By the time readers are done reading this particular blog I may lose a few friends, maybe a few church members and a few colleagues will finally have proof that “I have just finally gone over the cliff.”
Those who are promoting the hysteria and paranoia around the building of a mosque near “ground zero” in New York City are in the truest sense of the word “idiots”. I am using this word in the modern sense of it’s understanding: “describing an extreme folly or stupidity, and its symptoms (foolish or stupid utterance or deed).
Yes, for a pastor this is VERY strong language, however this controversy is an embarrassment to me as a follower of Christ, an embarrassment as a reasonable educated person and an embarrassment as an American.
First and foremost the term “the Ground Zero Mosque” is misleading and a lie. This proposed building is a full four city blocks from where the World Trade Center stood.
In most cities such as Chicago and New York where the geography is grid like, there are about 8 blocks to a mile. 4 blocks would be almost a half a mile from where the World Trade Center stood. This is hardly “ground zero”.
According to Gary Leupp who is a Professor of History, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion, at Tufts University this whole ridicules controversy got it’s start from a person by the name of Pamela Geller.
Pamela Geller, who maintains a blog called Atlas Shrugs. She has written a book about Barack Obama in which she alleges his real father was Malcolm X. She leads an apparently tiny wacko group called Stop the Islamization of America. Seeing the opportunity to have her moment in the sun (and she is soon interviewed by FOX News and CNN), she lashes out at Cordoba House. She declares on her blog, "this is not about religious liberty. No one has suggested abridging the First Amendment to stop the mosque, and to oppose the Ground Zero mosque is not to oppose the First Amendment. There are hundreds of mosques in New York, thousands in America. This is not a religious issue. This is an issue of national dignity and respect for those who were murdered at that site in the name of Islam." She begins to organize a protest at the Park Place site.
Soon New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser references Geller's group, falsely describing it as a "human rights group." This brings the movement against the "Ground Zero mosque" out of the blogosphere and into the mainstream press. She sensationalizes the issue, falsely reporting that the center is to open on Sept. 11, 2011. A "controversy" erupts.
I would encourage readers to click on Gary Leupp’s name above to read the full article, as it is an excellent time line of something, which should not be an issue.
The time line continues and shows after the media gets a hold of Geller and gives her 15 seconds of fame, the half-term governor of Alaska, Sara Palin and then Georgia’s own adulterer former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich weigh in:
July 16 Sarah Palin weighs in. Addressing not Muslims specifically but "Peaceful New Yorkers," Sarah Palin twittered: " pls refudiate [sic] the Ground Zero mosque plan if you believe catastrophic pain caused @ Twin Towers site is too raw, too real." She adds two days later (after ammending "refudiate" to "refute"), "Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. . ." Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich expresses outrage in multiple statements over the next month: "There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia." "It's not about religion," he insists, "and is clearly an aggressive act that is offensive." He says the center will be a symbol of Muslim "triumphalism," and that building the mosque near the site of the 9/11 attacks "would be like putting a Nazi sign next to the Holocaust Museum."
He writes, "'Cordoba House' is a deliberately insulting term. It refers to Cordoba, Spain-the capital of Muslim conquerors, who symbolized their victory over the Christian Spaniards by transforming a church there into the world's third-largest mosque complex... every Islamist in the world recognizes Cordoba as a symbol of Islamic conquest." In response to this absurd allegation the center organizers change the name to "Park51."
(Gingrich who postures as an historian and scholar might have noted the Visigothic church was purchased by the conquering emir after 718 and that the Arabs during their rule in Spain pursued a policy of far greater religious tolerance than the Christians had before them. They allowed churches and synagogues to operate freely. When the Christians regained power, they expelled all Jews and Muslims, or forced them to convert, and conducted the Spanish Inquisition.)
Come on Mr. Gingrich, you know full well Saudi Arabia an Islamic country. You only go to that country if you are on invited. So if you plan on going, you do as you are requested in the home of the host.
If you go to the Vatican, you cannot practice another faith in Vatican City, it’s their laws. It is the same as in Saudi Arabia. I know it sounds harsh, but if you choose to go there you are allowed to practice your faith in the privacy of your own living quarters while there, I am not naive enough to say you cannot pray to your own source while here. However, there is just no open propagation.
Further it is well known fact that in the United States of America unlike many countries in the world “religious freedom” is held sacred and considered a constitutional right.
Both Palin and Gingrich in their quest for political power and capitalizing on people’s fear conveniently forget some of the biggest groups to come into the United States were those seeking relief from religious persecution.
Further, all these folks from the “right” forget the history of Christians has its moments of incredible terrorism based on fear and arrogance as well.
Remember the Salem Witch Trials?
From June through September of 1692, nineteen men and women, all having been convicted of witchcraft, were carted to Gallows Hill, a barren slope near Salem Village, for hanging. Another man of over eighty years was pressed to death under heavy stones for refusing to submit to a trial on witchcraft charges. Hundreds of others faced accusations of witchcraft. Dozens languished in jail for months without trials. Then, almost as soon as it had begun, the hysteria that swept through Puritan Massachusetts ended.
