The Mosque—A Defining Moment
As a Christian, I believe in redemption. As an American, I believe in religious liberty. Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island said, "Faith by its very nature must be a free act." Though a Baptist and strong in his faith, he did not exclude people from Rhode Island because of their religion or even no religion. He said that government should be concerned about law and order, not religious belief. It was foundational for our religious liberty and should be an example for us today.
The label does not determine what something (or somebody) is. Many horrible things have been done in the name of religion--would I want to be held accountable for what some, who have the label of "Christian", have done? Not all people who say they are "Christian" are peacemakers and follow the teachings of Jesus: "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven . . .Blessed are the peacemakers." (Matthew 5)
Likewise not all Muslims are terrorists and it is unfair and un-American and a betrayal of our values to make them accountable or exclude them because of what some Muslims have done--it is insensitive in the extreme.
Muslims were also killed on 9/11. Listen to your heart; have some empathy. Think of how some of them must feel. I don't want them to think this is Christianity. Do we want to be known as a culture of vengeance? Or have the barbaric belief in collective guilt and collective punishment? What if we believed in redemption? Isn't that foundational to what Christians believe along with forgiveness, grace and mercy? “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” (John 13) Jesus said, "By this shall all people know you are my disciples if you have love one for another." By this qualification, how many disciples does Jesus have? To allow this cultural center and mosque does not mean compromising what we believe or a blurring of the significant differences between our religions. To forbid it compromises our American values. I'm grateful for the speeches of both the Mayor of New York and the President of the United States--neither of which need retract anything. As a matter of principle, that mosque cannot be relocated out of fear. No one need move to the middle of the bus.
Clearly there are those who want to stir up faith based opposition for their political opponents. Among those against the New York mosque are the very vocal Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin. However, in opposition to this view, President Obama reminds us at a Whitehouse speech for Ramadan: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/08/13/remarks-president-iftar-dinner-0 “This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome to this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are. The writ of the Founders must endure.”
Matters of religious liberty should have been settled long ago—in fact, they were.
And Newt Gingrich, you’re trying to take this away from us—and as a potential political candidate? Your efforts would be better served and the cause of peace by helping the children and people of Pakistan’s flood. instead of forcing our focus on forbidding mosques.
Despite abundant evidence to the contrary, (For example, PBS, October 10, 2008, Religion and Ethics: What the Candidates Believe, "All four candidates describe themselves as Christian. . .Barak Obama has been the most outspoken about matters of faith. . ."I believe that Jesus Christ died for my sins and that I am redeemed through him. That is a source of strength and sustenance on a daily basis. I know that I don't walk alone.. ." .http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/episoes/october-10-2008-campaign-what-the-candidates-believe/885/ ) there are voices that wish to portray the President as “secular” or Muslim. It is said that one out of five Americans wrongly believe this. And now the Iftar speech is eagerly given as evidence to perpetuate this claim. Mr. Gingrich helps fuel this confusion. Take his book title: Stop the Secular, Socialist Obama Machine. What needs to be stopped is how Mr. Gingrich invents things. A very provable invention is that Mr. Gingrich, promoting his writer, Vince Halley, accused the President of” “editing Jesus out of Easter.”
From this accusation came at least three googled pages of outrage against the President—and who knows how much on talk radio and TV. Talk about a machine, Mr. Gingrich, your polarizing, hostility machine needs to be stopped and NOW! And we're to consider you an example of spirituality? Jesus speaks of "the wheat and the tares" growing together. It seems the tares often get the microphone. This is unacceptable. Truth and love shall arise and come forth and their voices shall swallow up and scatter that which is not.
Yes, Sarah, there is a death panel. "Death and Life are in the power of the tongue" (Proverbs 18:21) Your death panel statement was like an avalanche which brought unreasonable anger against our President and our government. People couldn't even talk in the town meetings. We have to listen to one another. Sarah, people who trust in you--who like your sparkling vivaciousness--believe you. For good debate and solutions, it is important that the truth be known and you are the person who has the stage to tell it. Do you agree? Especially when you know many are listening and some are ready to follow your example, it is totally irresponsible to falsely accuse the President of something "downright evil." This is abusive power of your freedom of speech and democracy can't work this way. Before such a drastic statement is made--before one pours kerosene on differences, there is a need to double check and get facts straight. I cannot express myself too strongly. Extreme harm has been done. and I feel you need to apologize to the President and to the American people and publicly explain since you so publicly accused.
“Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely. . .” Luke 3:14
Your "Death Panels" lie was given the Lie of the Year award by St. Petersburg Times, home of The Politifact, which was awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in Journalism. However, unfortunately, some people don't know it was a lie. (For fuller explanation see: http://shiningriver-sheilah.blogspot.com/2010/07/dear-sarah-to-begin-these-words-from.html ) Talk about Mama Grizzles, I'm enlisting. It certainly is true that lies circle the globe while truth is just getting its boots on.
Getting our boots on, President Obama gave two Easter messages—neither of which he “edited” Jesus out. (In one he did not quote everything another speaker said.) Instead Mr. Gingrich is the one doing the editing. This is a serious accusation clearly designed to stir up the people. Take Jesus and the resurrection out of Easter which is most precious to Christians? Please listen to the President’s Easter Prayer Breakfast Message –he speaks of redemption. I have listened to it ten times and took it to church for others to listen to: We need redemption. Who dares judge the President “secular”?
“But the King (the President) shall rejoice in God. . .but the mouth of them that speak lies shall be stopped.” (Psalm 63:11)
At the prayer breakfast the President said of Jesus, “We are awed by the grace He showed even to those who would have killed Him. We are thankful for the sacrifice He gave for the sins of humanity. And we glory in the promise of redemption in the resurrection.”
I am awed by the grace of the President. In all my years—I have three children and seven grandchildren so I am not young—I have never known anyone to be criticized so unfairly who so little deserves it. He is not perfect, I do not agree with all policies, but he “is trying hard,” as he said, “and wants the best for our country.” Who are the perfect ones to throw stones? If you don’t like the polices, I’m sure he could do better without all this edit-Jesus-out-of-Easter kind of criticism. And who knows—with all this commotion—what some of the policies really are? If he has made unwise decisions and you've been fault finding and seeing what you can dig up and take out of context, then you're part of the problem. Do you make good decisions when you are being constantly criticized and lies are being thrown about? I have never before realized how much our collective consciousness limits the options and decisions of those in Washington. We are to pray for our leaders. As a friend said, “The Bible says to pray without ceasing. Where does it say to criticize without ceasing?” What if we got the President some say we have? There needs to be some gratitude. We need to nourish and uplift our young President. What kind of hearts do we have? I feel like crying. To combat all this negative energy, I’m going to praise the President:
for his love of country and people,
for his knowledge and intelligence--
that he has diligently studied our history, our founders, and our Constitution,
that he is appreciative of our diversity of cultures,
that he stays calm under pressure, (In this culture, this is BIG one. ("He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city." Proverbs 16:32)
that he is a listener--that he wants to hear and consider opposing views and that he wants to be fair,
for his wisdom and speaking ability,
that he is forgiving and not vengeful, for his generous spirit,
that he knows, as he has expressed, the importance of humility,
for his sense of humor.
I'm thankful for how noble he is and that we can be proud of him when he travels to other countries and gives speeches.
I'm thankful for his dignity.
I'm thankful for his family--for Michelle and his girls to whom he is a good husband and father.
I'm thankful that he is a man of faith,
A man named Bill Derksen, apparently from another country, in responding to PBS analysis expressed , “. . .it is increasingly clear that journalists absolutely MUST criticize a president at all cost to maintain ‘credibility’. My perception of your president is that he is one of the greatest leaders of all time, appreciated in almost all other countries, and perhaps, the most under appreciated, under supported president in your own country. . . "
And now the climate of our country has escalated in controversy over the dream project of another leader, Imam Feisal Rauf. Who is he? I had never heard of him until a few weeks ago. A biographical sketch is given in Complicated Balancing Act For Imam in Mosque Furor, New York Times, August 22, 2010 When giving a speech in Cairo in February, the imam said, "Muslims need to understand and soothe Americans who fear them. They should be conciliatory, not judgmental, toward the West and Israel." He was asked, "Aren't you being financed by the United States?" "I'm not an agent from any government," he said, "I'm a peacemaker." . . . Akbar Ahmed, professor of Islamic studies says, "He hurtles in, to the dead-center eye of the storm. . .expecting it to be like at his mosque--we all love each other, we all think happy thoughts. . .so this mild-mannered guy is in the eye of a storm for which he's not suited at all."
