Saturday, August 28, 2010

Talking Without Saying Anything

Today, 8/28-10, Glenn Beck sponsored and hosted a rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial he called "Restoring Honor". As the CNN story commented it was more a revival than a political rally. Beck looked and sounded more like a televangelist than a TV pundit. I listened to some of it this morning and read about some of it online and so I will fully admit that I am commenting without seeing the whole thing.

Beck made an interesting statement during his speech, "America today begins to turn back to God. For too long, this country has wandered in darkness." Also, Sarah Palin stated "We must restore America and restore her honor." I have heard similar statements over the last few months from a lot of conservative minded people, statements like "we need to take back America for God," or "we need to restore America," or something to that affect. Now there are a lot of theological unpacking that should be done from those statements, but what I would like to discuss here is the intentional vagueness of these statements. And don't worry my conservative friends, those on the Left are guilty of same kind of vagueness, but for this post I will focus on these statements from the Beck Rally. You hear a lot of that kind of talk during an election year. I am wondering, what do they mean by these statements? Where or when are we taking America back to? What are we restoring American to and for what purpose? You never get answers to these questions. But people eat that kind of talk up. Politicians and preachers have made careers on very energetic and yet completely vague rhetoric.

Both of these statements, "restoring America" and "bringing America back to God" indicate a return to the past or in other words, bringing back the good ol' days. What are the good ol' days? When were the good ol' days? One video that I did see at the Beck rally was a clip from the 1950s, think Leave It to Beaver. Is this the example of America we should return to? It seems good on the surface. Families sitting down to dinner. Dad with his pipe and Mom in her apron working to put dinner on the table. Sounds good, unless of course you are a single mom or a person who believes that women belong in places other than the kitchen. And you might notice that there aren't any black families in those 1950s clips. That might be because Jim Crow laws were still on the books and segregation was the norm, not only in the South but all over America. I will give them the benefit of the doubt and say they do not mean that we should return to our segregationist past. But the vagueness of these statements leaves a lot of room for the imagination. Do they mean that American should return to Republican rule, like we had from 2000-2006? Where is the point of restoration?

The answer is they don't know. Because when details of reality come in, those kind of vague statements lose their luster. Those kind of statements become harder to swallow. People begin to hear things they don't like. People like pie in the sky and Pollyanna America, but they don't like the harshness of reality. The truth is that we cannot and we should not go back to any point in American history. We can and should only go forward. Reminiscing on the past is fine and good, but lingering on some false memory of when times were perfect is not only pointless, but also dangerous. This false sense of a perfect past can become an idol to be worshiped.

Returning to my original point, we should demand more from our leaders than just vague "red meat" statements. We can no longer afford for both political parties to simply exist by spouting vague statements and accusations at one another.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

They Don't Know They're Being Used

A new poll from Pew Research Center states the 18% of Americans believe that President Obama is a Muslim. A poll from Time Magazine puts the number at 24%. Less than half, believe that he is a Christian. For the record, President Obama and his family are members of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. He was baptized there. It is a fact. Indisputable.

So why do less than half of Americans believe he is a Christian and almost 1 in 4 believe he is a Muslim? It is not because they are uninformed. There has never been more, better, and fast access to information before in human history. Information is literally at our fingertips. The problem is that these people willfully refuse to accept the reality of the facts. They believe the Obama is a Muslim because they WANT to believe he is a Muslim. They want to live in an illusionary mindset either of their or someone else's creation.

Since the presidential campaign of 2008 the Right in this country have propagated an alternative reality. A reality where the President of the United States is not really an American, is a socialist, hates white people, and is a Muslim. It is a reality where President Obama deliberately engages in policies that will destroy this country and to a point Christianity. It is a false reality. It is a reality where someone will get hurt because many of these people also own firearms and they bring them to their rallies. We have seen many TEA partiers armed with automatic weapons at their rallies.

The Republican base believes whatever Fox News, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, etc tells them to believe. Opinion becomes fact and the subjective becomes objective. The Right does this to solidify their base into lockstep. The Right says "jump" and the base says "how high." Why? One reason is power. This is an election year and the Republicans want to regain and maintain their power in Washington. They have no platform. There are no Republican solutions to the problems facing this nation. Instead they present an illusion of fear to maintain the loyalty of their base and maybe snag some weak-minded independents with them. Second, they do it for the money. Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity, Coulter, etc need ratings and they need to sell books, videos, and other products. Some have even admitted to being "entertainers" rather than sources of information. They do it for the money and the glory, not for the country and certainly not for the people.

The Right call the people they fool "great Americans" and "true patriots." The people think that those on the Right really care about them. But the sad truth is that the people don't know they're being used and they are being used. The Right will toss them aside like a used tissue when they get what they want. What will happen when that false reality comes shattering down around them? What will happen when someone acts out on these false threats propagated by the Right and someone gets killed? When that happens the Right will have blood on their hands.

