Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Americans To Burn Koran

The GOP-fueled efforts to whip up hysteria over the “Ground Zero Mosque” (which any one who reads and cares to will find that it’s not at Ground Zero and it’s quite a bit more than a Mosque–it would be just as accurate to call it the “Battery Park Muslim Swimming Pool”) may be failing.  It was inspiring to read Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s brilliant remarks last week after the city decided not to capitulate to the cynical maneuver that tried to block it by declaring the existing structure a landmark, when it is simply old and of no architectural significance.  After tracing the history of religious restriction and toleration in NYC, Bloomberg reminded us that none of the first responders on 9-11, over 400 of which perished in that mass murder, stopped to ask the people they were trying to save: What God do you pray to?  But this morning I read that some adherents of a faith that claims to be about love, mercy, and forgiveness, a religion according to which even a former slave ship captain can be “saved” through its Lord’s “amazing grace,” have announced that they will commemorate 9-11 by ceremonially burning the Koran: http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpoi…  

Now, longstanding readers of the Moose know that I am both Jewish and a dual Israeli-American citizen.  Some of you also know, however, that I study Renaissance English literature, religion, and politics for an ironic semblance of a living.  The combination of these commitments has structured a long and deep engagement with the history of Christianity.  I know its darkest sides.  I also understand the degree to which we are all indebted to its contributions to intellectual, political and cultural history.  The power and pathos of its narratives, the visual and musical works of art it has inspired, the brilliance and creativity of its finest theologians, and the compassion and devotion of its finest activists are all undeniable.  Read Luke 19 and you will be moved by Jesus weeping over Jerusalem as he foretells its destruction.  Five minutes of gazing at Tintoretto’s frescoes at San Rocco in Venice will change how you see colors and read stories.  Listen to Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion, or to Mahalia Jackson, or Johnny Cash’s “My Mother’s Hymn Book” and you cannot mistake their power to console and uplift us.  Augustine invented the literary memoir in his Confessions, and few match its depth and profundity.  Our contemporary understandings of interiority and individual conscience are rooted in part in the writings of Martin Luther.  Christianity motivated the most dedicated abolitionists.  It motivates the amazing work done by Jesuits relieving poverty and supporting victims of disasters the world over.  But now, Dr. Terry Jones and his Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville Florida have decided to drag the name of Christianity back into the medieval bigotry that led Christians to burn the Talmud, and a fair number of my ancestors.  Remember what Heinrich Heine, a Jew who converted to Christianity but remained deeply engaged with Judaism taught: “Where they burn books, they will ultimately also burn people.”

This act is repellent.  It is offensive and constitutes a dangerous form of incitement.  I believe in 1st Amendment Rights to free speech.  I believe in religious freedom.  But those rights entail ethical obligations.  Government institutions cannot and should not be able to stop this.  But we must take this occasion as an imperative to use our own freedoms of expression to oppose this.  It’s a disgrace to America, liberal democracy, and an offense against Christianity.  I trust that clergy and politicians will condemn this vocally.  But we  must all commit ourselves to defeating Islamophobic hate mongers and fanatics.  It’s up to us.


  1. Strummerson

    I’ve been AWOL.  New baby daughter (and her adjusting siblings) and a dissertation that is about 3 years behind schedule have been keeping me busy.  Okay, I admit it, I also finally acquired my dream guitar and that takes up a lot of time.  Anyway, forgive my neglect.  I’ve been lurking.


  2. creamer

    To some degree I think they are more often than not a reflection of their community, rather than a reflection of Christ or leaders of society. I’m curious to see how consrvative politicians react, curious not optimistic.

    Personally I’m saddened by this kind of thing. Part of it is a direct result of some playing to hatred to advance their political agenda, part of it is a result of the snails pace of human evolution.

  3. Shaun Appleby

    Burning the Bible is exactly what the crazies think they are defending against with this.  How we can conflate our nation and culture with a work, however potent, of Jungian mythology and then agitate to send our citizenry to die for this imagined cause defeats me.

    Did someone say ‘those who burn books are one step away from burning people?’  Food for thought there.

  4. Rashaverak

    President Obama’s statement last evening at the White House about what Ms. Palin in the Neck calls the “9/11 Mosque.”

  5. But I have still be dragged into the “Ground Zero Mosque” debate.  A friend started a FB discussion I couldn’t stay away from.

    In the end these theists need to understand that they are rocking the boat that they are in.  Just as a Christian may not be able to discern or really care about the differences between a Shiite and a Sunni, so to folks like me the differences between Christians and Muslims and Jews are really not that profound.  All of this Abrahamic cult (yes, I said it) is a single thing, and arguing that “it’s not us, it’s that other group of us” carries no more real weight with me than a moderate Muslim saying the same thing to a fundie Christian does.

    “Christians” think they are pissed off at Muslims over this whole thing???  Get in line, buddies, and get in the line with all the other people who cause all of this strife.  It is you assholes fighting among yourselves that drags people like me, my family, and all the rest of us down with you.

    Asking theists to examine the beam in their own eye only works with thoughtful and reasonable theists – the majority – and precipitates out the fanatical dreck.  If you (and I speak to all theists here, even the ones I love) do not see your own complicity in all of this madness then you are the cause of it, and not one whit less whether you are part of the Christian or Muslim or Jewish sub-groups.

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