I disagree. He is well suited. In the eye of the storm is silence, peace. This is especially needed in this chaos. I'm grateful. We need this calm. We've enough fanatical voices and the last thing we need is more hothead leaders. I'm grateful that our President keeps his cool--he's an example for us--for me. But even for this, he is criticized. Consider:
"He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city." (Proverbs 16:32)
"An ungodly man diggeth up evil: and in his lips there is as a burning fire." (Proverbs 16:27)
Perhaps you, like me, have found that often you have more rapport with those under another label than with those supposedly under your own label. Lesson: Forget labels. Remember love. Sojourners has a civility pledge. The Coffee Party has a civility pledge. Americans are longing for civility We are tired of this "endless spewing" of which the oil spill was a metaphor.
In Obama and the Chaos Perception, New York Times, June 6, 2010, Matt. Bai states that since President Obama is a gifted writer, he will “understand the power of a good metaphor. . .the poetic significance of that cloud of oil. . . spewing endlessly . . .the accumulating cloud. . .”
Yes, the accumulating cloud .
As has been said in many ways by poets, mystics, and theologians, both ancient and modern: The physical is a shadow of the reality in the spirit. The president should appreciate the poetic significance? I disagree with the author's metaphor. What about we as a people appreciating the poetic significance?
What accumulating cloud has been spewing endlessly? Criticism, the distortion of truth, jumping to judgment. The birthers saying the President was born in Ghana and so is disqualified to be president, Glenn Beck Rush Limbaugh and other T.V. and radio hosts leading a mentality comparing the President to Hitler, Stalin, and calling him a communist or a Nazi. Ann Coulter referring to the President as "B. Hussein Obama" in a derogatory way--his middle name should be an asset to connecting with Muslims. He is criticized even for giving a speech to the school children about working hard and staying in school--some advised boycotting that school day. We're supposed to turn liabilities into assets--not assets into liabilities. What a role model and inspiration for our black youth--all of our youth. The fact that he is both black and white should be another asset. Fortunately, others, including Laura Bush, praised him and defended his back-to-school speech, but damage was certainly done. Oh, why can't we pull together and be proud of our President, The First Lady and the children. There's Michelle, she looks like so much fun--the smile on her face, a lady of style and I love her thinking up a vegetable garden for the Whitehouse. I am positive there is nothing we can't do if we stop this negativity and help one another--Listen to your heart and do your part!
There is no greater threat to our democracy than this endless spewing. This accumulating cloud hangs now over ground zero.
When my children were young and quarreling, I sometimes put them on "silence." Like unruly children, there are those who need to be put on silence--Newt Gingrich, you’re on silence, as well as Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, Keith Halloran, others—on the left as well as the right—put your name in there--Actually, we all need to do this--have moments of silence. Go for a walk in the woods, pray, meditate, let the Spirit speak to you--through the birds, the rippling of the water, the whispering of the leaves. Get away from The Maddening Crowd, have a Walden moment, get a John Muir complex--most of all walk with the Master and sit, as Mary, at His feet. He is the Prince of Peace. . "I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses. . ."
