1st and Ten - The Weekly Tendown: August 15-21 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dear Internet:

First: Hey, did you hear they're building an Islamic cultural center in New York in an old Burlington Coat Factory?

This, apparently, is bothersome to people. 

About this, I have two thoughts.

1. Why?
2. So what?

Here's the piece from last December in the NY Times that first brought to national attention the "ground zero mosque."  The clerics behind the project said then what they have consistently said since, that it was an attempt to demonstrate the commitment to peace that most Muslims have, "We want to push back against the extremists."  Here was the statement from Bloomberg's director of immigrant affairs: "We as New York Muslims have as much of a commitment to rebuilding New York as anybody." 

Why isn't that taken at face value?  Why is the building of a mosque not viewed as a sign of harmony?  Here was George Bush, in 2007:

"Well, first of all, I believe in an Almighty God, and I believe that all the world, whether they be Muslim, Christian, or any other religion, prays to the same God. That's what I believe. I believe that Islam is a great religion that preaches peace. And I believe people who murder the innocent to achieve political objectives aren't religious people, whether they be a Christian who does that – we had a person blow up our – blow up a federal building in Oklahoma City who professed to be a Christian, but that's not a Christian act to kill innocent people.

"And I just simply don't subscribe to the idea that murdering innocent men, women and children – particularly Muslim men, women and children in the Middle East – is an act of somebody who is a religious person."

George Bush.  Voice of religious tolerance. 

Look, from my perspective, Islam is largely a force of oppression and superstition.   Just like Christianity - I'm not a fan; if you ask me, "on balance, has organized religion been a force of good or bad" - I'd say bad; I'd say it confidently and without much hesitation.  Religion undermines our ability to think critically and pushes us instead to magic.

But I'm on the fringe.  I get that.   I live in Florida, where Christians bomb abortion clinics, kill obstetricians, have made gay couples ineligible to adopt and are planning a giant Koran burning  to commemmorate 9-11.  But despite my inclination to impute the very worst, most destructive, most bigoted, most terroristic behavior of Christians to all Christians - when I see a church, I don't really believe that everyone therein is engaged in systemic hostility. 

George Bush is right (?) Tim McVeigh bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City in the name of Jesus, and yet churches have been built near the site.  And that seems not unreasonable to me.  Sure, I could connect a direct line from the language of the Bible to the violence committed in the name of Christianity, and discuss how the lack of outrage from moderate Christians at, say, the decades long messages of hate that come from the Pat Robertsons of the world emboldens the more outrageous actions of the terroristic Christian fringe; and I could further discuss how there has been a mainstreaming of the worst, most intolerant, most xeonophobic elements of the right wing, such that the President most married to conservative Christianty in US history could have, just 3 years ago, taken a position that, in 2010, would draw howls of derision on Fox News.

I'm, to use O'Reilly's epithet, a "secular progressive."  But I recognize the worst elements of Christianity are not all elements of Christianity. 

And even if I didn't, so what?

Howard Dean's argument this week was we really need to listen to Americans who are sincerely bothered by this Mosque.

No, we don't.

Here's the Maryland Toleration Act of 1649:

That whatsoever person or persons within this Province and the Islands thereunto helonging shall from henceforth blaspheme God, that is Curse him, or deny our Saviour Jesus Christ to bee the sonne of God, or shall deny the holy Trinity the father sonne and holy Ghost, or the Godhead of any of the said Three persons of the Trinity or the Unity of the Godhead, or shall use or utter any reproachfull Speeches, words or language concerning the said Holy Trinity, or any of the said three persons thereof, shalbe punished with death and confiscation or forfeiture of all his or her lands and goods to the Lord Proprietary and his heires.

Deny Jesus - and we'll kill you.

That was colonial America.  That was the exact reason for the separation of church and state.  That's why the establishment clause - that the US has no state religion - is first among all of the freedoms protected in the Bill of Rights.  And it's why Christian identity groups like the KKK have rightly been moved to the dustbin of history.  Christians don't stand with the Klan - they disavowed them decades ago.  And here's why - from a 1999 FBI report:

Christian Identity also believes in the inevitability of the end of the world and the Second Coming of Christ. It is believed that these events are part of a cleansing process that is needed before Christ’s kingdom can be established on earth. During this time, Jews and their allies will attempt to destroy the white race using any means available. The result will be a violent and bloody struggle -- a war, in effect -- between God’s forces, the white race, and the forces of evil, the Jews and nonwhites.

"The view of what Armageddon will be varies among Christian Identity believers. Some contend there will be a race war in which millions will die; others believe that the United Nations, backed by Jewish representatives of the anti-Christ, will take over the country and promote a New World Order. One Christian Identity interpretation is that white Christians have been chosen to watch for signs of the impending war in order to warn others. They are to then physically struggle with the forces of evil against sin and other violations of God’s law (i.e., race-mixing and internationalism); many will perish, and some of God’s chosen will be forced to wear the Mark of the Beast to participate in business and commerce. After the final battle is ended and God’s kingdom is established on earth, only then will the Aryan people be recognized as the one and true Israel."

"Christian Identity adherents believe that God will use his chosen race as his weapons to battle the forces of evil. Christian Identity followers believe they are among those chosen by God to wage this battle during Armageddon and they will be the last line of defense for the white race and Christian America."

That's the Klan. 

I'm sure they believe it.  I'm sure they have genuine, good faith concerns and beliefs that motivate them to oppose the building of an Islamic cultural center at the site of the Burlington Coat Factory. 

But so what?  We have a history in this country of persecution of racial, ethnic, and religious minorities.  Which, more than we haven't, we've been able to overcome.  I couldn't be elected President without a professed belief in Jesus - but I can go to Baltimore and not get stoned.  So - upgrade.

You don't like mosques.  So what?   Don't go into one.  But the rights of a religious minority to practice no more depend upon your comfort with that practice than the rights of Christians to practice depend on my comfort.  If I walk to First United Methodist down the street and suggest they close their doors because of my disagreement with the murder of obstetricians what do you suppose will be the reaction I'll receive?

Incidentally - the above FBI report from '99 discussing Christian identity groups was about domestic terrorism concerns around the turn of the millennium.  Those views = terrorism back in 1999.

What would Tea Partiers think about that passage in 2010?  How about Sarah Palin.  Or Sharron Angle?

Is it still domestic terrorism - or a too often neglected view of many Americans that we need to pay attention to?  Sometimes, in the aftermath of Obama's election as we've heard the right wing say "we want our country back" - I've responded by asking "from whom?" - but perhaps the better question is "and who are you who have lost your country?"

Who are you - right wing?  Who are you in 2010?   

Me - I'm a guy teaching 10 courses now.  So, as long as that's the case - I got one thought and then nothing but links.  After the jump - the rest of Tendown 40.

Blogger Template created by Just Blog It