Archive for December 8th, 2006|Daily archive page

Fleeing Religious Persecution

We are about half way between Thanksgiving and Christmas and I was talking to a German friend about the meaning of the two holidays to Americans. He balked a little when I called those first settlers pilgrims because the traditional holy lands were in a diametrically opposite direction.

But you remeber the Pilgrims – those folks who left England for Holland and continued on to the North American continent because their beliefs were so extreme no one in old Europe wanted them? I mentioned to my friend the indoctrination I got in school that the reason behind the move was religious persecution and that religious freedom is one of the important pillars of American society. We both got a good laugh at that.

I present to you the case of talk radio host Jerry Klein who conducted a small experiment at the end of November.

When radio host Jerry Klein suggested that all Muslims in the United States should be identified with a crescent-shape tattoo or a distinctive arm band, the phone lines jammed instantly.

The first caller to the station in Washington said that Klein must be “off his rocker.” The second congratulated him and added: “Not only do you tattoo them in the middle of their forehead but you ship them out of this country … they are here to kill us.”

Another said that tattoos, armbands and other identifying markers such as crescent marks on driver’s licenses, passports and birth certificates did not go far enough. “What good is identifying them?” he asked. “You have to set up encampments like during World War Two with the Japanese and Germans.”

The article goes on to mention that a large number of callers were shocked at the idea. Indeed, I suspect most of the more moderate callers never made it on the air because moderate opinions don’t make good entertainment. You don’t keep listening. Thus the kooks and nut cases fill the ether with bile.

But is this kind of thing really only confined to radio? In this season of brotherly love, shouldn’t the focus be on getting along and not hate and exclusion? A further example in Houston says no. According to MSNBC (hat tip: Liz Smith/Blondsense), the erection of a Mosque and an Islamic day center in a Houston suburb has residents up in arms.

A plan to build a mosque in this Houston suburb has triggered a neighborhood dispute, with community members warning the place will become a terrorist hotbed and one man threatening to hold pig races on Fridays just to offend the Muslims.

Many neighborhood residents claim they have nothing against Muslims and are more concerned about property values, drainage and traffic.

But one resident has set up an anti-Islamic Web site with an odometer-like counter that keeps track of terrorist attacks since Sept. 11. A committee has formed to buy another property and offer to trade it for the Muslims’ land. And next-door neighbor Craig Baker has threatened to race pigs on the edge of the property on the Muslim holy day. Muslims consider pigs unclean and do not eat pork.

So. Maybe we don’t lock them up into camps for their religion. But we also don’t let them build any places of worship. They are free to practice their religion, just not in our backyard. I wonder if the same irritations would have arisen if it had been a new megachurch and not a mosque. Somehow I don’t think so.

Germany also has special day in November. It is not Thanksgiving; it is a day of remembrance. It takes place on November 9 and is, in a way, dedicated to religious freedom. It is dedicated to those who lost their lives on a night in 1938 – Reichskristallnacht – the night the Nazi’s burned over 1500 synagogues.

Maybe we don’t burn down the mosques yet, but tolerance and religious freedom are something else. They lead to different stories; not to stories about pig races and not to stories about camps.

They lead to stories where people don’t have to think about fleeing religious persecution.

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Fallen for the Greater Glory of God(s) and Country

This is probably going to get the Christian right rather ruffled. According to the Washington Post (Hat Tip: Wonkette), the federal government has finally accepted witchcraft into the list of accepted religions for soldiers. At least for those who are beyond disciplinary action.

The widow of a soldier killed in Afghanistan saw a Wiccan symbol placed on a memorial plaque for her husband Saturday, after fighting the federal government for more than a year over the emblem.

Roberta Stewart, widow of Sgt. Patrick Stewart, and Wiccan leaders said it was the first government-issued memorial plaque with a Wiccan pentacle, a five-pointed star enclosed in a circle.

More than 50 friends and family dedicated the plaque at Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Fernley, Nev., about 45 miles east of Reno.

They praised Gov. Kenny Guinn (R) for his role in getting the Nevada Office of Veterans Services to issue the plaque in September. The agency cited its jurisdiction over the state veterans’ cemetery.

For those that don’t follow this that closely, Wicca is today’s ‘white witchcraft.’ Just making my life easier, I’ll just quote the Wiki article.

Wicca as a religion is primarily concerned with the priestess or priest’s relationship to the Goddess and God. The Lady and Lord (as they are often called) are seen as primal cosmic beings, the source of limitless power, yet they are also familiar figures who comfort and nurture their children, and often challenge or even reprimand them.

According to Gerald Gardner the gods of Wicca are ancient gods of the British Isles: a Horned God of hunting, death and magic who rules over an after-world paradise, and a goddess, the Great Mother (who is simultaneously the Eternal Virgin and the Primordial Enchantress), who gives regeneration and rebirth to souls of the dead and love to the living. Gardner explains that these are the tribal gods of the witches, just as the Egyptians had their tribal gods Isis and Osiris and the Jews had Elohim; he also states that a being higher than any of these tribal gods is recognised by the witches as Prime Mover, but remains unknowable, and is of little concern to them.

I feel really schizophrenic on this. (Maybe I’ve been cursed?)

On the one hand I support this. Wiccan was Sgt. Stewart’s belief or at least he professed to follow it. Even though he is beyond caring, his widow, family and friends seem comforted by this. That’s a good thing. At the same time, it shows that the Christian crusaders haven’t completely taken over the entire Pentagon. Thus this soldier gets a pentacle, which is made up of 5 triangles placed on the edges of a pentagon, (Hmmm. Coincidence? I think not!) on his grave.

On the other hand, a ‘new age’ belief, claiming some kind of historical background to a past that never existed, gets my dandruff up. Look. The European witch hunts (of which 25% of the victims were men) had little or nothing to do with magic. They were often  carried out for economic reasons and victims included both social outcasts and local political leaders. Dispite what modern witches want you to believe they had no basis in some kind of worship.

The ‘ancient gods of the British Isles’ are a product of modern fantasies. You might as well worship Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fairies – they are just as real. (You do? Never mind.) So while all you Wiccans are out having fun, hugging trees and flinging crystals about, the rest of us will be saving our money for the next iteration of iPods and forming a frenzied following of Paris Hilton. Go ahead, curse me for it. I dare you.

But one thing you won’t have to do – curse the Christian crusaders. As soon as this gets around, I’m sure they’ll have a collective heart attack.