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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Reasons of the Heart

I don't know about you, but am astounded that the controversy continues to burn white-hot surrounding the proposed building of Park51 - the Islamic Community Center in New York City (formerly known as Cordoba House).

The arguments seems to come down to "religious freedom" - the foundational, constitutional right, in this country, to practice your religious beliefs - vs. "insensitivity" - the complaint that, since almost 3,000 people at the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center were killed by Muslims in the name of their religious beliefs, Park51 is a painful, "insensitive" insult to the survivors of those who perished. (Some of whom, of course, were, themselves, Muslim.)

I'm not going to rehash the arguments about this. Most of the readers of this blog know how I feel. I know how most of you feel. We'll only just pat each other on the back and move on.

Those who disagree will write me anonymous comments, making outrageous claims about my "insensitivity" or "hypocrisy" or "intolerance" which I won't publish because they are (1) ad hominem attacks and (2) patently banal and vapid. 

I am a great fan but not a great student of history. Although I always find it fascinating and helpful, I have trouble storing all that information in my progressively addled brain.

So, when I saw the following Brief History of American Religious Intolerance in the August 30 edition of TIME magazine, it sparked some thinking for me.

It looks like this:
1654 Peter Stuyvesant, director general of New Netherland, tries to have Jewish Refugees expelled, claiming they would "infect" the colony.

1732 Founders of the Georgia colony, which is seen as a religious haven, draw up a charter that explicitly bans Catholicism.

1844 Mormon founder Joseph Smith is murdered in an Illinois prison by a lynch mob. Soon after, many of his followers migrate to Utah.

1854-56 Nativists form the Know-Nothing Party, which calls for strict limits on immigration, especially from Catholic countries.

1866 Riots erupt during Reconstruction, and African-American churches are burned in Memphis and New Orleans.

1882 Strong anti-Chinese sentiment in California leads to the federal Chinese Exclusion Act which suspends immigration of Chinese laborers.

1883 Department of the Interior declares many Native American rituals to be "offenses" punishable by prison sentences of up to 30 years.

1915 The Ku Klux Klan re-emerges on a national level to preach anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism; it amasses more than 4 million members.

1928 New York's Catholic governor Al Smith loses the presidential election to Hoover in a landslide; a Catholic President won't be elected until JFK in 1960.

1938 On November 20, Father Charles Coughlin, a Catholic priest, delivers an anti-Semitic radio address in which he defends Nazi violence.

1942 FDR signs an Executive Order establishing "exclusion zones," which leads to the internment of some 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans.

1970s Middle-class youths join religious groups such as the Unification Church, the Children of God and the Hare Krishna, spawning fear of cults.
It's pretty sobering, isn't it?

Religious intolerance is always sobering in its shocking, stunning Evil, whenever it rears its ugly head.

With the exception of Fred Phelps and the occasional emergence of a chapter of the Klu Klux Klan requesting a parade permit, I suspect part of the impact this list had on me is that we've gone more than thirty years without a major, significant incident of religious intolerance.

Our country has been more absorbed in racism than religious intolerance. I'm thinking, however, that the current wave of Islamophobia we are experiencing over the proposed Park51 Center is a thread in the same fabric.

The fact that we have our first Black President whose name happens to be Barack Hussein Obama is no coincidence. Franklin (Billy's son) Graham's recent comment that Mr. Obama's "problem" was that he was “born a Muslim” because the religion’s “seed” is passed from the father is a prime example. Here's what he said, in context:
“The seed is passed through the father,” Graham said. “He was born a Muslim. His father was a Muslim; the seed of Muslim is passed through the father like the seed of Judaism is passed through the mother. He was born a Muslim; his father gave him an Islamic name.”

Graham, the son of evangelist Billy Graham, acknowledged that Obama has said he is a Christian.

"He has renounced Islam, and he has accepted Jesus," Graham said. “That's what he has said he has done. I cannot say that he hasn't, so I just have to believe the president is what he has said.”

