The Response I Wish More Christians Would Give July 16, 2010

The Response I Wish More Christians Would Give

The night before I left for The Amazing Meeting, I saw this segment on The Daily Show and cracked up.

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Today, I read a response to this story from Rachel Held Evans — she’s a Christian who recently published the book Evolving in Monkey Town, about her upbringing in Dayton, Tennessee, home of the Scopes Monkey Trial.

She saw that clip and this ABC News report and wrote the following (emphasis hers):

But what brought me to tears was the fact that, according to the report, there were “no public comments in favor of the mosque.”


No one spoke up for their neighbors.

No one stood up for the oppressed.

No one was willing to face the inevitable disdain that would have followed had they done the right thing.

The Muslim community, however, often suffers in silence. And around here, I get the sense that the hatred runs deep. It amazes me that the same folks who so loudly champion their rights to guns and free speech guaranteed by the constitution seem to think freedom of religion is negotiable.

As Christians, we must speak up, for it is no coincidence that when Jesus was asked, Who is my neighbor? he chose the most hated religious-ethnic group of the day — Samaritans — to tell his story.

Yes! That’s the type of response more Christians ought to be giving. If they’re going to pick and choose which parts of the Bible to follow, standing up for minorities is a good lesson to get behind. Many pastors talk about this in church, but how rarely do we see Christians actually following through on it? Certainly not the ones opposing the mosque.

(For what it’s worth, speaking up for the rights of others isn’t limited to Christians — it’s just a decent, human thing to do and atheists do it all the time — but if her faith makes her do something positive, fantastic.)

I don’t really want to see any more mosques being built. Or any more churches, for that matter. But if religious people want to build worship houses with their own money, they have that right.

Why is the First Amendment so difficult for so many Christians to grasp?

I want to see more Christians speaking out in favor of these mosques… and against any fellow Christians who disagree. It’s easy to do and it shows you’re not afraid to stand up to the crazier people in your faith. They’re wrong. You’re right. Don’t be afraid to say so.

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  • Are there degrees of repulsiveness between various religious legal systems? Should we prioritize the fight?
    Thank you for sharing the video – got me smiling.

  • Steve

    That point at the end is really great and something I thought about yesterday. People are against sharia law in the west (and for very good reasons), but having laws based on Christianity is perfectly ok.

    Of course they’ll make the point that these countries have a Judeo-Christian tradition that makes this alright. And up to a certain point that’s even true, but it still flies in the face of church-state separation.

    As for mosques in general – or also churches: I have nothing against them. But do they have to be these huge, representative buildings with gigantic towers or minarets? Why can’t they just have a prayer room or something in a normal building? (and some muslims are fine with that actually)

  • Rachel is one of my favorite writers right now and I thought this piece was really fantastic. I think that there is a group of Christian writers who are starting to let their voices be heard about some of these issues. Folks like Rachel, Jason Boyett, Matthew Paul Turner are using their platform to talk about things that have been the sole domain of the religious right for a long time and people are listening.

  • Trace

    “They’re wrong. You’re right.”

    I am glad you see it my way 🙂

    Now, you “crazies”, stop all that “skydaddy”, “delusional” nonsense.

  • JD

    But these Muslims she’s defending stay silent about theocracy and Sharia law in the Maldives, among many other places.

    I don’t know what to make of all this. I’m all for defending freedoms but also defending the freedoms of a people that stay silent about oppression? That’s a tough one.

  • keddaw


    Freedom of speech also means freedom from speech (or something.)

    In fact, even if he is vocal in his support for oppression abroad that is still covered under free speech and should not be a barrier to him opening a mosque in a free country.

    The whole point of a secular country is that the government will not favour one religion over another and will not bend to the will of the majority when it tries to impinge the rights of the minority.

    And if anyone says “it’s an insult to those that died on 9/11?” say back to them “how many died to defeat the British so that we could have a constitution? Would you insult their memory by trampling the Bill of Rights?”

  • Bill

    “Why is the First Amendment so difficult for so many Christians to grasp?” because their views are voiced by their spokespeople like Hannity, Palin, Fox news, Beck etc. And they are idiots and liars. Sadly, they can get away with it, because most of their followers are idiots and liars too.

  • Hitch

    The thing is though that the legal system of the US is not founded on the 10 commandments. It’s just a certain group claiming this.

    The concern if a society gets fragmented in terms of law is a legitimate one. But that discussion should not be content free. What are the specific proposals of communal law. What rights do people have in terms of choice of legal body? Are the communal laws compatible with larger concepts in society such as equality under the law and equal protection? How about establishment?

