Sunday, August 15, 2010

Thoughts on the Ground Zero Mosque

I rarely get my thoughts wound up over political issues. I've noticed that most issues are either a flash lightening, hitting hard and fast but then gone, or they linger on and on like a bad smell in an old house. I generally stay away to maintain focus on what is mine to do and the impact I have on those directly around me. But like most Americans, I can't simply look away and allow the affects of 9-11 to tumble off my back.

In recent weeks there has been a large debate going on about the building of a mosque near Ground Zero. I have read that the likes of Newt Gingrich say that such a thing would be like hanging Nazi symbols at concentration camps. I'm not sure that comparison is apt. Islam is a faith, a religion, and while yes it collides with political ideology, one quick google search will tell you the Nazis were not a particularly religious organization. And in matters of war, the Nazis certianly did not behave as terrorist cells do today.

I have to wonder how many people who oppose the mosque personally know anyone who practices the Muslim faith. Through my travels, I have been fortunate enought to be of acquaintance of several, and getting to know at least one, a middle-aged woman. And because sometimes I'm a little too precotious for me own good, I had to ask about her thoughts on 9-11 and how Muslims are perceived in America today. Her response was surprisingly innocent: she said she just didn't understand how the actions of a very fanatical very few Muslims could create so much dissent among Americans; when at the same time there are also a very fanatical very few fanatical group of Christians commit crimes of domestic terror, not to mention war on an international scale. She went on to tell me that the basics of Islam are not so different than the basics of Christianity: be a good person. Love your neighbor. Don't lie, don't cheat, don't steal, and don't kill. And as with any religion, there are fanatics who twist the religious texts to say what they want it to say.

After talking with her I began to feel that the building of a Mosque at Ground Zero would be a message of peace, a gesture that prejudice against those of a different religion is dying, not running rampant like weeds in an unkempt garden. It seems that allowing the Mosque would serve to help Americans get over their fear of Muslims in general, where the fear is based on the actions of the fanatical few and not the every day, hard working, family raising, tax paying Muslim.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Thoughts on The Fruits of the Spirit

One rare evening while zoning out in front of the television, a commercial caught my eye. The commercial depicted a kid walking through wet cement, then past an older gentleman who was putting down a sidewalk. The older gentleman just smiled at the kid, and the words "Patience, Pass It On" appear at the bottom of the screen to the tune of "Don't Worry, Be Happy." I was struck to see a fruit of the spirit advertising itself, and that somoene in our go-go-go me-me-me world felt the need to spread this message.

It also brought back an obscure childhool memory of vacation bible school. As a kid, my mom would stash us at church every day for a week or two, something that was painful at the time. From hideous arts and crafts, to having to hear about Jesus all dang day it was not my idea of summer vacation. Despite the pain, I remember enjoying some of songs we sang, largely because the Pastor would break out his bass guitar (let's face it, for Northern Minnesota Lutherans a bass guitar is pretty wild). One of the songs was called "The Fruits of the Spirit". The words were simple, the tune was "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" and we sang it as a round.

For readers unfamiliar with the fruits of the spirit, they are: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control. The idea of nuturing and sharing these fruits is one of the few lessons that has stuck with me from Sunday School days, as you don't have to be a Lutheran (or any Christian varietal) to practice them. Anyone, from the most die-hard right wing fanatic to the complete non-believing athiest can have any and all of those qualities.

Obviously, the fruits of the spirit in today's world are not so abundant, or the folks who run would not feel the need to advertise them. I find myself curious if a non-patient person might see this commercial, and actually make a change in their behavior because of it. I know it made me stop and think about how many times a day I feel unnecessarily urgent and impatient, for no particular reason other than the go-go-go me-me-me world says I'm supposed to hurry. It also reminded me of the rest of the lyrics to the song: "against such there is no law." There is no reason NOT to act in such a way, as you will not get a ticket for being nice, loving, and especially controlling oneself (gee if only more of us could do that). If we manage to nurture these fruits, and share them with everyone we see, the world just might be a little more pleasant.

To see the TV spot that inspired this blog, go here: