Mack Richards Wants to Send Message to Muslims with Crosses
by Scott Broden (ShreveportTimes)
MURFREESBORO — Islamic Center of Murfreesboro members will pass a field lined with 13 white crosses in front of Grace Baptist Church on Bradyville Pike on the way to their new mosque once it opens.
“It was more or less to make a statement to the Muslims about how we felt about our religion, our Christianity,” said Mack Richards, a Middle Tennessee Baptist Church member who built the crosses at the request of Grace Baptist member and friend Bobby Francis. “We wanted them to see the crosses and know how we felt about things.”
“That’s what the church voted to do,” said Francis, who has been a member of Grace Baptist since the 1970s when it was on Dill Lane.
Grace Baptist moved into its current home of about 6,000 square feet two years ago and is currently served by Interim Pastor Dan Watts.
The mosque next door has been the subject of intense scrutiny and debate in the past two years, including vandalism to its sign, a bomb threat, arson to construction equipment on site and a lawsuit to block its construction. Plaintiffs unsuccessfully argued in court that Islam is not a religion but won one battle in which the judge agreed that insufficient notice was provided by the county government concerning a meeting over the mosque’s site plans, which is under appeal. Construction on the first phase of the building is nearing completion. A certificate of occupancy could come after a final inspection by the state fire marshal’s office on Tuesday.
Francis explained three of the crosses, including a taller one, represent the Trinity. He said he sees the crosses as being part of the “Great Commission,” a Christian reference on what Jesus called his followers to do in spreading the news about him to the world.
Muslims see Jesus as being an important prophet but do not view him as the son of God or accept that he died on the cross, confirmed Saleh Sbenaty, an ICM board member.
“We love our neighbors, all of them, including the church next door,” said Sbenaty. “As Muslims, we believe in Jesus, as well. Jesus said love thy neighbors. They are our neighbors, and we must love them.
“Also, our prophet Muhammad, before he died, told Muslims they need to love their neighbors and take care of them, and not only their immediate neighbor but extended to the seventh neighbor. That means everybody should love everybody, and that peace and love would be cast on the whole community.”