This is the best way to affect what happens in Washington, our country, our world. http://shiningriver-sheilah.blogspot.com/2009/10/if-your-enemy-hunger_03.html
Read a chapter out of Proverbs everyday. There are 31 chapters so read whatever day it is and then start over. Wisdom needs to arise and craziness needs to fall. “Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets.” (Proverbs 1:20) We need to build up our reservoir of wisdom. Actually I believe it’s out there, but outrageous voices have been competing and almost drowning it out. America has all the wisdom, information, understanding, gifts, talents and abilities to do everything in this country that needs doing and answer every problem that needs solving. We have so many wonderful, kind-hearted, generous people, but it’s hard to hear them. And with these political campaigns-with millions of dollars being spent –actually much to finance this spewing--words that should not be said. Think of, not only, the money, but the time spent on elections. How can we get anything done? Did you see the pictures of the children in the flooding of Pakistan? Mothers giving birth and no milk?. It tears at my heart. What if that were my two-year-old grandson, Noah? What if this campaign money was sent to Pakistan? I pray we have politicians who say, “I’m getting off this train.” I’m going to take a walk in the woods. I’m going to trust and have the backing of the “One Who inhabits eternity”.
We need to know our seasons—when to speak and when to be silent. When to take center stage and when to retreat backstage. Too many people have been in the spotlight too long who should be going to the back side of the desert.
I need the silence and have been as though in labor going almost daily to Van Cortlandt Urban Forest near me. Today’s verses:
“Go not forth hastily to strive, lest thou know not what to do in the end thereof, when thy neighbour hath put thee to shame. . . A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.” (Proverbs 25)
This is really a teaching opportunity and defining moment for us as Americans. Who are we and what do we believe? What positions do we take and why? Other countries are watching. I am embarrassed over these protestors. . Some Arab countries do not allow churches. Is this an example for us, or are we the example? I pray that many will rethink this matter and follow the leadership of our President and come to wisdom and understanding regarding it and let it be an opening for healing, beauty and restoration--and thus the sacrifice of those who died there and since then be memorialized, the ground hallowed.
"What better could be done with an enemy than to make him a friend, and especially to make him a friend of God. . .It enables you to see unlimited possibilities in everyone and even in the most tragic of situations"—J. Rufus Moseley
I am a Baptist minister's widow
Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners writes in his article, Who Wins When the U.S. Restricts Religious Freedom? "When Muslim leaders step up to lead an initiative to reduce tensions and promote respect and understanding, do we first judge those leaders by the actions of terrorists. . .: . Feisal Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan are friends of mine, and I can testify that they are indeed peacemakers."
On NPR, this morning, August 25, 2010 I was directed to Iman Rauf’s words on 60 minutes: Below are some quotes—not all of which were referred to on NPR, Brian Leher:
Invoking Pearl’s final words before his beheading, Rauf declared: “If to be a Jew means to say with all one's heart, mind and soul, ‘Sh’ma Yisrael Adonai Elohenu Adonai Ehad -- hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One,’ not only today I am a Jew, I have always been one.”"
The critics come armed with their own set of quotes: Shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks, the imam told “60 Minutes” that “I wouldn't say that the United States deserved what happened; but the United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.” In a radio interview in June with WABC’s Aaron Klein, Rauf described himself as a “supporter of Israel,” but declined to label Hamas as a terrorist group, saying, “I do not want to be placed nor will I accept a position where I am the target of one side or another.” And, this week, his detractors are trumpeting a 2005 speech in Adelaide, Australia, in which he cited the impact of U.S.-led sanctions on Iraq and asserted that “we tend to forget, in the West, that the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than Al Qaeda has on its hands of innocent non-Muslims.”
The quote discussed on NPR and said by some to be under attack was:
“I wouldn't say that the United States deserved what happened; but the United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.”
My friends, that sounds like the word of the Lord. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice and another they will not follow.” “If any speak, let her (let him) speak as the oracles of God” (I Peter) We can hear the voice of Jesus through the words of another. Are there those who object to the Imam statement? We are a perfect nation and have nothing for which to repent? I think not. When I heard the President’s speech in Cairo, I heard greatness—no wonder the people of Norway were so affected. Those voices who criticize the President’s apologies on our behalf as a nation definitely need to take a walk in the woods. It needs to become a cliché—have you walked in the woods? Before you speak or write a book—have you taken a walk in the woods? I need the silence—I ask myself, have I gone to Van Cortlandt Park, so to speak—have I spent time in the quiet place, the Secret Place?
We do not condone violence for any reason. For we know “that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. . .for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers of darkness and spiritual wickedness in high places.”
