Friday, September 10, 2010

Take It on Faith

Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty there must be a spirit of tolerance in the entire population.
- Albert Einstein

Every religion is good that teaches man to be good; and I know of none that instructs him to be bad. (and)

Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst.
- Thomas Paine

It is in the continuing controversy over the 'ground zero' mosque-that-is-not-a-mosque being exploited by the right, by the likes of Newt Gingrich and and his Islamophobic ideologues;

in the horror of Koran burning by the unpatriotic, Unchristian, UnAmerican, ignorant bigots in Florida;

in the intensity of the emotions that accompany the anniversary of the 9/11 tragedies, that we discover who we are.
  We discover who we REALLY are.  We discover what it is we actually believe in.

It is appropriate we take stock of who we are, as a nation; and who we choose to be, as individuals.  Because we DO CHOOSE how we rise to challenges like 9/11.  We DO CHOOSE how we live our political principles and our religious beliefs. 

We choose if they are ideals to which we only give lip service, when doing so is easy. 

Our character, what we really believe in, not just what we say we believe in, what we really stand for, that emerges only when it is not easy, when it is uncomfortable, difficult, wrenching, even  excruciatingly painful.  There are times when we should NOT be seeking our comfort level; times when we should NOT be taking the easy choice.

THIS is the time to be stretching and challenging ourselves to be more ethical, to be more compassionate, to live and lead with greater nobility of spirit, to set an example to those who set themselves against us by demonstrating to them who we are, and how we live what we believe. 

The threatened Koran burning in Florida underlines the role of religion for me. I believe that it is the essential function of religion to affirm and assist individuals to find their awareness of a real, personal, heartfelt connection to God.  What professes to be religion that stresses outward forms over that spiritual awareness of a personal God is no better than superstition, no better than believing in 'magical thinking'.  It has no greater value, no more real significance than a child walking down a sidewalk, making a game of avoiding the divisions between sections while chanting 'step on a crack, break your mother's back'.

Self-abnegation may be a method of focusing one's awareness of God to enhance individual spirituality; as are prayer, and forms of meditation.  But the outward form of religions, the ritual, conformity to dogma, the differing sects that have blighted history with intolerance for religious variance must be opposed.

If you have followed the 'today in history posts' I have been compiling, nearly every day has an example of an individual who has been killed or tortured over a different idea, an alternate personal belief in God.  Every day has one or more examples of religious and / or political conflict, even wars, where one group of people coerces another to do things, or to think or believe a different way.  The worst acts, the most egregious inhumanity of man to man, are those justified by religion; acts which are rationalized by the conviction of the perpetrators of the violence that they are right, and the victims are wrong, or that it is 'for their own good', or to save their souls, or men carrying out what they think is God's will.  The tragedy of 9/11 is an example of that wrong, of one group of people, extremists, harming others in the mistaken belief of obedience to God, slavery to outward forms and rules, instead of celebrating religion as that personal connection to, and experience of, God.

Most people embrace the faith of their parents, reflecting what they were exposed to at a formative age. Others venture on a spiritual quest to find the religion that best expresses their sense of connection to God. And some are atheists who don't, for whatever reason, define or describe their internal experience as including that dimension.

The magnificence of vision of the Founding Fathers in establishing our Freedom of Religion, the appreciation of the horrors perpetrated in the name of religions, plural, in human history, is embodied in individuals and groups of individuals being able to seek their own paths, without approval or agreement with people who have chosen a different path to experiencing God.  When some people, like Minority House Leader John Boehner, or former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, or pundit Glenn Beck tell people they shouldn't do something, that they are unwise, or insensitive or evil for pursuing a sincere personal connection to God, they are negating the fundamental, core values incorporated in the Constitution by our Founding Fathers.

The Koran-burners in Florida, and the terrorists who crashed into the Twin Towers on 9/11 are two sides of the same coin.  The Florida so-called ministry portrays all Muslims as extremist Muslims; they justify burning the Koran, revered by millions, by claiming Islam is the Devil, and therefore they believe they legitimately can offend or dismiss the equally passionate experience others have with God in different forms than their own.

