“There is growing Islamophobia in this country. How else would you describe the fact that mosques around the country are being attacked? We are Americans too. We are treated and talked about today as if Muslims are not Americans. We are Americans. We are doctors, we are investment bankers, we are taxi drivers, we are store keepers, we are lawyers. We are part of the fabric of America. And the way that America today treats its Muslims is being watched by over a billion Muslims worldwide. And the battleground today is not between Islam and the West, the battleground is between moderates of all faith traditions in all the countries of the world against the radicals of all faith traditions in all parts of the world.(emphasis added)
“…American Muslims are very happy and thrive in this country. One of the misperceptions that exists in the Muslim world which needs to be fixed is the perception that Muslims in America are living in very very bad circumstances. The fact is we are practicing. We fast, we pray. We are able to do that. Our laws protect us, our political system protects us and we enjoy those freedoms in this country. And the Muslim world needs to recognize that.”
Editor’s note: In case you are one who feels inclined to judge all of Christianity as Dove Outreach Ministries in Gainesville has judged all of Islam, meet my dear friend Lea and her spectacular friend Claire. Lea and Claire are participating tomorrow in what our summer dinner speaker Stephen Kiernan calls Authentic Patriotism. Authentic Patriotism often happens without a lot of fanfare, certainly without network news coverage, but make no mistake that it is there. I cannot imagine a better way to mark the 9th anniversary of the devastating events of September 11th and the higher angels of Americans in response. And as whatever happens in Gainesville tomorrow happens in Gainesville, think Lea and Claire. I will be. (Find Lea’s fabulous blog online HERE.)
oh yes, one floridianâ€™s plans for september 11th have gotten a lot of press coverage lately. and i am not going to add to that insanity by linking to any of it.
because in my never humble opinion, the problem with that â€œchristianâ€™sâ€ plans for september the 11th is that it is way too easy.
because he plans to burn.
burning is easy. isnâ€™t it? light a match. put it next to something flammable and VOILA, fire. really, we have been doing it for thousands of years. even the youngest boy scouts learn how to set a fire. then they learn what the results of that fire are… because something winds up in ashes. and if the wind catches it just right, lots more things than you ever intended wind up in ashes.
so what will i, also a â€œchristianâ€, be doing tomorrow? something harder than burning. i will be building. the same kindling that burns is also used to build. the same Bible that he reads tells me to use my faith to build.
you see our friends and neighbors, the tomans, have a daughter, claire (pictured above), with down syndrome. and claire rides to school with us everyday. she loves me in a way that far surpasses the way anyone other than Jesus has ever loved me. she thinks i am a rock star because i sing a song to her every morning with the day of the week in it. it isnâ€™t a really clever song and i donâ€™t sing it that well but she cheers for it so loudly that at times i feel like justin beiber must feel.
so tomorrow morning we walk in the buddy walk to build relationships with our neighbors. we walk to build a bridge of understanding, of community, of education, of support for those who know and love people with down syndrome. i walk because i want tomorrow to be a day of hope. a day when the sound of laughter is louder than the sound of burning timbers.
why build? it is harder. it requires getting up early on a saturday. of getting sweaty through working and walking and talking. it takes WAY more time than burning. and WAY more energy. and the results… well, not as quick as burning. not as certain.
how do i know?
well, i have burned way too many things in my life. i have taken the easy route and just burned things up with my words, my actions, my revenge, my selfishness, my need to be RIGHT and HEARD and do it MY WAY. i have seen the collateral damage. i have felt the flames and they have even turned and burned me and scarred me even when i thought i was doing something to make someone else hurt and feel the pain. i have smelled the smoke in my hair and in my clothes. i have singed my nostrils and burned off my eyebrows. i have been downright pyromaniacal. and it was easy. fast. certain. resolute.
oh yes, i know how to burn.
so on september 11th, i will choose to build. in such a small small way that i wonder if anyone will ever see any results from it. but i choose the joy of hard work. the joy of walking hand in hand with friends, family, and strangers. the building of one brick at a time. one log. one board. one nail. one window. one door.
do i write all this because i think i am â€œbetterâ€ than that other floridian. nope. just worried for him. worried that this might singe his eyebrows off before it is all said and done. worried because i know that pyromania is addictive and fire spreads.
perhaps i am a bit wiser. i have been shown a â€œbetter wayâ€. by someone who liked to build. because He is a Carpenter. you should see what he can do with two boards and some nails (yeah, that one might have been over the top). but He might just be able to tell us a thing or two about how to build…
Fire came one sunny September morning to America nine years ago tomorrow. It was bright and blinding and so unexpected that even these many years later we can barely look directly at it.
