Muslim 9/11 Debate Is off the Mark: The Real Problem Is Fundamentalism of Every Kind
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Is Islam violent? Should there be a mosque at Ground Zero…. etc., etc…
Wrong questions-- bogus discussion!
Here's the real point: fundamentalist religion OF ALL KINDS - Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, whatever, is the enemy of peace and progress.
Islam per se isn't the problem. Belief in anything without a dose of nuance, paradox and mystery is the problem.
The supreme irony in the "mosque debate" is that the American Right/Republican Party Fox News et al is now indistinguishable from the Religious Right. And the Religious Right is literally the instigator of American-made Christian domestic terror groups.
Following the 2008 election it became clear that Americans were living in a country where tens of millions of so-called conservatives would rather embrace outright and absurdly paranoid lies, go bankrupt, fail as a nation, lose our place in history and saddle ourselves with virtually infinite debt than work constructively with a moderate, decent, smart, kind and honest black man.
The Republicans became the party of revolution not-so-subtly egging on its lunatic fringe to commit violence. They did this overtly (those Psalm 109 bumper stickers calling on people to pray for Obama's death, Dick Cheney's irresponsible remarks about Obama "not defending America" etc.,) or passively by their silence as the Republican leaders said nothing against outrages like white rubes carrying loaded assault weapons to political meetings to "make a point about the right to bear arms" while also carrying signs repeating what was on Timothy McVeigh famous T-shirt ("The tree of Liberty must be watered with the blood of tyrants") the day he blew up the Federal building in Oklahoma city.
As a former religious right instigator I feel ashamed that I did my bit to contribute to this news story, albeit in the 1970s, when I helped start the Protestant anti-abortion movement that in years since morphed into a war on America from the right. I discuss this activity in my book CRAZY FOR GOD: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back.
My dad's books denouncing America and comparing our country to Hitler's Germany --because of legal abortion in particular and a "slide" to humanism in general in "the schools" -- are still bestsellers in the Evangelical ghetto. And Dad is still hailed as a prophet by many Republican leaders even though his (and my) words set the stage for the murder of abortion doctors and the ongoing implicit threatened assassination of leaders of "the counterfeit state."
We helped set the stage for violence with our Christian fundamentalism. Fastforwardthirtyor so years and here is what was on the Hutaree Militia homepage as I checked it when I heard about the arrests on March 29, 2010.
It could have been lifted (with just a few changes) from the 70-million Left Behind series of novels favored by Evangelicals (about the return of Christ) and/or an al-Qaeda website.
As Christians we all are a part of the Souls of the Body of Christ, the one true church of Christ… This is the belief of the Hutaree soldier, as should the belief of all followers in Christ be. We believe that one day, as prophecy says, there will be an Anti-Christ. All Christians must know this and prepare, just as Christ commanded. Luke 22:35-37…This clearly states the reason for the training and preparation of the Hutaree. Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword and stay alive using equipment… You can find the news we find in some of the places we have in the information sources section. Also you can get gear from some of the choice places we have on gear links…"
I checked the "gear" linked to their page and found the evangelical fish symbol on a catalog for military weapons on a site that indicated that it was run by "Bible believers." I checked their "other links" and found mainstream right wing evangelical organizations and other far right groups including: Worthy Christian News, WorldNetDaily, Jack Van Impe Ministries, Real Truth Magazine, Times of Noah - Current Events and Bible Prophecy, Christian Apologetic Web Site; Countercult; Evangelism and… Also… a whole lot of links to news about the Middle East and Europe where crazy evangelicals think that Armageddon will originate and or the Anti-Christ.
So where were the "respectable" (so-called moderate) Christian leaders as this militia amassed weapons? What were people like far right religious leader (and Princeton professor) Robert George who was so avidly castigating our president because Obama favors stem cell research doing? Were the editors of Christianity Today magazine, or Islam-basher Franklin Graham? What were they doing to rein in their extremists?
Speaking of which these days if you're not a gay-hating, anti-all-abortions, born-again, ardent Israel-can-do-no-wrong-all-Arabs-are-evil, Jesus-is-coming-back-soon evangelical ideologue on the one hand or a neoconservative I-never-met-a-war-I-didn't-like, Muslim-bashing-military-industrial-complex-shill, Ayn Rand-reading-believer-in-American-exceptionalism ideologue on the other hand, (or maybe A 'Natural Law' shill) you're probably not a Republican. Above all if you are a Republican in these post-Palin days you are probably a religious fundamentalist of one sort or another.
What today's fundamentalists share is a literal interpretation of their various scriptures. Since all religious fundamentalists share this one thing in common (no matter what they call themselves) being a religious fundamentalist should automatically disqualify a person from political office. Why should we elect anyone that believes that their Bible (or Koran) supersedes our Constitution and Bill of Rights?
