“Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House, is the most recent prominent opponent to cast this debate in a way that demonizes all Muslims and exploits fear to divide Americans,” the pro-mosque religionists angrily complained. Noting that Gingrich is a Roman Catholic, they also swiped at another Religious Left bête noire, Sarah Palin, who, the statement darkly observed, is “an evangelical Christian who frequently references her faith as an inspiration for her political beliefs.” Finally, the pro-mosque religionists targeted Fox News for spewing forth a “steady stream of irresponsible commentary and biased coverage that reduces what should be a civil debate into starkly combative terms.” Evidently, calling mosque skeptics bigots and xenophobes is not “combative.”
The Religious Left mosque apologists tut-tutted about a “a small minority of violent extremists manipulates religious language for political gain and falsely claims to represent one of the world’s great religions.” But groups like the NCC almost never say anything directly critical of radical Islamists except when absolutely politically obliged. “Extreme” Christians who warn against Islamist influence are typically more distressing to most of the Religious Left than most Islamists. They lamented the “sinful corruption of religion across faith traditions throughout history,” which of course fits with the Religious Left view that radical Islam is not a unique threat. Of greater concern to this crowd are the “ugly stereotypes about Islam” that demean the “vast majority of Muslims committed to peace.”
This NCC-led coalition reassuringly described the Cordoba House Islamic Center that will be “open to all Americans that will provide Islamic, interfaith and secular programs” in support of “integration, tolerance of difference and community cohesion through arts and culture.” Highly impressed with these goals, the pro-mosque religionists excitedly pronounced: “These are exactly the kind of efforts that foster dialogue, break down barriers and begin to build a world where religiously inspired violent extremism is less likely.” No doubt. In contrast with the lovefest envisioned at the new mosque, Gingrich and Palin must stop “issuing inflammatory statements” and desist from “fear-mongering and hateful rhetoric.”
Lest anyone miss the point, NCC President Peg Chemberlin, a Moravian minister from Minnesota, apparently issued her own enhancing statement, making the umpteenth banal comparison of radical Islamists no more speaking for Islam than does Timothy McVeigh speak for Christians. Of course, unlike the 9-11 Islamists, the largely agnostic McVeigh never professed any religious purposes behind his terrorism. But never mind, the NCC official needed some violent example of uncontrolled Christianity, and McVeigh was as close as she could reach evidently.
Finding prominent Christians who would sign this blast in defense of the Ground Zero mosque and against Gingrich and Palin apparently was also a reach. Besides Chemberln and the NCC’s General Secretary Michael Kinnamon, the Christian signators are mostly academics or left-wing Catholic groups like Pax Christi and the Maryknollers. J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami is the most prominent Jewish signer. Of course, the Muslim Public Affairs Council and Islamic Society of North America gladly signed. But why none of the usual suspects from among the NCC’s constituency, like the United Methodists or Episcopalians? Could even they be wary of endorsing what is opposed by groups like the Anti-Defamation League, which has said: “Building an Islamic center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain – unnecessarily – and that is not right.”
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