Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde of the Diocese of Washington has written a column for her diocese on last week’s Muslim prayer service at Washington National Cathedral. It concludes as follows:
All at the Cathedral and Diocesan offices have been taken aback by the hundreds of phone calls and letters protesting the prayer service because of terrorist threats by Muslim extremists around the world. I worry that we are at risk in this country of matching extremism with extremism of our own, as we have in our past.
Some Christians have lamented the fact that we welcomed Muslim prayer in a space consecrated for Christian worship, as if to do so were not Christian. I respect their point of view, but do not share it.
Jesus encountered certain rulers of the synagogues who protested his healing of the sick on the Sabbath. Such acts are not a violation of the Sabbath, he told them, but an expression of Sabbath’s intent. “The Sabbath was made for humankind; not humankind for the Sabbath.” In the same way, I believe that to welcome Muslims to pray their prayers in our sacred space is not a violation of our identity as Christians, but a clear expression of our faith and devotion to Jesus. I say that as one who loves Jesus, knows him as our Savior and Lord, believes in the doctrine of the Trinity, and strives each day to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving my neighbors as myself.
In his book, “Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed Cross the Road: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World”, Brian McLaren writes that it is possible to have a strong, vibrant Christian identity and also be kind. By kindness he means far more than mere tolerance, political correctness, or coexistence. We can be strong Christians and also benevolent, hospitable, accepting, “so that the stronger our Christian faith, the more goodwill we will feel and show toward those of other faiths, seeking to understand and appreciate their religion from their point of view.”
I suspect my theology on this matter is underdeveloped, but I work under the impression that if we worship God in good faith, God is capable of figuring out just who is being worshipped.