues, Christians must speak up. These are dangerous times.

Last Sunday I preached at my local church, and I am attaching a summary version of my sermon here. I am speaking as a Christian pastor to my fellow Christians. During this season of Ramadan, a primary holiday for Muslims, and with “Islamophobia” being stoked by demagogues, Christians must speak up. These are dangerous times.

My Scotch-Irish ancestors came here seeking religious freedom. Many Muslim immigrants have also come here seeking religious freedom: the freedom to practice moderate Islam and to walk away from the distortions and misuse of the Quran to support terrorism and the abuse of women and children.

As Christians, we must remember that our history is littered with the misuse of our Bible to support slavery, the Crusades, the genocide of Native Americans, the abuse of women and children. Our hands and our history are not clean.

So we should be able to understand from our own experience that it is not difficult for some people to take and misuse sacred texts to support their own personal agenda contrary to the fundamental message of a faith tradition.

The opposition to the Muslim community center in Manhattan is xenophobia at its worst: fear of “the other.” In this case, “the others” are patriotic Muslim Americans who are working hard to encourage moderate Muslim values. I know these people and have worked with them: I share their values.

I firmly believe that the best way to counter terrorism from the Muslim fringe is to support and encourage the witness of moderate Muslims—and to support their First Amendment rights to worship when and where they choose.

The people of New York City don’t seem to have a problem with Muslims building a new community center in a neighborhood where they have been worshipping for years. If the demagogues prevail and the Muslim community center is not built, then the terrorists win. Ten years after the 9/11 attack, the terrorists continue to export fear, mistrust and chaos.

As patriots and people of faith, we can stand against this. And we must.

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
FaithTrust Institute

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Freedom of religion

Posted by Brenda at Aug 25, 2010 05:13 PM
Marie, I so enjoy your letters and sermons and this letter is no exception. You hit the nail squarely on the head by pointing out that 'our hands are not clean'. This is so true. I also understand your vision for freedom of religion and share in that philosophy, but regrettably, only in part.
Let me explain:
9/11 has not only changed the face of our great country, but has also changed our world. We, the American people, are simply not the same people that we were pre-9/11. We have been violated and scarred by our wounds as if a child or woman scarred by abuse at the hands of their batterer. Trust has been broken and replaced with fear and suspicion, and this is a fundamenatal reaction of the human condition.
The USA was deceived and betrayed by Islamic sects who came to our country purportedly on friendly terms - to study, to work, to raise families, in search of 'freedom'. These sects infiltrated our communities and falsely became 'one of us' in order to deceive and eventually attack us from within. These are indisputable facts. It was a tactic that has unfortunately repeated history - I refer to both Native Americans and African slaves.
But history is history, and hopefully the USA has learned from her mistakes. Many Americans believe that she has, and that our historical, political, societal growth further proves that progress. Nonetheless, 'recent' history dictates reality for America's people. The deception, the betrayal, the loss, will not be soon forgotten. It may be easy for some, such as the average Joe, far removed from the terror, destruction, chaos and death, not to comprehend the unimaginable terror of those moments... moments that must have seemed like eternity. It is not hard to distance ourselves from the pain of the senseless loss of life when it does not directly affect US - when it is someone else's mother, brother, child, friend, or spouse. But for those who were there, those moments live on, and they will continue to live on for years to come. The survivors and family members of victims can not 'move on' because they are frozen in a time that revisits their dreams and their daily thoughts. For many, it is the first thing they think of when they awaken, and the last thing they remember before falling off to sleep. For some, 9/11 will live on for generations. Parentless children do not comprehend the politics behind the loss of their beloved parents. For survivors, their guilt binds them to that place and time. Some events are so traumatic that victims never fully recover, and we must respect, and are called upon to understand, the rawness of their memories and their pain. The truth is, some wounds simply do not heal.
While I support freedom of religion, I can not forget that horrific day when America was attacked, without provocation, by Al Qaida supremacists simply because they do not approve of our western way of life. It was a cowardly, diabolical act of aggression.
Thus, we should not be alarmed when the American people react with outrage and hostility at the proposal to erect a mosque on this sacred American landmark. We should not be surprised when our President's proposal is met with disdain and seen as outlandish and grossly insensitive, given the gravity of the attack on the American people, the American culture and on American soil.
Understandably, and in my opinion, rightly so, the American people can not be expected to feel indifferent about such a proposal that would essentially bring honor to an ethnocentric group responsible for not only the loss of human life, but for the loss of trust, our sense of security and for many, a way of life. This is in no way an insignificant matter or small infraction and the American people should not be asked or expected to overlook an assault of such grave proportions on our political and religious beliefs. The gravity of this senseless act must NOT be rewarded and most assuredly not rewarded by the very people under attack.
Right or wrong, the muslim community is now widely suspect in the eyes of the American people. Wounds are still fresh, memories still vivid. Right or wrong, the consideration of 'right or wrong' or 'fair' is presently highly debatable and is not of imminent concern for many Americans. At this time, reality takes precedence over 'right or wrong' and reality is, America is still hurting.
The muslims of NYC are entitled to a place of worship, but not on this sacred site. A mosque on this site would stretch well beyond a slap on the face or the thumbing of the nose; it would be the desecration of the American spirit, and our very soul.