When radical Islamists chose to set fire to America, the consequences – human nature being what it is – were probably to some extent predetermined: There would be more fire.
Former Catholic nun Karen Armstrong writes in The Battle for God that extremism of one ilk exists because extremism of the other does. Extreme action on one side provokes an equal and opposite extreme reaction on the other. And so it goes, with many flavors of homegrown extremism having taken center stage since the 9/11 attack. Tomorrow’s installment of extremism, straight from central casting, was to be a ceremonial Quran burning. (At this writing it’s been suspended but it is not yet clear if “suspended” really means canceled in what has inexplicably become a Muslim/Christian he said/he said. You can’t make this stuff up.)
Outside of burning California hillsides, fighting fire with fire doesn’t really work. Most people with a stake is seeing a fire put out use water instead.
In the days after 9/11, in one of the innumerable searching conversations happening in the American family, my brother (a military man well acquainted with “fire”) imagined how he wanted America’s reaction to play out: We’d capture Bin Laden alive, then bring him back to New York City, get him a good lawyer and put him on trial. Then, in the darkest and least civilized corners of the world, that America would ensure such a man a fair trial in our abiding commitment to the rule of law would shine a light so bright that the forces in the world that build would irrevocably trump the forces that destroy.
My brother was describing water.
That conversation – and more generally the tragedy of 9/11 – were no small part the genesis of what would eventually become our Tallahassee Florida go at dousing the fire with water by building The Village Square.
But fire is flammable and demands attention and 50 members of a congregation a couple hours south of us has been getting international news coverage by pouring gasoline on it (by using water, The Village Square is lucky if we get covered in local briefs). Fire is hot, fire sells newspapers.
When asked to speak about The Village Square, I’ve been known to lament that we’d be a national mass movement by now if our events involved statements of outrageous fury instead of thoughtful moderation. It’s simply the elemental difference between fire and water. This week Terry Jones and his Gainesville church have proven my theory as even the Vatican weighed in on their intemperance.
Other efforts at extinguishing fire with water get equally short shrift compared to the fire starters, such as this group of national religious leaders who got a big yawn from the media as they tried to advance moderation in the face of the planned event in Gainesville.
America is – at her best – the perfect solution to fire, both at home and elsewhere in the world. Our founders were students of human nature and prescribed an effective system to balance extremism. It’s tragic when we can’t rise to the call of our birthright because we’re stuck in an equal and opposite reaction to the horrible extremism of that day nine years ago. We may not quite know it, but we are in a unique position to shine that light my brother described all around the world in multitudes of ways that dampen the fires. Maybe welcoming a mosque near ground zero is just such a moment when a country with a really Big Idea shines a really big light?
My daughter is a junior at the University of Florida. She says there is a rumor going around campus that the football game being played tomorrow in Gainesville (91,000 people in “The Swamp”) is the target of a bomb threat. News yesterday was that the FBI says there are credible retaliatory threats. And so it goes: Extremism begets extremism.
General Petraeus knows fire and water and equal and opposite reactions. He said of the plan to burn Qurans: â€œWeâ€™re concerned that the images from the burning of a Quran would be used in the same way that extremists used images from Abu Ghraib â€” that they would in a sense be indelible.”
Indelible is a good word for what people do with fire.
— Please note that we are waiting for a statement of support for The Village Square from the Vatican.
