Friday, June 25, 2010

Fair Weather Activist

This morning I discovered I am a fair-weather activist. Last night a peace vigil against the hate being spewed by some Murfreesboro Christians against all Murfreesboro Muslims was held at the town square. I planned to attend. I really did. There is little that is more important that standing up for religious freedom. I mean as a professor of Comparative Religion my entire life is devoted to educating young people in the intricacies of religious systems in hopes of making them knowledgeable and respectful citizens of a religious diverse country dedicated to freedom of assembly, speech, and religion. Then it started to rain.

I thought, “Geez, do I want to get wet for the cause of religious freedom? Nah.” In my defense, it was a big storm. Thunder and lightening and everything. This was the kind of storm that Doc Emmet Brown could have used to power his time traveling DeLorean in “Back to the Future.” This was the kind of storm you could use to tap electricity if Ben Franklin hadn’t already done that. So not wanting to get wet was a serious matter.

It never occurred to me that the vigil would be moved indoors.

The group gathered in the courthouse and sang, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” My own version is “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with them.” So sad.

All the more sad as the voices of fear become ever more powerful in my neighborhood. Republican Congressional candidate Lou Ann Zelenik says the Islamic Center planned for Murfreesboro is “designed to fracture the moral and political foundation of Middle Tennessee. “ If by moral and political foundation she means the hate filled rhetoric that passes for political discourse at the Republican sponsored Tea Party rallies I have attended, then I hope she is right.

Lori Roberts, a local citizen, said she is against the Islamic Center because she “heard these comments they are looking at making this a national Muslim center. It would make Muslims from all over the world and country come into Murfreesboro to go to meetings at the center.” This center, she said, will be a “threat to this country.”

She’s right. There is nothing more threatening to America than people having meetings. That is why the Constitution condemns the right of free assembly. Doesn’t it?

The scary thing is that Ms. Roberts doesn’t know this is true. She simply heard comments. Comments from people who hate Muslims and fear Islam. Ignorance is rampant in this town, and with it fear, and from that hate.

Tomorrow night our local mosque is holding an open house in an attempt to answer people’s questions and quell their fears. I doubt it will help, though I do plan to attend. Even if it rains.


Barry said...

I feel your pain, Rabbi. In your defense, and I'm sorry to bring this up, but it's hard for older people to get out to things like this.

I'm a tad older than you, and I have missed lots of events that were really important because the weather was bad, or I had to alphabetize my cassette tapes that day.

Of course, religious (in)tolerance is your field, so have a strong cup of tea and get out there!

Old Lady said...

That's why I liked the last pope. He tried to bring religions together. Everyone thinks they have the one true religion, no one seems to realize we all have the same God...

Karen said...

Yesterday I almost got hit in a cross-walk by an SUV with a "Have you been Saved?" bumper sticker. He gunned it to make sure he got in front of me even though I was half way through the cross-walk when he pulled up. Such a narrow minded view of "what God wants". When will we get it - God wants us to Love, to care about others, to realize we are all "us", not just some or those who believe, live or look like us. Christians are so busy looking at "the rules" they missed Jesus' point entirely. Just Love. I know it's hard sometimes - I'm having a hard time loving those that profess and perpetuate hate myself.

Claire said...

There was a dilapidated farm adjacent to our neighborhood, and a group of Muslims wanted to build a mosque there. It would have been close enough to our house that under Islamic tradition, we would have been living on holy ground.

Some neighbors were worked up about the project. Some had the felt the property shouldn't be developed at all. Four acres in town, just being undeveloped because you like having it there? Dream on.

Others said, OK, something should be done with the property, but it should be more houses. Not some big building with a big asphalt parking lot, with lots of traffic on holy days, parking spilling out in our little street. I can see their point, but zoning is such you can put a house of worship just about any where.

And then there were the people who would have been fine if it had been a church, but a mosque, no way.

What ended up happening is that the project was never built. The reason why was a little creek ran through the property. I thought it would have been cool to work with the existence of the stream, and have a water feature in the middle of the mosque complex (shades of the Alhambra!) but I guess it was too expensive or unworkable. Regulations regarding wet lands killed it.

They built the mosque some place else. A developer came in and built houses on the site, which came on the market just in time for the property market to crater. You can decide if that was God's justice, or not.

Karen said...

And I'm sorry, I should have said some Christians, it's certainly not all and probably not most. Sorry!

Rabbi Rami said...

Thanks for the comments. If I might add a few of my own: Barry, I always wondered when I could start using my age as an excuse. I will be 60 next year. Maybe I'll start a bit early. Old Lady, if you want to have your apple cart over-turned read "God is Not One" by Boston University religion professor, Stephen Prothero. I am using the book in my Comp. Religion class this fall. Karen, I agree God wants us to love one another. Except when he wants us to kill one another. The Bible/Koran/Gita have God saying both. I think God is bi-polar. And Claire- I love the idea of having a stream running through a chapel. Especially one devoted to meditation. My only concern is that I would have to get up to pee every five minutes. Which brings me back to Barry and old age....

kat said...

God is one---that is if a person believes in monotheism---then my God cannot be different than your God because then we have two Gods (yours and mine) instead of ONE!.--but how we understand/experience the Divine can be different because we are all created wonderfully different.

"Except when he wants us to kill one another."---I cannot comment on the other books---but God does not want us to kill each other in the Quran....self-defense is allowed and defensive-fighting for social justice, against oppression is allowed if a society has been attacked.
The Roman Catholic Church has also developed a doctrine of "just war"---see Catechism of the Catholic Church---CCC2307-2314.

here is something from the Tao te Ching---
Unevolved people are eager to act out of strength
But a person of Tao values peace and quiet
He knows that every being is born of the womb of Tao
This means that his enemies are his enemies second, his own brothers and sisters first.
Thus he resorts to weapons only in the direst necessity, and then uses them with utmost restraint..."

Karen said...

Rabbi Rami you're right. I shouldn't have said "God wants" because I don't know what god wants anymore than anyone else. I should have said what I feel deep in my soul is that all we have to do is love each other and see the wonder in each being. Easier said than done. Thanks for the correction.

Jeff said...

When a man reaches a certain age he gets confused between prostrate and prostate, between laying down and getting up to go.