The LA Times recently ran a story about a community of Muslims in Southern California who have saved up for years to build a mosque in their city. They currently gather in a “plain white industrial building, tucked between a pipeline company and packaging warehouse.” Certainly not an ideal place to worship and pray.
NPR’s All Things Considered broadcast a related story about the increasing opposition that Muslims across the country are facing when it comes to building new places to worship. NPR’s Robert Siegel interviewed Akbar Ahmed, professor of Islamic studies at American University and author of a book about Muslims’ experiences in the United States.
Both stories implicate that the opposition to more mosques is primarily from Christians and people who feel pretty strongly about the potential for mosques becoming “a haven for Islamic extremists.”
The opposition for the Muslim community in Southern California includes Bill Rench, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, which is located near the site of the potential mosque. Says Rench, “The Islamic foothold is not strong here, and we really don’t want to see their influence spread.” Not only that, but Christianity and Islam “mix like oil and water” he said. According to the Times, Rench predicted a “confrontational atmosphere” if plans for the new mosque move forward.
On the other end of the spectrum is Reverend Williamson, pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Columbia, Tennessee. Williamson’s story is revered by professor Akbar Ahmed in the NPR story. A local mosque had been burnt down and some had vandalized the remaining property with graffiti and swastikas. Instead of condoning the opposition and wishing Muslims to get out of town, Pastor Williamson gave the Muslim community the keys to the Presbyterian church. “This from now on can be used as your house of worship.”
These two stories communicate two very different pictures of Christianity.
This site is not the place to debate two major religions. Nor is it the site to pit the Baptists against the Presbyterians about whose response is more aligned with their denominational DNA.
This is a site about communicating the truth of Jesus Christ with uncompromising clarity.
If I’m an outsider, looking at these two stories, I’m drawn to the warm embrace and simple compassion of a Tennessee pastor who sees his building as a gift to the community, not a billboard for the opposition.
What story are you telling your community?