All the major (theistic) scriptures -- when taken literally -- are fundamentally anti-democratic as well as anti-truth. They are so because they all demand an allegiance to a "jealous God" (in the Bible's words) to whom fundamentalists owe allegiance over and above their country's constitutions or the rule of law let alone to truth. And that is why everything that came from Dad's and my anti-abortion efforts in the 1970s eventually fed into a movement that no longer believes in the legitimacy of our government and even is rejecting the legitimacy of our republic.
Of course having a black president smoked out a lot more activity than we'd seen before but race isn't the whole issue: the real issue is theocracy verses democracy.
The real threat to democracy in America is from the fundamentalist Religious Right--of whatever religion--Jewish, Christian, Muslim et al.
What the Religious Right including the Religious Right's "Christian intellectuals" (like my late father) did was contribute to a climate where the very legitimacy of our government is questioned.
The Evangelicals may have begun by questioning Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, gay rights and divorce, prayer in school rulings etc., but what they did was help foster an insane climate where - in the eyes of a dangerous and growing nutcase minority - the very existence of the USA is called into question. It was the Evangelicals and Roman Catholic "pro-lifers" and Evangelicals like my father that first released the poison of suspicion against our government into the air in its post-70s radical anti-abortion incarnation.
The educated leaders of the Far Right may scorn their rube gun-toting counterparts but (post-Roe) at root they have the same view of the US Government. It's just that some lone nut with a gun has the courage of his convictions.
A website maintained by James Von Brunn, an avowed racist and anti-Semite well known to the netherworld of white supremacy--and the assassin who killed a security guard at the Holocaust Museum in June of 2009--said that Brunn tried to carry out a "citizen's arrest" in 1981 on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, whom he accused of "treason." When he was arrested outside the room where the board was meeting, he was carrying a sawed-off shotgun, a revolver, and a knife. Police said he planned to take members of the Fed hostage. "Mainstream" (in other words, slightly less nutty and less violent) Religious Right Republicans have been saying the same thing as Brunn about the Fed for years, particularly the Reconstructionists who also zero in on the "evils" of the Fed.
And then there was Joseph Stack, the 53-year-old software engineer who piloted the plane that slammed into an IRS building in Austin in February of 2010, and killed one innocent man and injured several others. Before killing himself Stack posted an online suicide note railing against the Federal Government using terms similar to what Dad and I said in our books about the Evil of the Government.
A Far Right Facebook group celebrating Stack had thousands of members sign on almost instantly after he was "martyred for our freedoms" as one post called it. The site featured the Gadsden flag (the flag with the logo "Don't Tread On Me") and the following description: "Finally an American man took a stand against our tyrannical government that no longer follows the constitution and is turned its back on its founding fathers and the beliefs this country was founded on."
Then Jerry Kane (according to the Associated Press May 21) who was an antigovernment Ohio man who had had several run-ins with the police around the country was identified one of two people suspected of gunning down two officers during a traffic stop in Arkansas. Kane had used the Internet to question federal and local government authority over him. He made his living holding "debt-elimination" seminars. Just before allegedly killing the copse Kane had complained about being arrested at what he called a "Nazi checkpoint" near Carrizozo, N.M. As the news story unfolded it turned out that Kane's son had been involved along with Kane in murdering the cops.
And then it was revealed that his son had been home schooled by Kane and trained to hate, mistrust and fear the government. "Jerry raised a time bomb," Patrick Suarez (a Kane family friend) told ABCNews.com. "Fathers have to be careful with what they do with their sons." Donna Le Wray, 50, of Clearwater, Fla., who identified herself as Kane's common law wife, was quoted in published reports saying that authorities told her it was the son, Joseph, who opened fire on the police.
Who cares where some mosque is built? It's a meaningless event.
The next great task for the human race is to wean ourselves off ALL literal interpretations of ALL religions.
We need to reject fundamentalism in ALL its forms.
We need to move past nations founded on any religions at all. That includes ideas of America as a special or chosen nation.
It is no coincidence that the self-consciously Jewish State is in perpetual conflict with a bunch of other equally fundamentalist religion-based countries that regard themselves as Islamic. It is no coincidence that America has paid in blood in one Middle Eastern entanglement after another because of our alliance with Israel and our meddling in the affairs of the backward Islamic states like Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
What would you expect? Fundamentalist religion kills.
It's past time to leave the Bronze Age behind be it called Jewish, Christian or Muslim. Modern free pluralistic democracies should have nothing whatever to do with states organized on the basis of religion and religious-inspired tribalism and religious "identity."
We don't just need moderate Muslims to win the war with Islamic fundamentalism. We need all Christians, Jews and even secularists to win the war against all false certainties.
I know only one thing: that any worldview - be it religious or secular -- that doesn't start and end with the recognition of Paradox will become a tyranny.
Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back.