Most readers will be aware that on Friday, a Muslim prayer service was held, for the first time ever, in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.
Fewer may know that the date, 14 Nov 2014, marks the 100th anniversary of the last declaration of holy war, or jihad, by an Ottoman “caliph.” The average American may not know that, and it’s quite possible the clerical staff of the cathedral didn’t know it either, but as Dr. Sebastian Gorka points out (see link), the officials of CAIR, the Islamic Society of North America, and other organizations that arranged the prayer service undoubtedly do.
As is traditional in these cases, our brothers in the British Isles got there first. St. John’s, an Anglican church in Aberdeen, Scotland, reportedly began allowing Muslims to use the church for prayers in 2013, when the local mosques were becoming overcrowded. Gates of Vienna (“Baron Bodissey”) mused on the principle that the church now belongs to Islam:
The minister of St. John’s…seems unaware that by allowing Islamic prayer services on its premises, his church has become a mosque in the eyes of Muslims. It is now the property of the Ummah, held in trust by the waqf board, and will presumably be officially claimed by Islam when the time is ripe.
I’ve seen the same theme discussed in connection with the National Cathedral at various websites in the U.S. today.
Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham who continues the work of Billy Graham Ministries, said the Muslim prayer event in the cathedral is “sad to see.”
“It’s sad to see a church open its doors to the worship of anything other than the One True God of the Bible who sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to earth to save us from our sins,” said Graham.
The praying Muslims were to be arrayed “to the side of the sanctuary,” so that worshippers [would] not see the crosses or Christian icons, because “Muslims are not supposed to pray in view of sacred symbols alien to their faith.” We can legitimately wonder when Muslims will want to begin holding Friday services with increasing frequency at the cathedral, and will require that Christian symbols be removed for those services.
The reaction of Americans ranges from enthusiasm for this move to ambivalence, uneasiness, and grave concern. Symbols can’t defeat us; but we are justified in being concerned about what kinds of demands the door has been opened to. It should be no surprise that this prayer service was arranged with the National Cathedral, whose clerical staff has long had a left-leaning perspective, and tries, with an ear closely attuned to politics, to foster ecumenism in its arrangements for public ceremonies (like the 9/11 prayer service, in 2001, for example). There are undoubtedly churches across the country where Muslim organizations could have arranged prayer services, but there are also many, many churches where they couldn’t have. Those latter churches see their mission, not unnaturally, as Christian worship and evangelism for Jesus Christ. Hosting the worship of other faiths is not what they exist for.
But the religious leaders at the National Cathedral have a different, more political perspective — because it’s the National Cathedral. This wasn’t always the case. When the cathedral was commissioned in 1907, Americans didn’t doubt the propriety of having a national cathedral dedicated to Christian worship, where people of other faiths would be welcome guests, but would not be invited to hold their own services. The sense that there’s something “unfair” or “intolerant” about this has emerged more recently, in the last 30 years or so. It’s a fretful, ill-defined sense, one that has no positive end in view, but just keeps looking for the next situation to be angry about and demand “correction” for.
Frankly, giving in to that sense is an act of weakness and lack of confidence. I’m not actually bothered by Muslims praying in the cathedral; it’s just a building, after all, and if God is bigger than our human situations, then He’s bigger than this one. What bothers me is the leaders of such a high-profile church feeling that it’s necessary to host Muslim prayers, for either a political or a religious reason. Their action opens up the most basic questions, like what it means to have a national cathedral, and whether Christian Americans can now feel themselves represented by it, spiritually or in any other way.
See what you think about the woman who briefly interrupted the Muslim prayer service. The mainstream media have referred to her as heckler, and have avoided reporting what she said. There’s a video below, and the Conservative Tribune has her exclamations transcribed:
“Jesus Christ died on that cross over there!” the woman exclaimed, right after the opening announcements had completed. “He is the reason why we are to worship only him. Jesus Christ is our lord and savior!” …
“We have built, and allowed you here in mosques across this country,” she continued. “Why can’t you worship in your mosque, and leave our churches alone?”
I think I might have asked a different question, and asked it of different people. To the clerical staff of the National Cathedral, and to whichever other Christians and non-Muslim politicians were involved in arranging the prayer service: Why do you think it was necessary? What do you think you are accomplishing? Do you think we can’t have tolerance and social peace unless we are all welcome to enter each other’s houses of worship and call on God in a way others don’t agree with? And if so, where did you get that crazy idea? Not from any teaching of Jesus, certainly.