Religion-free zone in New York?

August 28, 2010

Thomas Jefferson’s copy of the Qur’an, published in 1764. (courtesy of the Library of Congress). Image via 15-Minute History at the University of Texas at Austin.

Thomas Jefferson’s copy of the Qur’an, published in 1764. (courtesy of the Library of Congress). Image via 15-Minute History at the University of Texas at Austin.

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) joined in the calls to end plans for any worship center for Islam near the site of the destroyed World Trade Center.  But they added a twist.

CFI called for the entire area to be free from religious institutions, since, they say, it was religiously-inspired violence that caused the trouble.  Greg Laden has pithy comments at his blog, as does DuWayne Brayton from the opposite tack (Laden agrees with CFI, sorta, while Brayton thinks they’ve jumped somebody’s shark).

How about it, Joe, how about it Morgan?  Doesn’t this plan meet yours and Sarah Palin’s objections to Cordoba House?

And Glenn Beck in ignorance leads us farther and further from the intentions of the “founders”:

Also at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:

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A real live preacher on empathizing with Imam Rauf

August 26, 2010

Gordon Atkinson, who often blogs as Real Live Preacher (whose drawings I really like), has already walked a mile in the shoes of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf.  Perhaps we could learn from his journey:

I would be interested in comments from you about something else, though. Having been a clergyman for many years, I can’t help but watch the drama of Park 51 unfold with a different perspective. Because I know what it’s like to carry someone else’s reputation.

~~~~

When I was a Baptist minister, I could never get comfortable with the fact that Fred Phelps was a colleague. Whenever the people from Westboro Baptist Church were on the news with their hateful signs, I knew that some of Fred’s reputation was going to rub off on me.

Whether it’s fair or not, clergy share their reputations. Many people in our culture have never met, much less befriended a preacher. What little experience they have with ministers comes from television and the occasional wedding or funeral. When someone meets a Baptist preacher for the first time, they often have some preconceived notions.

That’s just the way it is.

Ah, shades of Bruce Hornsby.  More at the link above.


Michael Kinnamon on Cordoba House and mosque at Ground Zero

August 14, 2010

An essay from a thoughtful Christian about the controversy over building a mosque in Manhattan; Kinnamon notes some of the history that should be considered:

For thousands of families, Ground Zero in southern Manhattan is holy ground. Thousands lost someone they love in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, and hundreds of thousands know someone who was directly or indirectly scarred by the collapse of the World Trade Center. The emotional investment in Ground Zero cannot be overestimated.

That is precisely why Ground Zero must be open to the religious expression of all people whose lives were scarred by the tragedy: Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists, Hindus, and more. And Muslims.

No one knows how many Muslims died on 9/11, but they number in the hundreds. One was Salman Hamdani, a 23-year-old New York City police cadet, emergency medical technician and medical student. When Salman disappeared on September 11, law enforcement officials who knew of his Islamic faith sought him out among his family to question him about the attacks. His family lived with the onus of suspicion for six months until Salman’s body was identified. He was found near the North Tower with his EMT bag beside him, situated where he could help people in need.

The point of this now famous story is simple. Not every Muslim at Ground Zero was a terrorist, and not every Muslim was a hero. The vast majority were like thousands of others on September 11: victims of one of the most heinous events of our times.

But for the family of Salman Hamdani and millions of innocent Muslims, the tragedy has been exacerbated by the fact that so many of the rest of us have formed our opinions about them out of prejudice and ignorance of the Muslim faith.

It is that narrow-minded intolerance that has led to the outcry against the building of Cordoba House and Mosque near Ground Zero. It is the same ignorance that has led many to the outrageous conclusion that all Muslims advocate hatred and violence against non-Muslims. It is the same ignorance that has led to hate crimeand systematic discrimination against Muslims, and to calls to burn the Qur’an.

On the eve of Ramadan on August 11, the National Council of Churches, its Interfaith Relations Commission and Christian participants in the National Muslim-Christian Initiative, issued a strong call for respect for our Muslim neighbors.

“Christ calls us to ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ (Matthew 22:39),” the statement said. “It is this commandment, more than the simple bonds of our common humanity, which is the basis for our relationship with Muslims around the world.”

The statement supported building Cordoba House “as a living monument to mark the tragedy of 9/11 through a community center dedicated to learning, compassion, and respect for all people.”

Now the National Council of Churches reaffirms that support and calls upon Christians and people of faith to join us in that affirmation.

The alternative to that support is to engage in a bigotry that will scar our generation in the same way as bigotry scarred our forebears.

Three-hundred years ago, European settlers came to these shores with a determination to conquer and settle at the expense of millions of indigenous peoples who were regarded as sub-human savages. Today, we can’t look back on that history without painful contrition.

One-hundred and fifty years ago, white Americans subjugated black Africans in a cruel slavery that was justified with Bible proof-texts and a belief that blacks were inferior to whites. Today, we look back on that history with agonized disbelief.

Sixty years ago, in a time of war and great fear, tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans were deprived of their property and forced into detention camps because our grandparents feared everyone of Japanese ancestry. Today that decision is universally regarded as an unconscionable mistake and a blot on American history.

Today, millions of Muslims are subjected to thoughtless generalizations, open discrimination and outright hostility because of the actions of a tiny minority whose violent acts defy the teachings of Mohammed.

How will we explain our ignorance and our compliance to our grandchildren?

It’s time to turn away from ignorance and embrace again the words of Christ: Love your neighbor as yourself.

In that spirit, we welcome the building of Cordoba House and Mosque near Ground Zero.

Michael Kinnamon's signature

Michael Kinnamon
General Secretary
National Council of Churches

The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon

The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, a Disciples of Christ minister who is the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.

The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) clergyman and a long-time educator and ecumenical leader, is the ninth General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.

The NCC is the ecumenical voice of America’s Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican, historic African American, evangelical and traditional peace churches. These 36 communions have 45 million faithful members in 100,000 congregations in all 50 states.

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