They differ in degree - one burned people and buildings; the other threatens to burn what is as sacred or more sacred to millions.  They are the same in kind, they are the same in putting their own beliefs over others as the only acceptable option they will tolerate; they are the same in their willingness to hurt others who are not the same; they are the same in disrespect for others, for REAL religious freedom.

This man who lost his son in the 9/11 tragedy 'gets it'; read it here.


  1. Well I think the guy that was going to burn the Korans gets it more than is being reported. After talking to a local Imam in Florida he called off the burning and was instead going to meet with the Imam building the mosque and ask him why it could not be moved. Everyone keeps saying this is religious bigotry but let me ask you, would it be proper for Serbian Christians in Kosovo to build an Orthodox church on top of the spot where they slaughtered 7000 Muslims? Also there was a Greek Orthodox church that was crushed when one of the buildings collapsed. That church had been there for over 50 yrs and yet they still cannot get a permit to rebuild it because the top dome would be slightly higher than the planned memorial but still 30 ft shorter than the mosque. So where are all the people yelling about religious freedom to let the greek church be rebuilt.

  2. Tuck, Tuck, Tuck.......When will you learn to check out your facts better than this?

    You are apparently reporting the utterly inaccurate bullshit version of events falsely reported by Fox News -- AGAIN.

    That Greek Orthodox Church is NOT being denied a permit to rebuild. There is NOT NOT NOT an issue over the Greek Orthodox Church being built higher than the memorial either. What IS at issue? The Greek Orthodox Church is in stalled negotiations with the Port Authroity of New York for a larger plot of land and $20 million dollars in public funding for the rebuilding of that church. Yeah. PUBLIC MONEY. $20 MILLION DOLLARS. MORE LAND for a larger church.

    NO ONE is denying or pressuring this church not to build, or not to build in a specific location because anyone is anti-Greek Orthodoxy. This has squat all to do with any issues of religion or the ground zero building site restrictions.

    It does have a lot to do with historic site designations, and other issues completely, totally, utterly unrelated to religion, which have absolutely nothing in common with the Mosque controversy.

    TWENTY MILLION DOLLARS OF PUBLIC MONEY. A SWAP OF A LARGER PIECE OF PUBLIC LAND. Oh, and some safety requirements in building that the church also wants the city to pay for. NOT the height of the building.

    Geeze, Tuck --- how can you even begin to beleive these stupid, exploitive, misleading stories that circulate on the right? Seriously? Does anyone on the right ever check this stuff out first before repeating these asinine rumors?

    Because it took me less than two seconds to find credible, reliable sources for the information that offered verifiable data --- and just as short a time to track down where the bogus crap came from, before responding to your comment.

  3. IF the Serbians, in your hypothetical example, btw, wanted to build a COMMUNITY CENTER oriented to PEACE and UNITY between the competing religions, on top of the spot where 7,000 muslims were slaughtered, that included a memorial to those slaughtered muslims AND the slaughtered Serbs of the region too --- as the Community has proposed to put up honoring ALL the dead from the 9/11 tragedy at the twin towers in New York City - - and if they opened the building to welcome all faiths to come pray --- like the so-called ground zero 'mosque' --- to bring people together as a community -- I would say hallelujah! Where can I donate in support of such a project, one thatwill respect religions, AND offer a swimming pool, basketball court, cooking school, auditorium, meeting rooms, etc. ?

    NO, Tuck, even your story about the meeting between the monster pretending to be a minister in Florida and his meeting you have wrong.

    Go check your facts Tuck. Go check your facts, check your assumptions. Get your information right. And please, for the love of god and the love of country -- don't be so quick to believe bullshit that on the face of it sounds so improbable.

    Or are you going to also circulate the utterly bogus story promoted by the Florida burn-the-koran guy, the one where he claims U.S. soldiers and allied forces in Kosovo were ordered to stand down while muslims burned a hospital to the ground with sick and injured Christians in it? Yeah --- THAT never happened EITHER. But this so-called Minister is circulating THAT as fact too.

