November 2, 2015
It’s been called “The Most Contested 37 Acres in the World.” We were there last week.
Most know it as the Temple Mount; it sits within the Old City of Jerusalem. Site of Solomon’s Temple – built about 3000 years ago, but destroyed about 400 years later – it’s history is profound. Likely the spot where Abraham was sent by God to sacrifice his son, Isaac (rescued by God’s intervention and the divine provision of a ram as the sacrifice), it has played a part in Israel’s history with Jehovah for four millennia.
Solomon’s Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians in 586 BC; rebuilt 70 years later by Zerubbabel, it was expanded/enhanced by Herod the Great – during the lifetime of Jesus – and was ultimately utterly destroyed in 70 AD by the Roman General Titus as part of his defeat of the Jewish rebellion against their Roman occupiers.
Muslim armies seized Jerusalem in the 7th Century, and built the Dome of the Rock at the spot they believed to have been occupied by the earlier Jewish temples. Since 1967 – and the outcome of the Six Day War – Israel reclaimed possession of the Temple Mount, but Moshe Dayan granted control of the Temple Mount to the Muslims. One requirement that has been established and enforced: none but Muslims can pray on the Temple Mount.
Since then, the three religions – Judaism, Islam and Christianity – that regard the place as a historic holy place have been at odds over the compound. Most Jews and Christians believe that there will be a third Temple built there one day, and that aspiration – founded on biblical prophesy – incites violent reaction from the Islamic Camp. The most contested 37 acres in the world…
That isn’t the only real estate where religious conflict is waged today. In Bremerton, Washington, Ground Zero has been declared at the 50-yard line, in the football stadium of Bremerton High School. That’s where Joe Kennedy – the assistant coach of the varsity football team – has been leading a participation-optional after-game prayer since 2008.
His inflammatory chants go something like this: “Lord, I thank you for these kids and the blessing you’ve given me with them. We believe in the game, we believe in competition and we can come into it as rivals and leave as brothers.”
The Seattle Satanic Temple (no joke) became incensed, and planned to force their way onto the field to offer their own post-game invocations. The brouhaha forced the hand of the local school district, who issued a cease-and-desist order to Coach Kennedy – who refused to be refused. Two weeks ago – after their game against Centralia High School – coaches and players from both schools joined Kennedy at midfield, to exercise their Freedom of Religion (see: the United States Constitution, Bill of Rights, First Amendment).
In Judaism and Islam, the House of God has GPS coordinates; two sides claim the same turf, and prayers from that position are either encouraged or denied. In the Christian faith, the temple is also the place where the Spirit of God resides, and where prayer is promoted.
Where – exactly – is that? “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
What’s Joe Kennedy supposed to do? “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
In Jerusalem, the fight is between Jews and Muslims. In Bremerton, it’s between Christians and Satanists. Prayer must be a powerful thing; it brings out the most significant opposition…