“But the confusion is because his father is a Muslim; he was born a Muslim. The Islamic world sees the president as one of theirs. That's why Qadhafi calls him his son. They see him as a Muslim,” he added. “But, of course, the president says he is a Christian, and we just have to accept it as that.”
Yeah, right. Mr. Obama's father was, of course, African. His mother was Caucasian.

If you believe that Mr. Graham believes that Mr. Obama is a "real" Christian, I've got a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn. He can't be a "real" anything in they eyes of people like Mr. Graham because of his father's "seed".

It's pretty clear to me that statement stands as a manifestation of our xenophobia and racism, hiding this time, under a pulpit gown and behind a cross.

There, I said it.

Now, the vast army of cowardly "Anonymouses" out there will write and say that, when "people like you" don't have a "real" argument" we "always play the race card."

Well, my darlings, if the shoe fits . . . .

The problem with the Racism Shoe is that it always hurts the ones you are trying to force into being shackled by it, and it invariably pinches when someone puts it back on your foot.

The only "exclusion zone" - to use FDRs euphemism - this country needs is the one for intolerance based on race, religion, creed, national origin, gender, age, sexual orientation, class status, educational background, or physical, emotional or intellectual ability.

No, this is not a Rodney King plea asking that "we all just get along".

It's deeper than that.

I'm asking us all to grow up.

At some point in our growth and development we mature and come to the realization that we can't all have our own way, even if/when we think it's the best way.

I'm asking those of us who are Christian to heed the prayer that was said at our baptism and "grow into the full stature of Christ."

I'm asking that we follow the vows made at our Baptism and confirmed when we were of age to speak for ourselves to "seek and serve Christ in all persons" and "respect the dignity of every human being."

As Christians, we are all invited, by the free gift of Grace, to feast at the Table of the Lord. But, Jesus says we are not only invited and welcomed, we must invite and welcome others. Without stipulation.

As freely as we were invited, so must we invite others. In so doing, we are reminded by St. Paul, we may entertain angels unaware.

History gives us a good perspective - especially about what can happen when fear and hysteria rule the day - but I think the lens of the gospel is the perspective needed when looking at the situation at Park51.

Love is not exclusive. Love is expansive.

And, as St. Paul reminds us, perfect love casts out fear.

French mathematician and philosopher, Blaise Pascal once wrote: "The heart has reasons which Reason cannot understand."

This is the reason for Park51. Nothing more. Nothing less.

24 comments:

Muthah+ said...

I am always suspicious when people get exercised about something from the right. It always means that they have something else going on that they are trying to distract me from.

We all know this has to do with votes in a coming election. It has to do with a rabid right who will lie about anything to keep us from seeing the sleight of hand that is going on or the guy behind the curtain.


It is still the Economy, damit! It is still the deregulation of banks and the deregulation of most of the watchdog orgs. that have put us in this spot. And still we don't have tax reform or election funding reform.

Karen+ said...

A-bloody-men.

And to paraphrase Muthah+, I'm always suspicious of anyone who gets exercised about what others think and feel about something, because when I dig deep enough I almost always find that the ones who are complaining and protesting are using mythical "others" in order to express their own feelings about a subject. It's both cowardly and presumptuous, but can be awfully effective. It's called "triangulating," and the Church is riddled with it.

That's what I see when I read about all these protests about the "poor 9/11 victims," much of it coming from folks from far away who previously regarded NYC is a foul den of sin. I grew up in NJ directly across the river from the World Trade Center and 7 of my high school classmates were killed that day. My cousin, a NYC firefighter who was at the scene, is now permanently disabled. Build Park 51? None of the people who are so "concerned" about Park 51 asked me who I feel about it, but I say heck yeah, build it.

IT said...

The protests against mosques in temecula CA and Murfreesboro TN prove this has nothing to do with 9/11 and everything to do with fear.

Bateau Master said...

Yes this is about fear. The question is whether the fear is unfounded?