    In any case, yes the whole upset about mosques is demagoguery.

  • Glad to see you post this!

    I follow both of you & love seeing you cross paths in the “Virtual Village.”

    I was particularly encouraged to read this post of hers. Christians speaking up, respecting the rights of others, watching The Daily Show- all good stuff!

    Many do, but we don’t hear that as much. SO, thank you for highlighting her voice on your blog!

    Asking Christians to speak up on behalf of the oppressed, to challenge injustice and bigotry, to voice our support for the LGBTQ community- I have appreciated your recent calls to action, Hemant!

    People are responding.

  • Nicole

    I’d like to offer a more personalized, perhaps less valuable response to this topic as a resident of Murfreesboro surprised by how much coverage this is getting nationally. Excuse me if I ramble incoherently. The topic makes me emotional.

    I am, like anyone else, concerned about the influence Muslims have in places other than the West. Like anyone else I’m alarmed by Sharia law.

    What I’m not is afraid that the establishment of a mosque near me (QUITE near) is going to over-run my city with terrorists and that one day I’m going to be forced to wear a burqa. If anything I see this as an opportunity for the increased Westernization of Islam.

    I live (now I have given you all material to stalk me! :D) less than a mile from a Mormon church here in Murfreesboro. Do I think the Mormon church is weird and creepy? Yes. Has it had in any way an effect on my life? No, although navigating out of my poorly-planned neighborhood after a busy service sort of stinks.

    I have never even had a Mormon come to my door to hand me a copy of the Watchtower, despite living so close to the church.

    The reactions of the people in my community to the mosque’s construction have sickened me. I have always been fierce in my love of my city. When TN is bashed in the media or by internet commenters as a backwards place, I’ve been proud to say that I live in a beautiful city full of reasonable, polite, and friendly people–a college town with a diversity of opinions and backgrounds. I never want to leave here, I never want to be far away from Nashville; when the floods came months ago (I was caught in them, out of town near Nashville) the outpouring of local response was stunning.

    And now I’m confronted by the fact that the city I take so much pride in has reduced itself to a paranoid, terrified hotbed of racism and culturalism. I overhear this topic being discussed on a regular basis and hear nothing but hatred. Visiting my boyfriend in a city about an hour away on, of all days, Independence Day, I heard people talking about what was happening in my city like it was happening in their backyards, and when I mentioned under my breath to my boyfriend that I was disgusted by their intolerance and hypocrisy, I feared for myself lest someone overhear me.

    Let me say that clearly: I was not afraid of Muslims that day. I was afraid that if I was heard voicing my support for Muslims in this one instance, I would become in some sense a victim of my (white, Christian) neighbors.

    The people who don’t care are too afraid or too apathetic to speak up, including me. What pains me most is that the people who are afraid of this mosque–and it is fear–have become that way so suddenly. None of them seem even capable of articulating what they are afraid of–it is a freakishly indoctrinated fear. Can they really be so afraid of Muslims that they think a single mosque in Murfreesboro is going to lead to Sharia law? Can they really have so little faith in their own faith, so little faith in their own legal system, as to think that within a few years their daughters will be in burqas and wed to older men, stoned for resisting? I don’t understand how the city I love can be so illogical about this.

    I’m literally in tears right now. I find it difficult to look people in the eye on the street knowing that chances are good any one of them, even the laidback college students I was relying on to balance the crazies, are probably shaking in fear of this mosque, willing to step on someone else’s freedoms because they are so convinced that their own are being trodden upon if they don’t.

    I don’t know how we got here. But for the first time in my life I want to leave.

  • littlejohn

    There is a bit of dust-up going on at God is for Suckers this morning on this topic. Otherwise tolerant atheists are showing an appalling lack of understanding of the First Amendment. Hemant might want to visit and leave his opinion.

  • What an honor to be featured on Friendly Atheist! Thank you!

    Nicole – I appreciate so much your willingness to share your perspective as a as a Murfreesboro resident. It must be so frustrating…and baffling…and scary…to be in your situation. Please know that you are not alone.

    It’s always easier to be on the outside looking in, saying that people should stand up and protest, but I don’t have a great track record myself. When the Rhea County commission passed a resolution making it illegal to be gay in Rhea County, I grumbled and complained and voted against everyone on the commission in the next election, but I did not join my gay brothers and sisters in their protests on the courthouse lawn. Looking back, I sorta wish I had.