Response to Brenda

Posted by Marie Fortune at Aug 25, 2010 06:09 PM
Thank you so much for taking time to respond to my blog and share your feelings. I still need to confront your assumptions: the U.S. was not invaded by “Islamic sects”; we were attacked by agents of Al Qaida who were Muslim Arabs. They justified their horrific acts by misusing Islam. What I am saying is that if we let Al Qaida define Islam, then they win. It would be like saying that Timothy McVeigh or the people who bomb abortion clinics represent Christianity.
I fully appreciate your concern for the families and survivors of 9/11. But remember that all of those who died were an incredibly diverse group, including many Muslims.
For me, the building of a Muslim Community Center open to all people 2 blocks from Ground Zero is a sign of hope and healing. It is a defiant statement to Al Qaida that Americans will not let their terrorism divide us from one another or scrap our Bill of Rights. And it is a powerful statement to Muslims around the world about who America is.
The most important thing is that we can have this dialogue. So thanks again for sharing your thoughts.
Marie Fortune

Alhamdulilah or Praise be to God

Posted by Sis Isahah at Aug 25, 2010 05:13 PM
Alhamdulilah, praise be to God, for your refreshing perspective!

freedom of religion

Posted by Laura BENNETT at Sep 22, 2010 05:55 PM
I appreciated the idea of being fair to others freedom. All humans have rights and should be able to express their likes and dislikes. Freedom of religion is important also. My problem is our country was founded on praying men and women (American families)such as myself. I am 40 years old with teenagers and when I look back at history and the trust I had in our government, I see that I was blind. Now I lead my kids with open eyes but what I see out of mistrusted eyes is lies and false misrepresentation. I teach my kids do not trust anyone 100% or any organizations that say we are for you. Why? People are out for self gain just like politics!

As far as modern muslims having the right to make this country their home? I don't have a problem with any religion or any race. I have a problem with out siders coming to America trying to change our world our way of living. Due to being so diverse we don't have bibles in the schools. You can't pray in the class rooms. Kids in highschool can't put religious bible versus on flags or football banners. That's what the students wanted! It was because it was on school property but it's ok to pray at the flag pole. Then you have the muslim kids in school who have the right to leave the classs room to pray for two hours? We change it for them but our own have to sit back and watch their rights fade away. That's not right. How does such stuff happen? We want to be diverse and give all humans equal rights???This happened in our local schools...So sad! The bad thing was a miserable woman started the whole thing and she did not have any kids going to the school. A squeeky wheel hmmm. Well, I am sending this to whom will read I am the squeeky wheel this time. This is my country and it is paid in full by me and every other tax payer. If you don't pay taxes and work and submit yourself under being an american then get out of our country. This is my land and i'm not leaving and our country is not for sale....God is not for sale either read his word.He didn't compromise his rights and belief...So why should you? You should have no other gods before me? says the Lord-- stop bowing down to diversity and stand up and take back your land and your god given right to say your a christian! AMEN

Response to Freedom of Religion

Posted by Marie Fortune at Sep 22, 2010 06:00 PM
This response to my discussion of freedom of religion is what worries me about the current intensity of the public discourse. Many Muslims in this country are native born citizens, and they are just as American as any of us. Others are immigrants who have come here because they like and respect what America stands for . . . especially freedom of religion. I know a number of Muslims and not one has ever tried to change my way of life. My life has been enriched by what I have learned from my Muslim friends and colleagues. We all have our cultural and religious traditions. Why should someone else’s be a problem for me?

As part of the Christian majority in this country, it is sometimes easy to forget that those who choose another faith tradition have a right to gather for worship, prayer and study when and where they choose. As a patriotic American, it is my responsibility to defend that right for all Americans when it is threatened. That’s what the Founders gave us in the Constitution.