However, we reflect upon 9/11 and ask the Spirit to show us. How did it happen? What door was left open? What shall we do differently? What shall we do for our safety and the safety of our children? We need to see behind the scenes. We cannot listen to those who grab statements—the twisters, causing verbal hurricanes and tornadoes. We are ready to repent and ask forgiveness. Thank God for a President who knows this
A quote from Audacity of Hope, by President Obama:
“No, what’s troubling is the gap between the magnitude of our challenges and the smallness of our politics—the ease with which we are distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our seeming inability to build a working consensus to tackle any big problem. . . 22
The answer is still:
“If my people, who are called by my name shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” II Chronicles 7:14
Answering: How did 9/ll affect you?
SECURITY IS IN THE SECRET PLACE
I live in Riverdale in the Bronx, less than one hour by subway from the World Trade Center. The morning of 9/ll I went to vote. I half heard some ladies talking something about, “Isn’t it terrible? The World Trade Center. . .” But my mind wasn’t focused on this conversation. I was thinking of my new grandson, Jonathan, born just three days earlier on the eighth.
As soon as I got home, I called my daughter in Tallahassee, Florida, to see how they were doing.
“Mom!” she exclaimed, “We’ve been trying to call you but couldn’t get through! The World Trade Center. . . .”
It was she who told me. I flipped on the TV as she spoke. However, only one channel was broadcasting because of what had been done to the towers. Finding that one, I, like most Americans, watched all day.
In my first reactions, I wondered, what other things were going to be blown up. Should I get out of New York City? And if so, what should I take with me? But where would be a safe place to go?
However, as days passed and I heard of military plans, increasing security at the airports, etc., I instinctively knew that security did not rely in these measures. Physically, no matter how much money was spent, there was no way that one could foreknow where to put policemen, scanners, and the military for certain safety. There could only be one antidote for fear—Security is in the Secret Place. Victory is only possible through weapons of the Spirit—love, joy peace, prayer, praise, faith, food, clothing, shelter, etc. If ever there was opportunity to learn this, it is now.
“911,” people said, “The emergency number.” However, God has a 911 number—Psalm 91:1: “He that dwelleth in the Secret Place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” This Psalm became an anchor for me: “Thou shalt not be afraid of the terror. . .He shall give His angels charge over thee. . .” I determined to be motivated by love and develop my inner listening powers.
From Return to the Garden in Somewhere on the Edge of Dreaming
“O divine Redeemer. . .Night gathers around my soul. . .Hear my cry. . .Come to me. . .Haste to help. . . In thy mercy, hear my cry. . .”
It has been my experience that when I cry, He comes. “unto them who look for Him shall He appear.” When I am in despair and think I will never be happy again, ”Wait upon the Lord and He shall strengthen your heart.”
How many times have I been rescued? I can’t count them. It may be in the form of an encouraging word, a phone call, a line from a book, a verse that leaps out at me or. . . a garden. (“God speaks in the guise of everything that happens,” Martin Buber said.) “Amazing friends have been God’s arms to hold and comfort me.” I may be walking in nature, washing the dishes, taking a bath, or riding on the subway. Within my heart I hear a word. And I know I am not alone. I am loved. All is not lost.
And so I say, whatever the situation, “With divine help, I’m getting right back up and I’m going to walk in beauty. I will be steadfast in the steadfast love of God. I forgive and I am forgiven. ‘No weapon formed against me will prosper. . . I dwell in the Secret Place of the Most High.’”
“Faith is the evidence of things not seen.” It takes time for faith to be perfected. Exercising the faith we do have, more and more we accept the mystical answers. Spirit beings temporarily in this temple, we learn not to “judge by appearances” but look beyond what our physical eyes and ears see and hear. In the energy of the flesh, we don’t try to change externals to end conflict. We seek the whole picture and root causes. We ask for the wisdom we lack.
Seeing “Him, who is invisible,” we walk and talk with Him in the Garden as a friend. We are at peace. “. . .in quietness and confidence is our strength.” He is the One who says to the storm, “Peace be still.”
Return to New York City? Return to the Garden.
Shining River, 4568 Manhattan College Parkway #5G, Riverdale, NY 10471,