  • If one of the ten commandments said that “thou shalt flap your arms like chickens on Tuesdays“, then Christians across the land would be flapping their arms like chickens on Tuesdays. Our actual laws should be based on well reasoned ideas – not just what some religious, superstitious people wrote down long ago.

  • muggle

    Nicole, beautifully written. I’m sorry you’re experiencing the problem so deeply.

    I’ve taken a lot of flak on both local and national blogs for defending the right for the mosque being built next to Ground Zero. It amazes me the people who don’t get that they have a perfect right to build this mosque even though I ask point blank, would you have a problem with a church being built there? Even the Atheists are eerily silent on that, refusing to answer.

    This is not the way to fight terrorism. One person even compared it to building a Bhuddist temple next to Pearl Harbor. Did we learn nothing from the misstep we took in WW2 against Japanese Americans? I find the tendancy to repeat that error now towards Muslim Americans most disturbing and upsetting.

    Is this the way it’s going to be forever and ever whenever our country’s at war?

  • Min

    Is this the way it’s going to be forever and ever whenever our country’s at war?

    Yes. That’s the only way you can fight a war — by convincing yourself (and your citizens) that your enemies deserve to die. You have to have some way to classify your enemies, whether it be their nationality (Japanese) or political views (Communist) or, in this case, their religion (Islam).

    As soon as you realize that your enemies are just as human as you are and that most of them are perfectly normal people who are just trying to earn a living, suddenly it becomes a lot harder to kill them.

  • Robert

    I am in favor of religious freedom, but I really do have a problem building a mosque near ground zero. There is no doubt it will be viewed as a shrine to those that murdered three thousand Americans. Why should we tolerate that? Not opposing it for religious reasons but for American pride and in consideration of the victims families. Just seems tacky and and a screw you America move.

    As far as any other location, they should be free within the zoning laws of a community to build where they see fit. maybe the more we are together, there will be a greater influence from moderate Muslims in their own religion. Right now, we are scared of those who have hy-jacked that religion and declared war on us.

  • Nicole

    I actually didn’t even get to the root of what I was trying to say, I got so overwhelmed, which is: it’s easy to say “be brave” until you’re standing in the middle of a knot of thirty people, on a church lawn where a few little kids are selling lemonade, where everyone is trashing Islam and saying it’s a crying shame the country has been “reduced” to this, and seeing firsthand how much hatred is there.

    I’m just not that brave, is all. I can’t fault too hard the other people around here who also aren’t. It’s not like I fear physical harm–I think. I just… there are natural instincts not to put yourself in a place of danger and I genuinely felt I was in one.

    Min’s post is depressingly accurate.

    EDIT: Also wait isn’t Watchtower the JW publication? I always get them mixed up.

    SEE. No influence on my life. I don’t even know the name of their magazine.

  • Why is the First Amendment so difficult for so many Christians to grasp?
    Because they feel that they alone are right.
    They fear Hell more than the earthly consequences of acting like terrible people.

  • keddaw

    @Jeff P, don’t be naive, of course our laws are based on the 10 Commandments.

    Otherwise we wouldn’t have a law saying not to kill. Or steal. Or… well, 2 out of 10 ain’t bad.

    Actually, some states still have adultery as illegal, but can’t find when the last person charged with it was.

  • Steve

    If it weren’t for the bible, people would have figured out that murdering people is wrong anyways. You can come to that conclusion by purely secular reasoning from many angles.

  • Muzak

    This story made me feel ashamed.

    There is a mosque on my dead end street in Connecticut. Recently, they wanted to expand the mosque to build a school. There is actually already a school on the site but it is inside two small trailers and they wanted to build an actual facility. My neighbors had a petition to stop them from building it talking about the heavy traffic it would generate. When I first moved here I was totally surprised by how heavy the traffic was everyday around lunch time but particularly on Fridays. The mosque is very well attended and I agreed to sign the petition because the thought of even heavier traffic on my very narrow street really did bother me. But when I read this piece I wondered if my extremely evangelical neighbors were just using the traffic as a way to mask their prejudice and I signed off on their religious intolerance without really delving deeper into what I was doing. I would have signed the petition if it was any religion.

    However, I might have thought differently if it was a school for the deaf or an arts school, or a science academy. Well…I think what I am trying to say in my rambling way is that perhaps it WAS religious intolerance that allowed me to so quickly sign off on the petition. My intolerance towards all religions. And that realization makes me feel ashamed.