My brother and I just had a fun debate over which ways that we choose not to die. Everyone says shark bite. We went to the box jellyfish, piranha, anaconda (would suck being squeezed to death until you think about our taxes and well..) Then he said he doesn’t want to die as a result of â€œa soccer mom texting her friends or reading a tweet about what Kateâ€™s kids ate this morning while ramming her SUV into me and sending me into a 18 wheelerâ€¦â€
Yeah, nobody wants to be done in by stupidity. Dad used to say stupidity has killed more people than the plague. Death comes in many forms. How many people do you see as lifeless drones just walking and staring at some little machine? I took up P90X “Extreme Home Fitness” with the singular purpose of lowering a shoulder and taking these people out as I pass them since they can’t figure out what direction they want to walk as they talk, text, tweet, etcâ€¦ I REALLY dislike what I call â€œwalkie-talkiesâ€. People on cell phones just wandering around as you are trying to get somewhere. If you must let the world know how important you are, just stay in one place. Donâ€™t act like a drunk at an all night buffet.
The issue is bigger. When people are looking down at these devices they stop looking up and listening to what is going on around them. I was on one of those 5:45 am flights recently and saw people talking on their phones. WHO ARE THEY TALKING TO?! Why cant they just sit at the airport and get lost in their thought? When did their thoughts cease being their own?
Recently, I had dinner at a nice restaurant and saw two women texting at their table. Imagine, one probably tweeted about the restaurant, the other texted and said she would enjoy meeting up with her there, and when they arrived were so excited to catch up with each other and enjoy a nice dinner, they sat texting others (or weirder, maybe they were texting each other while sitting across from each other) Is there any surprise that so much conversation is superficial? Howâ€™s work? Big weekend planned? Who do you think is going to win? Short questions that involve short answers. Perfect for folks to enter on little letters on a phone.
People seek out common thought rather than listening to debate and figuring out in their gut where they are on an issue. Stop seeing what is going on around them because they are focused on the next update. Vote for people that have the power to affect our lives based on blogs and soundbites.
I had a strange dream a week or so ago, where I was getting off of a plane, hung up a call and threw my phone on the ground and stomped on it. Everyone on their phones looked up in silence and then one-by-one stood and applauded as they threw their phones down. Maybe I lack iron in my diet or wasnâ€™t held enough as a baby, or maybe I was just wishful thinking that that one act got people talking again. Face to face.
Itâ€™s time people start looking up again, using all 5 senses, step out of a bubble. It is a big beautiful world and at the rate we are burning CO2, it may not be like this forever. Gotta run, my 6 year old just texted me that itâ€™s my turn to bowl on the Wii.
Thanks for indulging me the rant.
— Andrew is married and a father of two daughters. Owner of Wilcox and Hackett, LLC a legal recruiting and client development consulting firm. A conservative who likes healthy debate. Enjoys reading, writing, working out, sports, and BBQ cooking (and clearly texting and tweeting).
“This afternoon I spoke to former President George W. Bush. It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset. Yet no one can doubt President Bush’s support for our troops or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I said, there were patriots who supported this war and patriots who opposed it. All of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and servicewomen and our hopes for Iraq’s future.”
“The greatness of our democracy is grounded in our ability to move beyond our differences, to learn from our experience as we confront the many challenges ahead.”
And as night follows day… Commentary from the left since the address were angry Obama would give Bush anything given what they see as the catastrophic nature of the decision to invade Iraq and the falsehoods that led to it. And from the right they accused him of having no class because he didn’t outright credit Bush for the surge (on Limbaugh the guest host said it was a “small speech by a small man”).
In this environment, it’s hard to know how anyone can lead us.
The news I had been subconsciously dreading since a couple months ago when internet start-up FloridaThinks went on summer hiatus arrived in my inbox at 3:07 am, as many other of its editions had over the last seven months. It read “FloridaThinks was a success in all areas except revenues. But financial reality demands that we cease publication.” Read the whole piece HERE.
From the beginning I saw their idea as very much in keeping with the spirit of The Village Square and was rooting them on.
