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New York is a place where we do not fear people’s quest for truth, Udo Middelmann, Francis Schaeffer Foundation

Mayor Bloomberg’s speech is a courageous and correct response of civil authority to questions concerning the life of religious communities in the city. Whether they benefit the whole community is a question of existing laws encouraging the freedom of religious beliefs while tightly limiting the practice of religious beliefs, whenever such behavior is prohibited by existing civil and criminal […]

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Middleman believes that a reasonable discussion of the mosque controversy will further advance religion and New York City.

Mayor Bloomberg's speech is a courageous and correct response of civil authority to questions concerning the life of religious communities in the city. Whether they benefit the whole community is a question of existing laws encouraging the freedom of religious beliefs while tightly limiting the practice of religious beliefs, whenever such behavior is prohibited by existing civil and criminal law. For reason of such laws polygamy is not tolerated; nor can parents prevent girls from getting a broad education to meet common public standards; nor can parents physically punish their teenage children. Such views are punishable, even when they are part of a person's deep religious conviction.

We are citizens in a society confident of the open access to truth, reason and reality resulting from Christian and Jewish insights about God, Man and the real world. That is our common playing field on which we embrace a perspective of tolerance towards those who may hold mistaken religious views. We see religion as something that must be subject to the same laws of reason, civil society and evidence as other points of view, deeply held convictions and faiths.

Our response as Christians to the plans for a mosque near the site of the tragedy of 9/11 should not reflect the outlook of fear, intolerance and totalitarian insistence which is held by those who perpetrated 9/11 and similar acts afterwards in the name of their religious convictions. There is no need to stoop to their level of fear, anger and resentment. We do not fear people's quest for truth, and we believe in the eventual persuasive corrective from reality to any falsely assumed religious certainties.

Note: Udo Middelmann has often written on Islam and Christianity based on his experiences with those religions in different parts of the world. Growing up, his father's work with UNICEF took the family to Beirut, Lebanon and New York City. Middleman's diverse career experiences also include fifteen years as an associate pastor in Switzerland and four years as the education program director for the International Institute for Relief and Development of Food for the Hungry in Geneva, Switzerland.

Middelmann holds a law degree from Freiburg University and a theology degree from Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, MO, USA). For the last nineteen years, he has been the president of the Francis A. Schaeffer Foundation and divides his time between Switzerland and New York. Middelmann is a prolific essayist and published the books Pro-Existence, The Market-Driven Church and The Innocence of God.

We have asked religious leaders with congregations or church affiliates near Ground Zero to respond to Mayor Bloomberg's speeches on religion and religious freedom in the city and the mosque controversies. OpEds do not necessarily reflect the views of A Journey .

5 Responses to “New York is a place where we do not fear people’s quest for truth, Udo Middelmann, Francis Schaeffer Foundation” Leave a reply ›

  • Thanks

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  • Well done. You rightly identify in your statement, this is a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

    A group of Protestant Pastor/Theologians have joined together to decry the bigotry in a public document entitled “War on Prayer,” that is being circulated in several places. You can check it out at http://www.waronprayer.org.

    I happen to know and have worked with Imam Rauf.

    Raul is a mild mannered scholar who is working hard to help Islam makes its way faithfully (to itself) into the 21st century in the west. I agree with Max Stackhouse, Professor Emeritus of Christian Ethics at Princeton Seminary who says that what we are watching and sometimes experiencing is a struggle within Islam to see if it can come into modernity rather than remain a religion for a desert people of the 7th century. Consequently, Rauf is as much a threat to the very conservative-reactionary elements within Islam that lie behind 9/11 and other violent activities, as he is to the right-wing reactionary groups being manipulated by politicians in this country for their own ends. Rauf’s book “What’s Good about American is Good about Islam” can give a glimpse into that.

    I also know his ASMA organization (I think it stands for “American Society for Muslim Advancement”), and have found them forthright, polite, intellectually fair and open to conversation, comparisons as well as differences.

    Bloomberg’s heritage is showing—bless him for that.

  • Like your religion website.

  • I like your site especially some of the comments...like "The" Bronx..great stuff.

    How is the mosque controversy affecting believing churches in NYC? From where I stand there is no question that they CAN legally build this mosque..the greater question to me is this the place it should be built? Given the vast numbers of mosque in NYC, why here, why now? We don't get these questions answered on the news. What is your perspective?

    I agree with Udo Middelman's perspective to a certain degree but since history and tradition are so exclusively important to Muslims not to wonder these things with its closeness to ground zero and the chosen name would simply be like turning the other way when the crematoriums were being built in Germany. According to Bonhoeffer the Church has often been blind and too tolerant on such matters. I wouldn't want the government to tell some religion in this country that they can't do something then all of us would suffer that fall out...but is it possible to even have a rational discussion on this issue?

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