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"...what happens when this narrative isn't true?"

A most thoughtful piece has been posted at Whosever Desires by Anthony Lusvardi deserving of your attention.  Teaser excerpt follows:

In the spring of 2000 I spent a semester in Jerusalem, taking classes at Bethlehem University (a Palestinian institution) and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  Shortly before becoming a Jesuit I made another pilgrimage to the Holy Land, in the spring of 2006.

While in the Holy Land the second time I heard two Western tour guides, on separate occasions, tell an encouraging story about inter-religious cooperation.  When Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass in Bethlehem's Manger Square in the spring of 2000, the guides said, the mosque on the edge of the square silenced the call to prayer it normally broadcast at noon so as not to disturb the papal liturgy.  According to the guides, doing so was an unprecedented gesture of goodwill.

There's only one problem with this cheerful tale:  it isn't true.

I was in Manger Square that morning when the pre-recorded call to prayer came blasting over the Mosque of Omar's loudspeakers midway through the Prayers of the Faithful.  The lector paused, everyone stared at their feet in embarrassment for a few moments, and, when the recording finished, we went on with the Mass.  When I visited six years after the fact, I had a conversation with a local Christian who told me that the interruption of that liturgy is still seen as a painful reminder of that community's minority status.

Last week's discussion of the proposed Park 51 mosque reminded me of the tour guides' story.  The original post argues, quite rightly, that a greater knowledge of Islam and of things religious more generally, would be a good thing.  But underlying this argument runs an implicit narrative that goes something like this:  we're all pretty much decent folks and share the same basic human values regardless of superficial differences (say race or religion) and once we learn more about each other our suspicions and conflicts will melt away.

This story is one of the late twentieth century's great narratives and is implicit in many of the stories we read and movies we see.  It's present, in slightly different ways--to pick two recent films at random--in Invictus and Avatar.  It's the "story" implicit in John Lennon's "Imagine."  It's a particularly powerful story because quite often it is, thankfully, true, and it certainly shapes the way we understand our own history.  The civil rights movement--the great national story for many generations of Americans--is a version of this narrative.

This narrative is a good story in every sense.  When it's true, then things turn out better for everyone:  prejudices are overcome and we take a step toward a more peaceful world.  The narrative is a good story in the other sense of being a compelling tale:  there are both internal and external struggles to be waged and usually there are Good Guys and Bad Guys it's easy to root for or against.  (The villain in the Park 51 posting isn't too hard to spot, is she?)

But what happens when this narrative isn't true?

Finish this up at the link then consider passing it on... it's well worth the time it'll take.


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Comments (8)

Didja ever get the notion t... (Below threshold)

Didja ever get the notion that God is trying to mess with The Lightbringer's head?

Park 72 would be more accur... (Below threshold)

Park 72 would be more accurate.

So this guy is a priest of ... (Below threshold)

So this guy is a priest of a competitive religion and it's somehow a surprise that he is against building mosques? His opinion is not colored by his service in the elite Society of Jesus?

Might as well ask a Coca-Cola executive his opinion of Pepsi while you're at it.

Galoob #3,Sorry yo... (Below threshold)

Galoob #3,

Sorry you think that - did you read the article and the comments at the link that Rick supplied? The comments especially, were very informative.

I found the article to be thoughtful and honest. We all come to a question like the one posed by the Ground Zero mosque with some sort of perspective or preconceived bias. Some may come from a secular perspective, some from a Jewish, some from a Christian and some from a Muslim one... All of these perspectives deserve to be considered and fairly weighed when we think about these complex issues. To dismiss someone out of hand because they are approaching the Mosque controversy from a Christian perspective is as invalid as dismissing the thoughts of someone who is coming at it from the Muslim perspective.

Articles like that one are not the type that should be dismissed out of hand, but rather read and thought about.

@4:Right, I did th... (Below threshold)


Right, I did think about it. What struck me was the absurdity of a Catholic priest ascribing fundamental evil to another religion. Consider this passage:

And we might even find out that some of these Islamic ways of thinking are disturbing and objectionable.

Now substitute "Catholic" for "Islamic" and consider it in the context of a Catholic priesthood and hierarchy which has been exposed as having been guilty of the widespread and world-wide sexual molestation of children. Huge scandals with hundreds of victims.

Consider that the Catholic hierarchy protected and defended the pedophiles, unofficially through cover-ups and officially through legal pleadings. Pope Benedict is implicated in cover-ups from when he was archbishop of Munich.

I would say those are "Catholic ways of thinking that are disturbing and objectionable."

@5,Point taken, howe... (Below threshold)

Point taken, however, It is the responsibility of the Roman Catholic Church to defend its faith. The church is comprised of fallible humans, so not only mistakes, but evil still occurs even within the body of the church.

This does not mean that everything the members say or do should dismissed. Here, in the Mosque/Islam controversy, the church has a larger history than you or me.

I still think that the thoughts and perspective of the Priest who wrote were not unreasonable.

@6:There is an arg... (Below threshold)


There is an argument that the Roman Catholic Church is more evil than Islam. Bear with me.

Islam does not have a unified hierarchy in the way that Roman Catholicism has. While there are evil and objectionable elements of Islam, there is no one leadership to the religion. There are Sunnis, Shia, Sufi and many variations. In the end, Muslims that commit terrorist acts, like the 19 who were on the planes on 9/11, act on their own and not in behalf on a doctrinal leader of the faith.

On the other hand, Catholics are doctrinally required to follow the pronouncements of the Pope, who is infallible in matters of religious doctrine. The Pope is the head of a unified chain of command down through archbishops, bishops, monsignors and parish priests. The laity are bound to follow the clergy.

This chain of command, including the Pope, is now exposed as having been corrupt in the worst possible way. They may have not killed as many as Islamic terrorists (in this century) but the evil that was perpetrated - the abuse of children for perverted carnal desires and resultant psychological harm - was as bad or worse than terrorist acts committed for political as well as religious reasons.

I do not agree that "it is the responsibility of the Roman Catholic Church to defend its faith," if by "faith" you mean the corrupt organization of the church. The organization is in fact, an enemy to "faith" and a big evil sham.

@7,I guess we shall ... (Below threshold)

I guess we shall just agree to disagree.






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