    I have some swamp land in Louisisana where black helicopters full of UN troops and whole brigades of commandos are supposedly waiting to invade the U.S. and 'steal our freedoms' are hanging out too, just waiting for their secret signal -- I'll sell it to you cheap. I'm just waiting for Fox News to post it on their new real estate want ads section.

    Sigh. There is perhaps no greater tragedy on this 9th year after the 9/11 event than that such misinformation is circulated as the feeble justification for hatred and more violence provoking actions.

  4. And while you are checking MY fact checking Tucker - which I hope you will do -- also check out this story from the Greek American press about the Greek Orthodox ground zero church rebuilding problems.

    The one about theiir minister resigning, and the internal funding problems they are having relating to embezzlement, not religious freedom or building permits.

  5. Tuck,

    I read the deposition "Rev" Jones gave. BTW, Reverand Jones didn't go to seminary, but was awarded his pastoralship by Maranatha Missionary services. He spent 30 years in Germany where he "saw" what the hateful Muslims (and btw Jews according to him are also "of the devil", as are virtually all christians who don't advocate his form of confrontational evangalism). So, here's what I learned...

    Rev Jones is the head of a church of about 50 people
    6 of those people, 3 men, and their wives who were 'granted' the status, are also "pastors" - a title for which they didn't attend any sort of formal school
    "Doctor" Jones calls himself that because he was awarded an honorary doctorate from an obscure religious school
    Rev Doctor Jones admits that no muslim has every perpetrated violence against him, or his church.
    He got in some trouble when some of the kids from his church were provided T-Shirts which read "Islam is of the Devil" and wore them to their local public school - he makes no apology because "it's the truth" (his words), though he admits that other form of religious intolerance would be a disruption in school. He considers it his first amendment (and theirs) right to wear such shirts in public schools no matter how disruptive.

  6. Now, here's what I gleaned at a higher, more holistic level.

    Mr. Jones feels Islam is simply "biding it's time" and that all Muslims simply want to rule by Sharia law and will become violent. He cited Saudi Arabia as his example of a "more moderate" Islamic state. Mr. Jones' offer to not burn the Holy Book of another religion was predicated on the Imam in NY committing to NOT building the community center, he did NOT agree to stop because of risk to soldier's lives, because he recognized the country was founded on religious tolerance, that same country which protects his freedom of speech by that same bill of rights which gaurantees religious tolerance and allows him to spew hate of ANYONE who doesn't conform to HIS version of Chrisitianity.

    Now, on a couple of points he shadows true Christianity, namely that we are called to evangalize and that worshipping money is wrong. Further, he does reflect correctly that accepting Christ as your savior is required for salvation - but it is where he THEN goes that is horribly wrong. First, in his mind it isn't enough to recognize Christ as your savior, any religion, any at all, which deviates from the bible even by the slightest mote, is evil - but certainly any religion which doesn't acknowledge the divinity of Christ is EVIL (his word), including Budhism, Hinduism, Judaism - the religion of Christ after all - and of course and ESPECIALLY (BTW) Islam. All of them are evil.

    But, Islam is trying to take over the world. Germany (according to Mr. Jones) is going to be extinct - and overrun with by Islam - he makes this claim because of falling WHITE European birth rates, which of course don't point to extinction unless the trend NEVER reverses - an absurd notion - and it would take literally tens of thousands of years.

  7. He claimed that Saudi Arabia is one of the most 'moderate' and tolerant of islamic based states. NOTHING could be further from the truth - in fact he picked, next to Afghanistan under the Taliban the MOST inteolerant, MOST immoderate islamic state. If he was looking to find a moderate state he should have looked to Mali, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Dubai, or the UAE, and in fact, Iran - if we're talking about tolerating OTHER religions - in fact, he could have even named IRAQ UNDER HUSSIEN - if we're talking about nations which allow for women to take jobs men take, attend universities, date, and so on. In addition, he could have named Kosovo, Bulgaria, Greece, and a HOST of other European nations which have large muslim minorities, where certainly there are a vocal, intolerant few, but they stand beside a vastly larger more moderate body which doesn't agree with them.

