I have core differences of belief with the North Austin Muslim Community Center.
I disagree on a core level that submission is the primary path to holiness. I disagree on a core level that Prophet Mohammed is the final teacher from God. I disagree on a core level that their religion is the only true faith. I disagree on a core level that a theocracy is the ideal government.
I disagree on a core level that only men can be Imams. I disagree on a core level that men are front and center during the community prayers and that women must pray behind a partition out of sight. I disagree on a core level that women must have their heads covered at all times in public.
Why then did I encourage my church, Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Church to make a special offering to help NAMCC build their Mosque? Why am I pictured in this video proudly presenting a check to them?
Simply and clearly stated, there is a greater principle at stake.
In the "Preacher's line" after the church service where we gathered the contribution for the Mosque one of my members vigorously opposed our course of action. The parishioner asked, "Would you help build a Catholic or Mormon church? We should be tolerant of other religions but we should not be building their churches!"
My answer to her and you is this.
Normally I wouldn't be in favor of helping another religious group build a house of worship, especially one that I have such core differences with. But the Muslim religion is under siege in America. The overwhelming multitudes of their adherents are here seeking a life of opportunity and liberty in the "land of the free and the home of the brave."
They strive to be good citizens and make a positive contribution to their cities. They are seeking a place to peacefully practice their faith. The least we can do is live up to who we say we are. The fact that we have substantial core religious differences makes our reaching out in support even more profoundly principled.
I can easily cite the first amendment to our Constitution as the bedrock greater principle I am seeking fidelity to. But, I want to go back a few thousand years to a teaching of Rabbi Jesus who surely inspired Jefferson in crafting the cornerstone of our Bill of Rights.Jefferson wrote that in the person of Jesus
"a system of morals is presented to us which is...the most perfect and sublime that has ever been taught my man."
This teaching of Jesus undergirds our inheritance of religious freedom.
"If you love only those who love you what reward can you expect? Surely the tax gatherers do as much as that. (They were vilified as traitors working for the Roman empire.) And if you greet only your brothers, what is there extraordinary about that? Even the heathen do as much. There must be no limit to your goodness, as your heavenly Father's goodness knows no bounds." *
* Matthew 5:46-48, The New English Bible