Yes, I’m serious. Let them build it. “It” refers to the Mosque, which is actually a Muslim Community Center, near to (as in a couple blocks from) Ground Zero. I would, in fact, say that Jesus would tell us, “Let them build it.”
My understanding is that they have a “right” to do so. The would-be builders have made plans that are legal and within bounds of local zoning and other pertinent ordinances. I also understand the strong sentiments that fuel the arguments against building this Muslim community center there.
To some who lost loved ones on 9/11, and to many others who identify deeply with their loss, this building feels disrespectful. Some of them suspect a connection (they might even call it a necessary connection) between the 9/11 attacks and the Muslim religion. For them the building feels like treason—aiding and abetting the enemy. More than a few see such a building on that site as a threat to their own faith in Christ, a striking reminder that Islam is on-the-grow worldwide. For many the thought of this building feels like tearing open a wound that had not quite healed completely. The newly opened wound would not only hurt but reawaken the terror, fear, and anger with a vengeance.
Still, I suggest, under these circumstances Jesus would say, “Let them build it.” Here’s why I think he would.
The Muslim religion, even when it becomes aggressive evangelistically or otherwise, poses no threat to the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. His followers should not belie this fact by reacting in fear.
The hurts and wounds we sustain in this life, even when inflicted by terrorists, can be healed completely through the loving care of the Great Shepherd of the flock. It is by his wounds that we are healed—we and potentially all others. Those of us who have received a measure of such healing must point others to the only One who can heal the deep wounds of a 9/11 and any other holocaust they’ve experienced.
In fact, the Lord Christ loves all people and wants them to draw near. Wouldn’t a community center surrounded by and interacting with people of Christ’s way offer an excellent opportunity for Christ to be lifted up? And you know what happens when Christ is lifted up! So, rather than protesting the construction, wouldn’t it be most consistent with Jesus love to plan missional interaction precisely in his name? Why not see in this an open door for those who would lift Jesus up?
Indeed, there are other reasons why I can hear Jesus saying, “Let them build it,” reasons that cohere with Jesus’ character and his calling upon us. Jesus calls his own to bless rather than curse, to reconcile with any who would be our enemies, and to pray for those who refuse to reconcile and prefer to remain at odds. He calls us not to retaliate, not to do to them what they would do or have done to us. Instead, to treat them as we would be treated.
Brothers and sisters, the world waits for the people of God to demonstrate they really are and what they’re about. The world waits to see that we are about the very God whose image Jesus reveals and reforms in us. The Muslim world waits too.
And, Jesus also waits.
Wouldn’t it be one of the most stunning God-things ever, if on the very soil made holy by the innocent suffering of 9/11 the soil became holier still—by the Holy One showing up in and through his own? Imagine if on the front row of this Holy Debut there were Muslim peoples—who, by the way, believe there is only one true God, who believe Jesus was (at least) a prophet with important teachings to observe, but who had no idea how the one true God has determined to show himself. At least, they had no idea until one day when hanging out at the community center put them in position to see and know and LIVE better.