A few weeks ago I spoke briefly concerning what seemed like some new terminology that the Obama administration was using. It had been noted that the top officials had stopped advocating “freedom of religion” and replaced it with the term “freedom of worship”. I noted that it is not enough for us to simply defend the right to worship, but that we must have a true freedom of religion. We must have rights to meet, organize, and promote our faith. Many repressive countries will say that anyone can worship any God they want. The only catch is that they cannot do this publicly! If you live in Saudi Arabia it is ILLEGAL to meet together with other Christians to worship God. It is illegal in Turkey for Christian missionaries to spread the Gospel. And although there are Christian congregations in Turkey they have no right to own property or operate a seminary. We must stand up for and defend the right to the freedom of religion.
This past few weeks there has been a growing furor over the Islamic mosque being proposed at Ground Zero in New York. And this past week President Obama made clear that it is important to understand that, no matter what we might think of it, the government cannot somehow step in and stop a mosque from being built. There is freedom of religion in this country and it must be defended for all religions. I do want to give the president credit for making this stand for the freedom of religion.
We might have a bad opinion of this proposal to build this mosque. I indeed think it is quite the bold and brazen statement which indeed would seem to be a slap in the face. And, although the claims by the builders seem innocent and generous, my suspicions abound. Of course it is ironic that a religion that is so intolerant of any other religion is able to come to America and be allowed by law to build and promote itself – but this is what freedom is. It is what we must fight for. It is the high road that sometimes is really hard to take.
So although we need to recognize that on a political level all religious rights must be protected in our country, it should certainly be a call to attention for us as Christians for action. The Islamic faith is not of the true God. There is no salvation in it. It is in fact a lie of the devil – as is every other religion – and we are in a spiritual battle against it. As Jesus says in our Gospel this past Sunday (Luke 12:49-53): His reality does not bring earthly peace. Jesus, in fact, brings division and fighting. We are in a battle of great spiritual dimensions. And Jesus calls us to spiritual arms.
We can sit around and fret and complain, or we can do what the Lord calls us to do: be strong in the faith and love towards all. The real solution to the very real problem of Islam is not limiting religious freedom, but preaching, sharing, and LIVING the Gospel with those who have no idea about it. We need to work for the day when Churches are being built UP again and mosques are being torn DOWN – not because of government regulations, but because no one wants to worship in them.