Last week, McMurry University opened a prayer room for Muslim students to worship throughout the day as their faith requires. A McMurry student from Saudi Arabia, Sultan Albogami, asked the university administration for a space to worship.
McMurry University Chaplain Jeff Lust told KTXS news Christians have a responsibility to be hospitable to international students. Although McMurry has about 50 Muslim students and ACU has only six Muslim students, according to Prentice Ashford, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, we still need to discuss how a Christian university should treat members of the Islamic faith. Encouraging inclusiveness may sound good, but we need to take worship spaces for other religions seriously.
First, we must consider which God is being worshipped. Some Christians and Muslims say the two religions worship the same God, according to a 2015 National Public Radio report. Christians, Muslims and Jews all worship a single God, as opposed to other some religions that worship multiple gods. But Christians and Muslims differ in their beliefs. Christians believe God reveals himself through Jesus and his Holy Spirit and they worship him as God in three-parts. Muslims believe God (or ‘Allah’) stands alone and Jesus was merely a human prophet.
Dr. Janine Morgan, instructor of Bible, said it is important to keep asking questions to avoid putting God in a box. She said people’s view of God often justifies exclusion, just as the Christian view of God in the Middle Ages, justified the Crusades.
Next, we must consider the purpose of ACU as a Christian university. ACU has a mission to educate students for Christian service and leadership throughout the world, which includes building a Christ-centered community. Being Christ-centered means all aspects of the university point toward Christ. Christ was loving toward his enemies and the Bible tells Christians to love their neighbors and enemies alike. So in that sense, being loving toward Muslims (our neighbors) fits perfectly with the Christ-centered mission of ACU.
At the same time, Muslims do not believe that Christ is God. So how can a Christian university be Christ-centered, while providing worship spaces to worship something besides Jesus? How tolerant can we be, while still upholding Christ as the center of the university?
The cultural climate leans toward tolerance and acceptance, so when discussing Muslims, we often prefer to claim Jesus was peaceful. However, Jesus said his kind of peace is not the same as the world’s peace (John 14:27) and he said believing in him can cause division at times (Luke 12:51-53).
Even if it causes division, we need to search for a balance in our treatment of Muslims.