The idea of home-grown Christian, Jewish, Hindu, or Buddhist terrorist slipping onto the subway or onto buses and leaving satchel bombs doesn't seem to be a rational fear. The idea of home-grown Islamic terrorists leaving their backpacks full of explosives and nails isn't too far out of the question. Our brethren in England received an up close and personal example in July 2005. They have had some near misses since. Our traitorous US Army Major who killed over 30 in Ft. Hood, was home-grown. The Lackawanna 6 were inept and only pseudo-terrorists, but they were also home-grown.

So where do these groups and individuals become radicalized? Where do they develop the urge to kill fellow citizens in the name of a peaceful Allah?

Currently in the US, if three Klansmen are meeting, you can bet one of them is an FBI agent or informant. Been that way for years. Who is keeping ears and eyes open on our mosques? Should we keep aware of the preaching of Imams? Is there another Blind Sheik or Anwar al-Awlaki preaching in our communities? Do we need to know? I think we do and hope political correctness nor political blindness keep us from the eternal vigilance to watch the Imams, the Koreshs, and the Jones.

If there comes a time when we can't be assured of walking across a grocery store parking without worrying about a car bomb, you will then see an ugly wrathful public with no mind for constitutional niceties.

D. Hamilton

Bateau Master said...

If its posted - correction - Ft. Hood - 12 dead, 31 wounded

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Bateau: Um, two words: Timothy McVeigh.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

BTW, David/Bateau - thanks for signing your name. I appreciate that as well as the tone of your note. We can agree to disagree and I appreciate that. I apologize for the abruptness of mine. Its the final push in the move here and our daughter is getting married on Saturday. Just a few things on my plate. Now, off to bed with me. To dream, perchance to sleep ;~)

Bateau Master said...

Fair enough .... the lone or near lone gunman/bomber is a tough target. But I don't remember him doing it in the name of any deity.

Seung-Hui Cho, Sirhan Sirhan, Charles Whitman, even Oslwald were all successful by their relative secrecy. But they don't scare Americans as much zealots willing to die in a martyrdom action. Particularly, if the zealots seems to have wide spread support represented by the relative silence in their community.

Bateau Master said...

May the couple have a blessed day. Mine was 26 years ago - St. Clements, Honolulu - Paradise. May they think of theirs as fondly.

Good Night

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

David, If history is an indicator, I think the fear we're seeing is fueled by racism and xenophobia.

Thanks for the good wishes for our daughter. BTW, Liz Zivanov is the rector of St. Clements. Been there about 8 years or so. She's fabulous. When you return for a visit, make sure to look her up.

Linda Maloney said...

So what, exactly, counts as killing in the name of "religion"? Want to tell me that the devastation of Iraq, which had neither contributed to the attacks on America nor posed any threat, was not done in the name and for the sake of the religion of "Americanism"? For a chilling assessment of the credo and trinity of that religion, I cannot recommend too highly Andrew Bacevich's latest book, "Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War." (Bacevich, incidentally, is Roman Catholic and conservative; he knows religion when he sees it.)
Linda Maloney+

Chris M said...

I will be blogging about thid myself. There is absolutely no question at all this is Islamaphobia, there is literally almost no other explaination. The amount of distrust of Americans this whole debate is having around the world is hard breaking. We, in fact, helping the terrorists recruit more terrorist...so profoundly scary!

muerk said...

I often disagree with you, but on this subject we wholeheartedly agree. Would we want to judge Catholics by IRA bombings? Would we judge Hindus by the mob destroying the Babri mosque in Ayodhya? No, of course not. Yet Muslims somehow are guilty collectively for the action of a few.

I pray for all Muslims and the suffering they must feel by being equated with criminal terrorists.

It's Islam today, if we allow prejudice against them now, who will it be tomorrow?

muerk said...

"...if the zealots seems to have wide spread support represented by the relative silence in their community."

Is it possible that the media narrative demonizing Islam and Muslims is likely to calm extremism or is it more likey to exacerbate it? Isn't viewing Muslims in general as terrorists or supporters of terrorism likely to be a self-fufilling prophesy? Especially for angry young men who feel excluded from the wider society.