How can one break free of this false reality or keep from being suck into it? Do not accept one source's version of any story. If all you watch is Fox News you will have a false and biased view of reality. The same is true for MSNBC or CNN. Never take a blog, even mine, as hard fact. These are my opinions. I try not to have an agenda, but sometimes my own biases come through. The more news sources you use, they better chance you have to not be fooled by an illusion.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Park 51 Must be Built in Lower Manhattan

What do you get when the US government is on recess, there is still a 24 hour news cycle and deadlines to be met, and the cable news networks and radio talk show hosts need ratings? You get one issue blown completely out of proportion and so much misinformation and lies that truth and reality dissolve away to fear and panic. Last year, it was healthcare reform and the "death panels" that did not exist. This year's silly season topic is the proposed building of Park 51. You might not recognize the name "Park 51" it is better known as the "Ground Zero Mosque." The term "Ground Zero Mosque" is a misnomer because it is neither a mosque, it is a community center with a prayer space, think YMCA, nor is it at Ground Zero, it is several blocks away at an abandoned Burlington Coat Factory.

The big controversy is the building of an Islamic community center so close to the site of the attack on the World Trade Center (WTC). Many in New York and around the country have stated that this is an attempt to disrespect the dead of 9/11. Phrases like "pouring salt in the wounds", "spitting on the graves of the dead", and others have been used. Even the most moderate of opinions conclude that although they have the Constitutional right to build a center there it is in bad taste to do so. The reaction to the proposal of this Islamic center demonstrates that even 9 years later the wounds from 9/11 are still as raw as they were in 2001. We have not healed as a nation or as individuals. In fact, the wounds are now infected with the disease of prejudice and fear. Just like an untreated flesh wound can become gangrenous without treatment, a emotional and spiritual wound can fester and spread without forgiveness. The wounds of 9/11 cannot heal because certain persons, politicians and TV news people, rip away the scab and drive a proverbial finger in the wound when it becomes profitable for them. How many political campaigns have been run on the fear of 9/11? (Let us not forget this is an election year.) How much money has been made publicly and privately on the fear of 9/11? The narrative that they disseminate is that all of Islam is responsible for 9/11 not a select group of radicals and heretics. They want to do distrust all Muslims, even those who have lived and loved this country for generations.

This is why Park 51 must be built in its proposed location. To move it now would be to accept the fear mongering and lies as truth and those who propagate such bile will win. They will win not only in New York City, but also in Murfreesboro, TN and in other cities around the country. This place must be built because to bow to these lies will shred the Constitution just a little bit more. It will only serve to embolden the mob and those who control it. Who will be next? The Jews? The United Church of Christ? I hear they're pretty liberal. The Unitarian Universalists? The United Methodists? If the Muslims proposing Park 51 are denied their right to worship in a building they own, we are traveling down a very slippery slope.

Maybe this place can be a center not only for Muslims, but for all persons of faith. Perhaps this can be a catalyst for dialogue and mutual learning. There are many things we can learn from each other if we just try. One of Osama Bin Laden's goals was to create division between Islam and the West. He wants to isolate Muslims within the West because the become easier targets for recruitment. Are we too blind to see this? This place can promote healing with we are willing to give these people a chance.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My Heart Aches for My Nation.

One of the bigger controversies of 2010 is the proposed building of a Islamic community center, including a mosque, two blocks from the World Trade Center site also known as Ground Zero. The anger from victim's families and others show that 9/11 is still an open wound in the American psyche. One of the disgusting aspects of this controversy is that politicians are using that hurt and anger for their own political agenda. I read comment after comment on message boards and see nothing but pure hatred for Muslims, not just the radical Islamic terrorists who perpetrated the attacks on 9/11, but for all Muslims and those of Middle Asian descent, including Sikhs, Hindus, and Indians, because they "look" Muslim.

In the days following 9/11, President Bush stated unequivocally that "The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don't represent peace. They represent evil and war." To his credit, President Bush made a sharp distinction between radical, terrorist, false Islam and the true nature of the faith. Unfortunately, Mr. Bush's fellow conservatives have erased that separation and now lump all Muslims together as terrorists who hate America. One reason for their erasure is pure political gain during an election year.

The argument that the only problem with this community center is its proximity to Ground Zero is a red herring. If this were the case, then no one would have a problem with mosques or community centers anywhere else. However, the battle over mosques and community centers is not limited to Lower Manhattan. Controversy and hate have sprung up in Brentwood and Antioch, Tennessee and other communities where plans are made for an Islamic community center. So the fact that the Cordova Center is two blocks from Ground Zero is really irrelevant. The fact that Muslims want to build a place of fellowship and worship is enough to stir up a hornet's nest of hate.

My heart aches for my nation because the hate in these people's hearts is the same hate Osama Bin Laden and those 19 men carried in their hearts. Why do we hate so? Are we no better than the terrorist who committed the atrocity of 9/11. This nation was founded on religious freedom and tolerance and when we begin to pick and choose what religion can and cannot be where we begin down a dangerous road. My fear is that this controversy will not end peaceable and without bloodshed. Even if and when this center is built there will be violence surrounding it. My heart aches because somewhere in the mountains of Pakistan Bin Laden is smiling because this kind of hate is exactly what he wants. 9/11 was not just about murdering 3,000 people, it was about kindling hatred among Americans and it seems Bin Laden was successful.

Hear us O God, we are foolish and yet you are wise. Our hearts are filled with hate and yet your very existence is love. Teach us Lord that love is the more excellent way. Break our hearts of stone and give us hearts for you alone. Give us hearts for love and remind us that every person is created in your image and that you are the God of us all. Amen.