This fuss going on in Lower Manhattan is beyond ridiculous; it’s wrong.
Religion is belief in the rightness of a deity.Â Patriotism is belief in the rightness of a country.Â The latter belief is usually to a lesser degree than the former, normally.Â But beliefs are not extenuating circumstances.
The people who call themselves Americans or Christians but pretend that this justifies spouting off increasingly anti-Moslem bile? They’re on a moral level with the people who call themselves followers of Islam but pretend that this justifies their violence and hatred.
And I’ve gotten so tired of seeing the first group talk as if anyone who disagrees is neither patriotic nor religious that I had to say something.
Now, please understand one thing very clearly: I am not saying that people prancing around with paper signs are as bad as murderers. What I am saying is that the same root is at the bottom of both passions and it’s horribly mistaken.Â It’s hooking onto our innate desire for the one who created us, and twisting it to trick us into wrongdoing. It’s taking the best that we’re capable of and trying to warp it into the worst that we’re capable of. It’s evil at its most fundamental.
And even if you’re a non-religious American, the first Amendment to our Constitution – remember, the one before that one about the guns that so many people love? – gives us all the freedom of religion. Even a religion you might not understand.
On top of which, there’s no factual justification for what the opponents seem to be saying. Nobody is trying to build a Ground Zero Mosque. Someone bought a condemned department store two blocks from Ground Zero and they want to knock it down to build a mosque and a big community center like a YMCA or a JCC. It’s called Park51. The area is depressed and vacant and has been for nine years, and there are a handful of religious buildings – Christian and Moslem, among others – already in the area. None of this appears to me to be out of the ordinary or menacing or disrespectful.
What I do find menacing and disrespectful – and, I hope, out of the ordinary – is the bigotry that this building is facing because of its religious purpose.
There have been mosques that have been fronts for training murderers. This is despicable. But that isn’t every mosque.
The IRA used Catholic churches and priests in their terrorist activities. That doesn’t make me a terrorist for going to church.
When you spout off words that make other people less equal and you justify yourself with information that you didn’t bother to check against facts, or logic, or the truth of the religion you espouse, you’re not being Christian and you’re not being a patriot.
We need reminding that “this is America, dammit, and in America, when somebody comes for your neighbor or his Bible or his Torah or his atheist manifesto or his Koran, you and I do what our fathers did and our grandmothers did and our founders did. You and I speak up.” MSNBC commentator’s Keith Olbermann’s whole comment is very much worth watching.
And for those of us who are Catholic, we need reminding that: “the Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.Â Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.”