What about the injustices and suffering in Muslim countries where there are foreign troops? If foreign troops explode a bomb in my house and my children are killed, how will this effect my relationship with that foreign nation? If that foreign nation tortures my brother to death in their prison, or holds him in indefinite detention with no right to habeas corpus or any transparent juducual review, am I likely to become passionately angry against that country? Especially when its citizens go on about how evil Islam is. Surely won't I feel the sting of bitter irony?

Muerk - Tess

Ron Miller said...

You are soo! Right about this stuff that I hate to raise a little quibble about language, but we're friends so I'll push on ahead. Have you ever remarked about the sexism of the phrase "ad hominem"? We are, at least some of us, ready to use expansive alternatives when talking positively or neutrally about some person or position. but will not usually bother to use "ad personam" because no one would know what we meant. See you in a few weeks. Love, Ron Miller

IT said...

I have a post going up tomorrow at FoJ on this story from the LA Times.

Seems a Roman Catholic priest was implicated in one of the worst bombings of the IRA-years in N. Ireland. The police and the government arranged with the Church to move him to the Irish Republic, all hush hush.

So I'm sorry, I don't buy the "radicalized Muslims" argument justifying the abolition of civil liberties and the COnstitution.

I lived in the UK in the early 90s, when the IRA was still lobbing the occassional mortar at Heathrow airport, or setting off trash can bombs in central London. The British dealt with it, and did not live their lives in fear.

I suspect Americans WOULD have gone hysterical and tortured people. Because, afterall, we've shown already that our belief in our own ideals is tenuous at best.

Ben Franklin commented that a man who would give up liberty for security gets neither.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hey, Ron. Great question.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

IT - You know, I think some people have lost their minds about this. I mean, has it not occurred to anyone that there was no Mosque - or even a prayer room - near the Twin Towers and it still got bombed?

Has it not occurred to anyone that "terrorists" can plan and even execute from wherever they are?

Sheesh!

Bex said...

Just a question for those who complain about the "insensitivity" of a community center with a prayer room being built two city blocks away from the WTC site. If that site is "sacred ground," why is a huge commercial development including a shopping mall planned for it?

Bateau Master said...

Oh ... heck, I'll head off the deep end.

The Islamaphobia rears from a perceived lack of Americanization of many in the Islamic community by us mouth breathing knuckle draggers.

A view where "I am Muslim first, a (fill in the county) second, and ....oh yeah I live in America" disturbs me.

My grandfather was not allowed to even learn Polish from his two immigrant parents at the turn of the last century. The American Japanese, faced with total injustice, volunteered in huge numbers. The 442nd and "go for Broke" means something to me. The Mexican citizen who was naturalized while serving the US Army in my platoon is a man I am proud to have known.

Perhaps the media is not covering them, but I didn't see throngs of Americans from the Muslim faith volunteer after 9/11. Instead we have Maj Hasan and Sgt Akbar. I would not expect them to volunteer for our mis-adventure in 2003.

Combine that perception with the record of home grown radicalization and you might see where some of the resentment is coming from.
But again - its all my humble opinion. Alright - not so humble

Bill said...

I read about all this stuff and I just shake my head and at my age it could lead to dementia. It’s all about fear and it always had been. Fear wears many hats and religion just happens to be the largest hat and the easiest target. Fear comes from ignorance. We fear that which we do not know. It’s strange; we don’t understand it; and so, we fear it. The most peculiar thing for me is that people seem to think this all started with 911. Americans really do need to stay in and read more.
History is allegedly there so that we don’t repeat mistakes. People have been killing each other over religious differences for over five thousand years. Much of those five thousand years is recorded and yet we still repeat the mistakes. We as representatives of a sentient race are decidedly stupid.
I’m reminded of a comedy called “The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming (1966)”. It was and still is a very funny movie. It was and still is a commentary on fear. A Russian submarine captain wants to see America and manages to run his boat aground off the coast of New England. Panic sets in because just like the title says, “The Russians are coming”. The only thing that prevents this from becoming a monumental disaster are two of the protagonists, one Russian (Alan Arkin) and one American (Brian Keith). Why is there panic; because there is fear. Why is there fear; because nobody takes the time to learn and understand what the Russian people are about. The “almost tragedy” is abated when the townspeople and the Russian crew join forces to save a child. In that moment they realize that they are more than Russian and American, they are human. Maybe we need to remember that at times. We are all one human race.

