I am sickened by the BS going on by the religious & political right with the center in NYC & Mosques across the country. I wonder if we can get some Austin religious leaders together and make a statement, do a service project together etc. to counter this. This is beginning to pick up national steam and is in need of being addressed here. I plan to do a portion of my sermon on this Sunday. My topic is courage.
-Islam, Imam of the North Austin Muslim Community Center in Austin, Texas
I consider Islam a friend and brother. We have shared lunch and coffee numerous times. I have had him on my radio show "Soul Talk" on several occasions. I have prayed with and spoken to his religious community. Islam and I had a frank conversation during a worship service at my church entitled, "A Window Into the World's Most Controversial Religion." Afterwards we had a congregational Q-and-A and then a dozen of us treated Islam to lunch for more dialogue.
Islam invited me, a rabbi, and a comparative religion professor to his community center on Tuesday, August 18 for a strategy session around the national mosque controversies. According to Time magazine, there are at least six mosques being vigorously opposed across America.
I have been marinating my conscience in Thomas Jefferson's bedrock American principle upon hearing so many disgusting, hyperbolic voices whipping up bigotry and fear:
Well aware that Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion...
Be it therefore enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.
This magnificent revelation became the cornerstone of our Bill of Rights, which states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
As I walked into the mosque, I couldn't help but notice there were two trucks parked near the entrance owned by a local company doing work in the building. The logos read, "Liberty Mechanical."
The Spirit moves in mysterious ways! America's cardinal canon was confirmed.
I spoke these words to my congregation two days earlier:
Courage calls us to the maturity, wisdom, and discretion to find a balance between protection and principles. How can we protect ourselves and those we love without renouncing our principles? How would you like your religion to be judged by the worst of its adherents?
Our world is in a major transition. It is changing with 4G network speed. Change produces fear in us. As humans we often act out of this fear choosing to create the "Other." We demonize and target them. Courage charts another course.
Gandhi said, "The practice of nonviolence calls forth the greatest courage." I'm asking you. I'm asking this church to live our faith, our principles. I'm asking your courage to be more embracing than the fear.
I'm asking the same of you.