Controversy

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This has been bugging me for a while.  I haven’t heard many comments from local Christians in our area.  The article below appeared in the Austin American Statesman.  The Statesman is known for it’s liberalism…keep that in mind.  A local Baptist church rescinded on their agreement to a community Thanksgiving service on their property when they found our the Muslims would be leading prayer.  (Below is the story from the Statesman).  Everyone is up in arms about it as if the Baptist aren’t being tolerant or Christian.  Meanwhile the Jewish temple offered their facilities.  Isn’t this type of thing exactly what has gotten the Jewish people into trouble with God for generations???  (Worshipping other gods).  And another thing…since when do all religions lead to God???  There is a show on Tuesday nights called “Saving Grace” (I don’t recommend you watch it…definitely not for children) and I saw part of it last night.   There is a guy in prison who decided he is Muslim…and the angel (Earl – who is supposedly sent from God) says that all religions lead to God and it’s not about religion.  He had one thing correct…it’s not about religion.  It is about relationship but all religions do NOT lead to the same god. 

I agree with Hyde Park Baptist on this one…in this country we value the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion but that doesn’t mean we have to open our privately held property for prayers to other gods.  May God BLESS them for taking a stand and standing by it in light of the “negative” publicity from the Statesman.

Sorting through the Hyde Park controversy

Was church’s decision a matter of intolerance or conviction?

Listen to this article or download audio file.Click-2-Listen

Saturday, December 01, 2007

It seemed so clear at first. The Baptists were the villains. The Muslims were the victims. And the Jews were the heroes who were, some said, behaving “more Christian than the Baptists.”

At least that’s how the majority of readers who posted online comments characterized the Nov. 16 story about Hyde Park Baptist Church canceling a religious Thanksgiving service on its property days before the event because church leaders discovered that Muslims would be leading the service.

Larry Kolvoord
AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Congregation Beth Israel, led by Rabbi Steven Folberg, right, hosts the Thanksgiving service. Mohamed-Umer Esmail, imam and director of the North Austin Muslim Community Center, attends with daughter Aisha.

A little background for those who missed it: Austin Area Interreligious Ministries, the interfaith group that has sponsored a Thanksgiving celebration for 23 years, asks a different faith group to host the event each year. Without a large enough space of their own, the Muslims rented a gymnasium at the Quarries, a recreational facility in North Austin owned by Hyde Park Baptist. They made the reservation in July and thought nothing of it until Hyde Park leaders informed Interreligious Ministries on the Wednesday before the Sunday service that the church could not allow Muslim prayer and the promotion of non-Christian religions on its property.

That’s when leaders at Congregation Beth Israel, Austin’s largest synagogue, offered their space for the event.

And each party seemed to fit neatly into the above-mentioned categories.

Hyde Park “should be ashamed and embarrassed,” one reader seethed in an online comment. “I cannot tolerate intolerance.”

“Sounds like the Jewish community is giving Hyde Park Baptist Church a lesson in being Christ-like!” another wrote.

One reader stood outside the church with a sign reading, “Got Tolerance?”

Is this a matter of bigotry or conviction?

We also heard from Christians who supported Hyde Park’s decision. These folks reject the premise of interfaith events such as the Thanksgiving service in which Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus and others pray and sing and dance. The idea that there are many paths to God, Christianity simply being one of them, is anathema to those believers. And to allow non-Christian beliefs and traditions to be held up as valid? It would violate their deepest convictions.

We’ve seen this before — only it involved actual sanctuaries rather than a church-owned gym. In 2004, Interreligious Ministries organized a pulpit swap to reflect on the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. The problem then-executive director Susan Wills faced was what to do with the Wiccan. Most churches balked at the idea of putting a neo-pagan on the altar.

That’s when the Rev. Sid Hall, pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church stepped up to host local Wiccan leader Tom Davis. But then, Trinity, which recently celebrated its 15th year as a reconciling congregation (read: accepting of gay couples and individuals), is comfortable exploring other faiths and the pagan roots of many Christian traditions.

We would not expect a Southern Baptist church to do the same. And chances are, though Austin mosques have hosted Jewish and Christian speakers, we would probably not see Muslim leaders inviting pagans to address Friday prayer. (If I’m wrong about that, please tell me.)

I encountered Clay Chip Smith, president of the North Austin Muslim Community Center, at the Thanksgiving service (which drew about 1,000 people) and asked for his take. A former Christian, Smith said he visited some Hyde Park leaders and told them they had a right to change their minds about renting the Quarries if they realized they made a mistake.

What’s more, he said, “they have a right to our civil tongue.”

As we stood talking, Jewish and Muslim organizers prepared mats for evening prayer and then the familiar plaintive cry “Allahu Akbar” rose from the Beth Israel bema.

For the people gathered, it was a beautiful sound.

But consider the comment from this reader, a member of Hyde Park Baptist: “When you get people of all faiths together for one purpose, is everyone thanking the same person or entity? I doubt it. So, if we are honest with ourselves, which faith is right? Can they all be right? They certainly can be all wrong! … Hyde Park deserves better in their decision to rescind the offer once they were fully told the truth about the upcoming event. They should be allowed to determine what type of services are held in their private property and whom will be thanked. They should be held to high esteem for being true to their beliefs and honest about what their God warns about ‘jointly’ praying to anything or anyone other than the God of their faith. In other words, give them a break, show a little tolerance.”

eflynn@statesman.com; 445-3812

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One thought on “Controversy

  1. God isn’t tolerant… why should I be?… He doesn’t tolerate much… he’s tolerated too much… the fact is… not all roads lead to God… only one… that’s the narrow one… I don’t encourage any Christian to be tolerant of anything that isn’t of God… Call me controversial and closed minded… i’ll wear them like badges of honor compared to this “tolerant” society.

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