David |Dah • veed| said...

David, please do not drag us into this because your example of a lone soldier in your platoon is not the experience of everyone today from my country.

You will find that just about every immigrant group that has ever come to the USA has been accused of failing to assimilate at some point, somewhere. One of the biggest complaints against the huge immigration protests by latinos about two years ago was the number of Mexican flags the folks carried in their marches. Not to mention the flags of other Latin American nations. Just like everyone else in the US; Italians, Irishmen, Scandehovians, Greeks, etc., Mexicans in the US, and other Latinos in the US, are proud of their roots, their heritage. They are never going to give that up. But that does not make them any less proud of also living in the USA.

(In fact perhaps a little bit too proud. You should experience the way Mexican American Homeland Security agents treat the rest of us at the border. They think that they are now better than the rest of us! If they were not holding all of the power regarding whether we get in, I would personally like to take a few of them down a few pegs.)

But you are just making random assumptions about how many Muslims volunteered after SEP 11. You do not know. I doubt anyone knows. No one was standing outside of the induction centers taking polls. I have seen no military stats to confirm your fear. But there are plenty of Muslims in the US armed forces. The chaplaincy divisions can confirm that for you!

Your rhetoric about Muslim assimilation reminds me of the crap Catch 22 similar minded fools use to argue against GLBT civil rights. There is no societal support for GLBT folks, no support for their relationships, and without the opportunity for good role models GLBT do not have the greatest track record for self esteem and successful relationships. But when GLBT folks want to become proud, self-respecting contributors to society, and want to have recognized, respected, family, friend and community supported relationships, you lot point at the track record of the past, the track record the lack of any support created, and use that against us, as the reasons to deny us rights today. That kind of circular logic proves nothing but that in reality the logistician is an idiot.

David |Dah • veed| said...

Part One -

David, please do not drag us into this because your example of a lone soldier in your platoon is not the experience of everyone today from my country.

You will find that just about every immigrant group that has ever come to the USA has been accused of failing to assimilate at some point, somewhere. One of the biggest complaints against the huge immigration protests by latinos about two years ago was the number of Mexican flags the folks carried in their marches. Not to mention the flags of other Latin American nations. Just like everyone else in the US; Italians, Irishmen, Scandehovians, Greeks, etc., Mexicans in the US, and other Latinos in the US, are proud of their roots, their heritage. They are never going to give that up. But that does not make them any less proud of also living in the USA.

(In fact perhaps a little bit too proud. You should experience the way Mexican American Homeland Security agents treat the rest of us at the border. They think that they are now better than the rest of us! If they were not holding all of the power regarding whether we get in, I would personally like to take a few of them down a few pegs.)
•••

David |Dah • veed| said...

Part Two -

•••
But you are just making random assumptions about how many Muslims volunteered after SEP 11. You do not know. I doubt anyone knows. No one was standing outside of the induction centers taking polls. I have seen no military stats to confirm your fear. But there are plenty of Muslims in the US armed forces. The chaplaincy divisions can confirm that for you!

Your rhetoric about Muslim assimilation reminds me of the crap Catch 22 similar minded fools use to argue against GLBT civil rights. There is no societal support for GLBT folks, no support for their relationships, and without the opportunity for good role models GLBT do not have the greatest track record for self esteem and successful relationships. But when GLBT folks want to become proud, self-respecting contributors to society, and want to have recognized, respected, family, friend and community supported relationships, you lot point at the track record of the past, the track record the lack of any support created, and use that against us, as the reasons to deny us rights today. That kind of circular logic proves nothing but that in reality the logistician is an idiot.