    Mr. Jones in fact brought up many examples of ONLY the worst elements of the most radical factions of Islam to 'sound the alarm" and "get people to wake up", but was totally unaware of exactly how INTOLERANT he was of others, of exactly how HE sought to persecute gays, or anyone who didn't accept a strict ban against abortion, or anyone who didn't agree with HIS version of Chrisitainity, in short, he was exactly like those he was warning us about - radical Muslims, with the only difference being he isn't using violence - but just as he said about radicals in Europe, my comment about him is - YET.

    So Tuck, no, he did not 'get it' more right than wrong - he was extraordinarily biggoted against Muslims. He claimed to have studied, when in fact and when pressed it was clear he simply was accepting words he read on blogs he liked - meaning he was seeking out reinforcement of his biased views. Whenever he cited facts about Islam, including when he had to admit many weren't violent, he simply brought up the "secret" intent of those who were peaceful to "bide their time." That's bias, Tuck, that's bigottry, believing something in the absence of fact and about ALL people, not just those who act a certain way, and moreover, every example he brought up was the most negative, including mistating that Saudi Arabia was moderate when, if he had travelled as much as he claimed to, he would know full well S.A. is one of the least moderate states on the planet.

    The man is a snake-oil salesman (imho) - his twisted version of Christianity isn't one of love, or peace - it's one which claims that any other religion is "of the Devil", which burns Holy Books of other religions despite the risk to our troops, and which CLAIMS that it isn't singling out Islam as being the only evil religion, but the only book it is burning is the Qu'Ran.

    Go read the deposition - then please come back and tell me this guy is a. stable b. tolerant and most importantly c. not bigotted.

  8. The other comment I'll make is this, his grasp of the teaching of Christ is extraordinarily shallow (based on his conduct and comments) in my opinion. Christ did NOT advocate violent conversion, he did not advocate "waking up" the rest of the world to the "dangers" of another religion - he certainly advocated "waking up" the world to the words of salvation he offered and most importantly to THE PATH OF PEACE - he welcomed the lepper, the Samiratan, the Tax Collector - in short he welcomed the down-trodden, including those who were NOT JEWS - as being those who deserve our love, not our scorn, as being those who were righteoous while Jews (Pharisees) were careful followers of their religious legal obligations, but hardly righteous. In short, Mr. Jones acts as a Pharisee, spouting Leviticus because it suits his need, proclaiming his righteousness, but preaching a path of scorn, of contempt, of mistrust for those in his midst who do not agree with him. He does not seek to turn the other cheek and show him the path of patience and tolerance which Christ showed - he seeks to incite his enemies to violence to EXPOSE their true nature. How many times did Christ seek to EXPOSE the true nature of Rome, of Pilate, of Herod, of the teachers in the Temple? He admonished his own Apostles far more so in fact for their lack of faith in his word.

    Mr. Jones to me seems like someone who, much like Mullah Omar in Afghanistan, seeks to use religion as his tool to create a state fearful of the rest of the world, not embracing it. He reflects a grasp of Chrisitanity which is skin-deep at best it seems, and misses the best part, the most important part after the basic message of salvation - namely, that to get along in this world we must accept our imperfections, that our neighbors are imperfect also, and leave the judgment to God for NONE of us are better or LESS EVIL than the rest - for in so doing and understanding we will leave hatred, intolerance, and bigotry behind.

  9. Mr. Jones, and his handful of cult-like followers, don't really qualify as a church to me. They are engaged in one of the worst forms of heresy when they take God's message of love and peace and turn it into a message of hate, bigotry and intolerance. I refer readers to a column I wrote on Penigma several days ago, but which has since scrolled down the page and isn't easily visible.