Thursday, August 05, 2010

"Ground Zero Mosque"

I've been twittering constantly the last few days about the controversy over the proposal to build an Islamic cultural centre (termed the "Ground Zero mosque" as it will include a prayer space) two blocks from the World Trade Centre site. There's way too much material, pro and con, to summarize here - see my Twitter feed! - but let me examine a statement by Allen West, who is running for Congress in Florida, and opposes the cultural centre project:
The individuals who hijacked two airplanes and flew them into the World Trade Center towers shouted, “Allahu Akhbar”. The individuals who will attend the mosque would offer up like praise of “Allahu Akhbar”. The individuals who detonate suicide vests, behead school teachers and headmasters, throw acid on little girls trying to attend school, and fire rockets into Israel shout, “Allahu Akhbar”.

That's true. And the school teachers, headmasters, and schoolgirls, being Muslims, would also say, "Allahu Akbar" (God is great). It's part of the prayers Muslims say five times a day. It's like saying that the Crusaders, who massacred Muslim civilians, Jews, and even Orthodox Christians, said the Lord's Prayer, so it's somehow a bad thing for Christians to pray the same prayer.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Now a Chautauquan

Back from a great week at the Chautauqua Institution in New York State. Chautauqua was founded in 1874 as a retreat for Methodist Sunday School teachers, and became the centre of the Chautauqua movement of lectures, performances and worship services - "art, religion, music, and knowledge" ("recreation" has now been added as Chautauqua is rife with opportunities for boating, sailing, swimming and biking). There are other "Chautauquas" still operating in the summer elsewhere in the US.

Clergy Renewal Week is organized by the Christian service organization The King's Daughters and Sons and brings ministers from across the US and Canada to Chautauqua. Our group had United Church of Canada, Anglican Church of Canada, United Methodist, Presbyterian Church of the USA, and United Church of Christ clergy. Gate passes were provided by the Chautauqua Institution's Department of Religion and accommodation is provided by the IOKDS in the two houses they own.

Chautauqua is a beautiful town of Victorian cottages, many of which have been in the same family for generations. Its winter population of 300 mushrooms to 10,000 people a day in the summer. It's certainly a bastion of liberal Protestantism, with the mainline American Protestant denominations maintaining houses in the village, although there are two Jewish congregations, and a Roman Catholic presence in facilities borrowed from Protestants. I attended worship services with the Episcopal priest and renowned preacher Rev. Dr. Barbara Brown Taylor preaching (and she signed two books for me!), lectures on the week's theme of photography - the inventor of the digital camera, Steve Sasson, photographers Steve McCurry and Ed Kashi, former US poet laureate Billy Collins, and George Eastman House director Tony Bannon were among the speakers - and symphony, ballet and opera performances. It was indeed a renewal week.