Let’s look at one trial transcript to get a feel for what hysteria and paranoia produce:
The first accused witch to be brought to trial was Bridget Bishop. Almost sixty years old, owner of a tavern where patrons could drink cider ale and play shuffleboard (even on the Sabbath), critical of her neighbors, and reluctant to pay her bills, Bishop was a likely candidate for an accusation of witchcraft. The fact that Thomas Newton, special prosecutor, selected Bishop for his first prosecution suggests that he believed the stronger case could be made against her than any of the other suspect witches. At Bishop's trial on June 2, 1692, a field hand testified that he saw Bishop's image stealing eggs and then saw her transform herself into a cat. Deliverance Hobbs, by then probably insane, and Mary Warren, both confessed witches, testified that Bishop was one of them. A villager named Samuel Grey told the court that Bishop visited his bed at night and tormented him. A jury of matrons assigned to examine Bishop's body reported that they found an "excrescence of flesh." Several of the afflicted girls testified that Bishop's specter afflicted them. Numerous other villagers described why they thought Bishop was responsible for various bits of bad luck that had befallen them. There was even testimony that while being transported under guard past the Salem meeting house, she looked at the building and caused a part of it to fall to the ground. Bishop's jury returned a verdict of guilty. One of the judges, Nathaniel Saltonstall, aghast at the conduct of the trial, resigned from the court. Chief Justice Stoughton signed Bishop's death warrant, and on June 10, 1692, Bishop was carted to Gallows Hill and hanged.
It was this kind of hysteria and paranoia that was cause for Japanese who where American citizens to be rounded up after Pearl Harbor and placed in camps.
It is this kind of hysteria and paranoia which has police officers in Arizona and Gwinnett County asking brown skin people for their papers.
It is this kind of hysteria and paranoia that does not allow LGBTQI people to serve in the military.
It is this kind of hysteria and paranoia that denies the LGBTQI community marriage.
Let us not forget the American Indians had no idea they were savages until the Christians arrived on their land.
Let us not forget Tim McVey and Eric Rudolph were driven by their Christian roots to commit acts of terrorism.
Let us not forget Adolph Hitler considered himself a Catholic until the day he died. In 1941 he told Gerhard Engel, one of his generals: "I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so." In fact, Hitler was never excommunicated from the Catholic Church, and Mein Kampf was not placed on the Church's Index of Forbidden Books.
Let us not forget the newest whacko pastor at the "Dove World Outreach Center" in Gainesville, Florida -- a "New Testament church, based on the Bible" -- to promote an "International Burn a Quran Day" this September 11.
Gee, I wonder what kind of press would be gotten if we held a bible burning day every time some Christian committed an act of violence?
Let us not just gloss over the insanely racist blog of Mark Williams who is quoted by Professor Leupp:
"The monument would consist of a Mosque for the worship of the terrorists' monkey-god (repeat: 'the terrorists' monkey-god." if you feel that fits a description of Allah then that is your own deep-seated emotional baggage not mine, talk to the terrorists who use Allah as their excuse and the Muslims who apologize for and rationalize them) and a 'cultural center' to propagandize for the extermination of all things not approved by their cult. It is a project of American Society for Muslim Advancement and the Cordoba Initiative, essentially the same group of apologists (but under 2 different names) for terrorists and the animals who use it as a terrorist ideology. They cloak their evil with new age gibberish that suggests Islam is just misunderstood."
My point here is not to deride the Christian faith, but to simply say we have not held the entire religion accountable because of whackos in the faith.
Richard W. Bulliet, Professor of History Middle East Institute Columbia University probably sums it up best when he says, “Jim Jones, David Koresh and Meir Kahane do not typify Christianity and Judaism in the eyes of the civilized West, but those same eyes are prone to see Osama bin Laden and Mullah Muhammad Omar as typifying Islam,"
I wonder why that is? Maybe because we as Christians know even less about Islam then we do of Judaism. For instance do most people know Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable and that the purpose of life is to worship God. They regard their religion as the completed and universal version of a primordial, monotheistic faith revealed at many times and places before, including, notably, to the prophets Abraham, Moses and Jesus.
How about this verse found in the Quran: "Those who believe (in the Quran), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians...and (all) who believe in God and the last day and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve." The Qur'an, 2:62
9-11 was the idea and mission of one man and a handful of his followers; let us spend our energy, resources and efforts to bring these people to justice. To continue this ridiculous controversy is to forget what made this country a world leader, what despite its many flaws made it the best place in the world to live.
Judaism, Islam and Christianity at their core, are related and deeply connected, we share the same God. In this country “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
I dare say if we continue this path of hysteria and paranoia then these truths we hold as self-evident will be a thing of the past and we will have become that which feared.
Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church and Editor-in-Chief of Whosoever, Rev. Paul M. Turner (he/him) grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He was called to Atlanta in 1994 to pastor All Saints MCC. Five years later he founded Gentle Spirit Christian Church. He lives in Decatur with his husband Bill, who he met in 1982 while living and working in Ohio and legally married in 2015.