As I was reading over the last edition of FloridaThinks, I heard Jonathan Alter say on TV “one of the big stories of our politics is the wacky has moved from the fringe to the center of our politics.” Had John and his cohorts launched an angry online screed, maybe they might have made a go of it financially. Fury is good for the bottom line these days, the market for mainlined ideological heroine is strong and growing. But offering up citizenship, doing the hard work of reading and understanding, it’s like serving up a plate of broccoli and apparently we’re not eating our vegetables these days. Of course we all know that over time broccoli makes you strong and smart and healthy and heroine kills you but we’re in no mood to be reminded.
So cheers to John Koenig and FloridaThinks for giving us the vegetables Florida needs to grow strong for seven months, and doing it in style.
And while it is sadly too late to change their financial future, maybe today’s the day to do something about someone else trying hard to get us the information we need to make good decisions about our future, either locally or at a state or national level. It can be as simple as restoring your subscription to your local paper.
This excellent article is by management consultant Margaret Seidler writing in Charleston Regional Business Journal. She writes about the need to see conflict as the management of polarity two necessary opposites:
What I know from my professional work in managing complexity and conflict in organizations is that when people get polarized on big, on-going issues, eventually all involved will suffer. It might not be today or tomorrow, but I can predict with great certainty that it will happen.
[Look] at the stark consequences for a society whose citizens get polarized to the point of deadlock. Here we get winners and losers; lose sight of the big picture; stop listening to the other “side”; get defensive; limit possibilities for solutions because we are so focused on being “right”; bring about anger, resentment – even hatred. Just bear witness to the threats that Congress has received in the wake of the passage of health care reform legislation.
Seidler goes on to confirm a Village Square-ism: It’s about valuing the contributions opposing ideas have to solving problems and keeping those opposing forces alive and bumping up against each other. Or as founder James Madison put it “the constant clashing of opinion.”
With these consequences in mind, we explored the phenomenon of polarity (interdependent pairs that need each other over time). To demonstrate that we all know and experience polarity, I used the example of one pair we manage every day: inhale and exhale. It is easy to recognize the each part of this polarity pair gives us something vital and needed. And although each is very different, we must get the best of both in order to live, not die. This polarity is readily understandable because the need to gain the best from each becomes apparent in a matter of seconds.
Today on the radio Glenn Beck said that Americans are about to lose their religious freedom. He was actively rallying the forces to prevent it. Perhaps someone who agrees with his sentiment could help those of us who say “huh?”
There is a valid argument that legal secularism has overreached in working toward a “naked public square” (a term used by Christian writer Os Guinness, theologian John Neuhaus although I’m not clear of its genesis), removing faith from our public spaces, rather than aiming for a public square where all faiths – and no faith at all – are warmly welcomed into a rich conversation. The second option allows for the “constant clashing of opinion” that our Founders envisioned as a check on excess in the majority.
But the suggestion that there are vast and sustained efforts to subvert Christians’ religious freedom doesn’t seem to hold up. A drive through town on a Sunday morning paints a vivid picture of religious diversity and freedom, alive and well in America.
Overreaction on one “side” of an argument inevitably leads to an equal and opposite overreaction. Greater than the risk that Christians, though they are the vast majority of us, will lose their religious liberty is the risk that this sort of white hot rhetoric overshoots the mark enough that it will actually create what it fears. If you’re of a minority religious view, a wall of angry Christians coming at you (especially if you are not aware of any action against them) does little to make your religious liberty feel secure. Then you, in turn, feel the need to defend what you perceive as an assault. And so it goes, on and on in likely escalation if we don’t mind the exaggerations that come out of our mouths.
And this kind of “die on the hill” rhetoric also does what C.S. Lewis refers to as making “black blacker” as it creates an aggressive, powerful and villainous foe out of a largely disorganized minority of people. Read Lewis HERE.
While we’re on this topic, take a look at our We the Wiki Faith & Politics space. Feel free to add a topic and toss in what you think is important. Opposing views, when expressed with civility, are warmly welcome.
“There are a lot of people who’ve said things I don’t agree with. But if I want to say what I believe, I’ve got to let you say what you believe, even if I violently disagree with it and even if I find it despicable.” NYC Michael Bloomberg on Islamic Community Center in Lower Manhattan, last week on The Daily Show
Find the beginnings of a We the Wiki page on this debate HERE. Log in and add your information to the post.