Thursday, August 19, 2010

Time to speak up

I am by nature a peace maker and dislike confrontations. Time after time, I have run into people who felt compelled to proselytize and try to convert me to their way of thinking... and I've held my tongue and not argued back because I didn't want to offend them. A while back I decided that if they had no problem offending me, I should just speak my mind.

I still tend to not jump into political and religious debates because they tend to degrade into mindless vitriol and don't end up changing anyone's ideas. But the time to remain quiet has come to an end.

You would have to be living under a rock lately to not be aware of the controversy regarding the so-called 'Ground Zero mosque'. Before I begin, Keith Olbermann, someone I have never watched before, had some excellent comments on the issue which pretty much put the argument in perspective. Please take the time to click through and watch.

I am very disappointed in the number of people who object to putting a community center, which happens to have a hall for worship, in a neighborhood, at a location which was vacant, just because it is near 'Ground Zero' and is for Muslims. No, disappointed doesn't cover it. I am sickened.

First off, '2 blocks away' is misleading. It is not within sight of the 'hallowed ground' and is further from it than several other religious houses. It is actually about 4 blocks of walking away.

Second, along with all the American Christians killed when the World Trade Center was destroyed were many people from many other countries and many other faiths, including Muslims (both American and foreign). If this is sacred, hallowed ground for those killed, then all the religions represented should be able to have a faith center nearby.

To blame all of any one religion for the actions of a few is a terrible, bigoted reaction. Just as some Muslims are terrorists, so are some Christians. Need I point out that the KKK has Christian roots. Many people convicted of acts of terror claim to be following God's will in what they do, regardless of their religious preference. Christians have done a lot of bad things in the name of God.

One of the principles this nation was founded on is freedom of religion. The First Amendment to the Constitution states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This is not negotiable. And before anyone starts shouting about this being a Christian nation, please remember that the founding documents were written in such a way as to not favor one religion over another. Our Founding Fathers did that on purpose. They were really smart. Many were also not Christian as the Religious Right would have you believe. Some interesting reading is available on the topic (yes, from both perspectives). A lot of evidence exists that many were more in the line of Deists than subscribed to any particular religion.

I have a question for anyone who thinks 2 blocks is too close. What perimeter is acceptable? 5 blocks? Outside the city of New York? The borders of the US? Really, think about that question. If you really believe the borders of the US, please go find a Christian nation to live in and leave this one to those of us willing to tolerate others and truly exist within a democracy. By the way, part of the principle of democracy is for the government to protect the rights of minorities from the oppression of the majority.

I was raised in the Catholic church but I have increasingly run further and further away from any church because of the hypocrisy and bigotry often on display. In my observation, those who proclaim themselves 'good' at whatever religion they practice are often the worst. If you are truly a 'good Christian', please act as one. Turn the other cheek. Learn tolerance. Offer kindness to a stranger, even if they are of a different faith than you. Really read the words of Jesus. He was a pretty neat guy with a lot of good things to say. 

And while we are on the topic of religion, if the Jews should have the Holy Land and Israel back, then we should all be packing our bags and giving the entire western hemisphere back to the native peoples who lived here before Europeans 'discovered' it. I am not siding against Israel. I am just not choosing to blindly support her. If all lands that had ever been conquered were given back to the people who were there first, we'd have some big political problems on our hands. So that's not a good argument. That's the conundrum of that particular problem: both sides (Israel and Palestine) have some in both the good and bad columns.

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