Surely the widely circulated story caught the eyes of a lot of Baptists. It seems a coalition of U.S. Muslim groups launched a fundraiser to rebuild predominantly black churches targeted with arson following the Charleston, S.C., shooting in which nine members were killed by a lone gunman.
A quick Internet search indicated the coalition had set a goal of $100,000 to benefit the congregations as they regroup and seek to repair and replace facilities damaged and destroyed in the attacks.
To top it off, the Muslim groups committed to raise the funds between the start of their high holy season of Ramadan, which began June 17 and concluded on July 17, although funds may still be coming in for the churches.
The Muslim effort is commendable. One has to wonder how Baptists might respond if the shoe was on the other foot.
Baptists certainly have a long history and tradition of helping others in need, following the example of Jesus himself. But this kind of assistance might not be as forthcoming to Muslims these days, probably for various reasons.
Societal pressure is such that even Christians are encouraged to shy away from any interaction with Muslims. Because of international conflicts that pit the West against primarily Muslim countries — and vice versa — many Christians keep their distance from Muslims, even in the U.S.
Some Baptist denominations and organizations find themselves in something of a religious quandary in extending such aid and hospitality because they describe their acts of kindness as being motivated primarily by a desire for evangelism and conversion of those helped and often secondarily to actually responding out of compassion with no thought of benefit.
To extend kindness or do compassionate deeds for Muslims might seem counter to their Christian faith. For instance, many Baptists might not be comfortable helping Muslims rebuild a mosque destroyed in a tornado because such assistance could be seen as helping Muslims promulgate a “non-Christian” or “false” religion.
In the minds of some, such help would be seen as tantamount to working at cross purposes with God.
There is no way of knowing all that motivated these Muslims to do good for Baptists in this case, but I doubt they anticipate drawing many or any members of these congregations or other Baptists into Islam. They might be trying to communicate that they care about the cowardly acts of arson carried out against the congregations.
Until I am persuaded differently, I prefer to give these folks the benefit of the doubt in this effort.
Baptists and other Christians might do well to ask themselves how Christ would have them respond if the shoe was on the other foot. Quite often it is.
Bill Webb is editor of Word & Way.