Although I love my Muslim brothers and sisters, love my Divinity School, I am glad that Duke University came to its senses to not have a Muslim call to prayer from the tower of Duke University’s Chapel. This may seem strange for someone whose most recent position was at a University where I worked to foster interfaith/interreligious understanding, service, dialogue and mysticism. I was even in favor of allowing Muslims to pray in a space called the “Annex” in the very very back of our odd situation of a chapel in a Catholic University. Why would I object?
First, I would object because Duke University is supposed to be a United Methodist School. It would be equally objectionable to ask a Mosque to have bells rung for Mass/Services five minutes before it began. Duke should honor the fact that it hosts one of the best Christian seminaries in the world. Christians founded Trinity College, the first school of Duke University before it became Duke University. It trains some of the best theologians in the world. Duke Chapel (which is actually a Gothic Cathedral) is a Christian Church and is not a mosque.
Secondly, we ought to applaud that Duke allows Muslims to pray in a room in the Chapel. This is perfect. Muslims and Christian worship the same God. In the theology of the Protestant Reformation, because of the protestant conception of original sin, a movement toward God requires a first movement by Jesus Christ in the believer. So, some Methodists could object with integrity, but Christians world wide agree that Muslims worship the same God as Christians. There ought to be a space for Muslims to pray somewhere in the building of the Chapel at Duke.
Lastly, there is the issue of Christian hospitality. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves. We would want to be welcomed into a Mosque and offered a space to pray. This is only reasonable to offer to our Muslim brethren a space to pray as well. We should even be able to pray in each others’ presence, listen to each others’ Scriptures with respect, and love one another in service or a shared meal.
It is often confused that we must mix religions to respect religions. This is just the opposite. We should NOT mix each others’ religions. We should respect each others’ spaces, guard them for each other and carve them out for each other. To mix each others’ religion would be to profoundly disrespect the unity of our individual faiths. To love does not mean to agree. To love means to love.
Mark Kurowski is the executive director of MySpiritualAdvisor, former Director of University Ministry at Benedictine University, Lisle, IL, former Catholic seminarian and former United Methodist pastor. He lives in Northwest Indiana, a suburb of Chicago.