  • Bob


    As actor Edward James Olmos pointed out during a seminar on human rights, there is only one race, and that is the human race. All the other divisions, black v. white, Christian v. Muslim, etc. – exist for the sole purpose of justifying action against that other group.

  • keddaw


    There is no doubt it will be viewed as a shrine to those that murdered three thousand Americans. Why should we tolerate that?

    Because there is freedom of speech and the price of that is that you have to tolerate views you disagree with.

    Jeez, is the 1st Amendment really that hard to grasp?

    @Steve, I was making the point that only 2 of the Commandments are actually against the law. And those are the ones that just about every grouping of humans in history have discovered independently.

  • Greg

    I suspect the problem is that for a number of reasons – including the fact that the terrorists claim to be doing their acts as a direct result of Islam – Islam is equated with the terrorism itself by a number of people. How often do we hear the phrase (or something like it) “as mandated by the Koran” used when it comes to terrorism?

    So for a lot of people it isn’t the Taliban or Al Qaeda attacking the West, it is Islam attacking the West.

    If people want to solve this problem, then they need to show that Islam does not mandate these terrorist actions, and that the terrorism is happening for a different reason. And that is best done by the Muslims themselves, the Islamic moderates need to be as voluble as possible in criticising the Islamic fundamentalists.

    My fear is, that like Christianity, the fundamentalists may well have more textual backing.

    I guess what I am saying, is that I can understand why people are reacting this way to the building of mosques etc. even if I don’t agree with it.

  • Randall

    I beered this over to my facebook and some very unusual suspects – verymuch entrenched and, we’ll say “non-inclusive” Christians with whom I associate – have “liked” the link. Inspiring. Great post.

  • medussa

    thanks for that post. That is the America I am terrified of, where the nicest people can turn into a lynch mob.
    Civil courage takes practice, and you’re absolutely right to listen to your inner red flags in a crowd. The sweetest people can turn so incredibly nasty when confronted with something outside of their comfort zone. Just try honestly answering the innocuous question “So, are you married?” in a crowd like that (I’m speaking as a Lesbian).

    Anyway, if you want to take a stand on these issues, do so, but start small. Find an outspoken group fighting this battle, and offer support. Or write an anonymous Letter to the Editor, call in to the local radio station. Be sure to stay safe, until you feel you have enough stamina or support, or both, to publicly denounce this kind of bigotry.
    And consider a sizable donation to an organization that can make a difference, like the ACLU, or something similar.

  • Jeff Dale

    It’s easy to do and it shows you’re not afraid to stand up to the crazier people in your faith. They’re wrong. You’re right. Don’t be afraid to say so.

    But there’s a problem. Xians have been raised with the habit of thinking that right and wrong are, at least in part, defined by an ancient book and/or certain mammals who interpret said book. And that ancient book is, to put it mildly, not unambiguously on the side of the First Amendment. Those who were referred to as “right” in this argument don’t have the confidence of their convictions because [a] their natural sense of rightness is diluted and confused by a sometimes-conflicting religious sense of rightness, [b] on the basis of the self-contradicting book and various conflicting interpretations, they don’t have a rational basis for claiming that their interpretation is superior to anyone else’s, and [c] because their own epistemic position is so shaky, yet they feel a psychological need for it to be “true,” they have to be very circumspect about criticizing anyone else’s religious conclusions lest it encourage scrutiny of their own views (which wouldn’t even stand up to their own scrutiny if not swaddled in a warm, fuzzy blanket of denial).

    This is a big part of why some atheists (including this one) think it’s so important to work on persuading religious liberals and moderates. The extravagant restraint on challenging religious ideas, and the associated contortions of our truth-seeking faculties and practices, that’s needed to shield their views unwittingly supports the extremist elements in their own religions.

  • As for mosques in general – or also churches: I have nothing against them. But do they have to be these huge, representative buildings with gigantic towers or minarets? Why can’t they just have a prayer room or something in a normal building? (and some muslims are fine with that actually)

    There’s a tiny mosque across the street from our local post office. They took a derelict building and fixed it up quite nicely. If there has to be a religious group there, I don’t care if it’s a church or a mosque, and actually I prefer the mosque because it doesn’t cause nearly as much traffic. The smaller churches around here have a habit of clogging up the streets during their service times, yet even when the parking lot for the mosque seems to be full, the attendees never park on the street. Plus, they’re very quiet. I’ve never heard any type of noise coming from the building. I don’t know what they teach inside, but, IMO, it can’t be any worse than what a fundamentalist church teaches.

