Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A True Christian

There are so many negative stories of religious intolerance that it was refreshing to read an actual positive story showing the true teachings of Christ:

When pastor Steve Stone initially heard of the mosque and Islamic center being erected on the sprawling land adjacent his church, his stomach tightened.

Then he raised a 6-foot sign reading, "Welcome to the Neighborhood."

The issue for Stone and the 550-person Heartsong Church in Cordova, came down to one question:

"What would Jesus do if He were us? He would welcome the neighbor," Stone said.

The Memphis Islamic Center, a nonprofit organization formed three years ago, is two weeks from breaking ground on the first phase of a multimillion-dollar complex.

While plans for Islamic centers across the country and just miles away have triggered vitriolic responses and divided communities, here in Memphis it's been a peaceful process.

On a 31-acre stretch at Humphrey Road and Houston Levee, Memphis Islamic Center leaders plan to build a massive gathering place during the next several years. It will include a mosque, youth center, day care center, indoor gym, sports fields, medical clinic and retirement home.

While the 4,000-square-foot worship hall is being completed, Heartsong has opened its doors to its neighbors throughout the monthlong observance of Ramadan.

Under a gigantic cross constructed of salvaged wood, nearly 200 area Muslims have been gathering each night to pray.

"I think it's helped break down a lot of barriers in both congregations," said Islamic center board member Danish Siddiqui.

This in Memphis, not a bastion of liberalism. As someone who isn't religious but has studied a lot of theology and religious philosophy, I've always thought that at the core of all the Abrahamic religions is a message of living together in peace that is far stronger than all the smiting, slaying, or Jihad. We need more Christians to listen to Pastor Steve Stone and his ilk.

(End of positive post. Regular cynicism will return soon.)

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