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Let the Competition Begin

by Rabbi Rami ShapiroAugust 05, 2012
Grow

People attending the new Islamic Center of Murfreesboro will have to pass by thirteen crosses erected by the neighboring Grace Baptist Church. According to the local paper (Daily News Journal) three of the crosses, including the tallest one, stand for the Trinity, and the other ten represent the Great Commission given to the apostles by the resurrected Christ to evangelize the world (Matthew 28: 18-20).
While there is no equivalent statement in Islam, there should be no doubt that Islam, too, is a missionary faith. And while most Muslims and Christians probably play down the fact, missionizing the world is what both religions are about. Historically both have done so by the sword, though today (with some exceptions) persuasion is the preferred method of conversion.
What we have brewing in Murfressboro is a classic contest between two competing faiths. While many may find the crosses an affront to Islam, and while some within the Grace Baptist Church may even intend them to be such, the fact is we may be in for a good ol’ American advertising war. Think of it as the religious equivalent of the great department store wars between Macy’s and Gimbels in New York City. While Gimbels never had a huge nationwide presence, the publicity generated by its rivalry with Macy’s raised its status far more than the store could have done on its own. Given that we are talking about a mosque in Murfreesboro rather than a church in Istanbul, I would link the Islamic Center to Gimbels. The more Grace Baptist trumpets Christianity over Islam, the more interesting and enticing Islam may become for people in the ‘Boro.
An honest and passionate religious rivalry is good for both faiths. Each should put its best foot forward and make their case for why they are right and where the other is wrong. We can learn a lot about each religion from this. All I ask is that we do not allow a potentially educational and very American rivalry between “Macy’s” and “Gimbles” to devolve into a violent yet no less American feud between Hatfields and McCoys.


Rabbi Rami Shipiro

Rabbi Rami Shapiro is an award-winning author, essayist, poet, and teacher. His spiritual advice column, "Roadside Assistance for the Spiritual Traveler," addresses reader questions pertaining to religion, spirituality, faith, family, God, social issues, and more.

His newest book is The World Wisdom Bible.

He has this to say about religion: "To me, religions are like languages: no language is true or false; all languages are of human origin; each language reflects and shapes the mindset of the civilization that speaks it; there are things you can say in one language that you cannot say or cannot say as well in another; and the more languages you know, the more nuanced your understanding of life. Judaism is my mother tongue, yet in matters of the spirit I strive to be multi-lingual. In the end, however, the deepest language of the soul is silence."

To comment on this installment of One For the Road or submit a question, email the editors. Questions may be edited for length and clarity; all are published anonymously.


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