  • Baconsbud

    I’m not sure but it seems odd to me that the only one bringing up the hypocrisy of christians is Jon Stewart. I like watching his show for this reason. Many times he will point out the two faced attitude of both liberals and conservatives. I find it sad that the only news program that is willing to show some of the many sides of a story is a comedy show. What does this say about our main media sources? Of course some of these same major media sources did report that terrorist were training monkeys to fire weapons.

  • @Anna,

    “I don’t know what they teach inside, but, IMO, it can’t be any worse than what a fundamentalist church teaches.”

    Wanna bet?

  • Well, of course it could be worse, but I don’t think it is. It doesn’t seem like an extreme sort of place.

    I’m no expert, but they seem fairly moderate. They’re involved in interfaith activities and appear to do outreach and charity work with non-Muslims, too.

  • Seriously guys, you’re (generalization) wanting your government to make a decision about the historical validity of a building on the basis of who wants to buy it. Hypocritical is the least I can say.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am totally against this, but I cannot be against their right to do this.

    Getting public opinion into such a state that the government will make a decision to placate them is phenomenally wrong. In every possible way.

  • Dan W

    Wow, one of the best segments of the Daily Show I’ve seen. That was awesome.

    And yes, it’s nice to see a Christian actually speaking up for tolerance. Too many of them seem to have not read the First Amendment of the Constitution. I personally agree that there are too many places of worship (churches, synagogues, mosques, etc) in this country already- and they pay no taxes- but if Muslims want to build mosques, spending their own money to do so, they have the freedom to do that.

  • Fundie Troll

    I want to see more Christians speaking out in favor of these mosques.

    Right, let them build their mosques. This is not a Christian nation, it was never “our” nation, and the framers of the Constitution wanted to ensure freedom of religion for ALL citizens. Besides which, Christ tell us that his kingdom is not of this world. I think that pretty much rules out the United States, don’t you?

    BTW kudos to Jon Stewart for memorizing those bible verses! He was rattling them off like a machine gun!

  • Mikey

    Oops, I guess that was him reading off of a teleprompter.

    *sigh* Oh well…

  • muggle

    Anna, thanks for putting that link in. Man, that mosque was anything but scary. Definitely as benign as any Christian church.

    Robert, just because you read that into it doesn’t mean the mosque shouldn’t be built. Kind of like the Christians who read into crosses being found in the rubble of 9/11 when it would have been miraculous if there weren’t cross beams.

    Look I admit I’d like to see religion go out of business altogether — but due to unpopularity not oppression.

  • Heidi

    I did not think it was possible to heart Jon Stewart any more than I already did.

  • It seems like they support “free exercise of religion” only as long as they are the religion in the majority

  • As always, Jon Stewart is the voice of reason. Calling out hypocrisy on a regular basis.

  • Robert

    I’m all for freedom of religion and the first amendment, but there are limits Such as not being able to yell fire in a crowded theater. In my opinion, a mosque this close to ground zero just calls for incitement of violence and problems. They can build their mosque down the street and still express their freedom of religion.

  • Brian Macker

    I don’t think setting up a society to spread skepticism throughout the world by voluntary education is equivalent to spreading a religion by force that advocates the subjugation of non-believers, defames them, and goes so far as to advocate their murder. There is a big difference between spreading your beliefs by violent and non-violent means, and also a difference in content.

    Stewart jokes about the fact that Muslims of course are going to want to build a Mosque. Duh, an Nazi’s are going to want to put up their meeting houses also. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.

    I also think that like the case where the white supremacists groups spread hate for blacks that resulted in their members attacking some black and even murdering them we need to hold the organization responsible for what it teaches and fine them and send their members to jail as co-conspirators.

    It’s clear that Islam calls for the violation of the rights of others and when they act on these teachings they need to be held accountable. We hold businesses responsible for when their instruction manuals lead to deaths, we need to hold religion equally responsible.

    If that means that other religious organizations are also held accountable then so be it. If a Fred Phillip’s teaches hatred of “fags” and his members start killing them then we have empirical evidence that there is a causal connection where the intent is malice. This is not the same as some copy cat repeating a crime in a novel, unless the book is painting the act as a good idea.

    We need to apply the laws of defamation and incitement to violence that we apply against individuals to organizations that do the same. Even if they are religious in nature.

    Religion does not give someone the right to advocate the murder of others, incite to violence, and spread defamation.

    It is one thing to claim that you should follow a belief system lest you come to harm from the consequences, and quite another if your religion has build in bad consequences for those who don’t knuckle under.

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