Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Predators are running wild this summer, much as they were last summer when the TeaBaggers were All The Thing and you couldn't turn around in July or August without running into a screaming mob of gun-toting white folk out to Protect Their White Wimmen and Prevent The Colored From Getting Health Care.

This summer, the predatory screamers are out in force to Prevent The Ground Zero Mosque.

Subtle, eh?

Now as far as I'm concerned, we have plenty enough religious institutions cluttering up the land, and we could do with fewer of them. I am not a supporter of the Cordoba House Project, nor would I be if there were no controversy surrounding it. My own view is that all religious institutions should be taxed to a fare thee well, that there should be strict limits placed on their activities, and that their public presence should be reduced -- or in some cases eliminated. Churches, mosques, temples, synagogues, "meeting houses" and "prayer facilities" have proliferated like weeds in this country. There are more than enough of them.

I say call a moratorium on any new religious facilities. Of any kind. Anywhere.

But that's just me.

Obviously, I have no great love for religious institutions, though I like to think of myself as a man of strong and abiding faith. The two are not incompatible. In fact, I find most of the institutions of religion to be incompatible with maintaining faith. The problem with nearly all religious institutions is simple: they are filled with and run by opportunistic predators. The Catholic Church, of course, is the principle example thereof in the modern world. And of course my ancestors were all Catholics, some of them excessively devoted to the Church, bless their hearts.

But the Catholic Church is by no means the only predatory religious outfit trolling for souls. By no means. In fact, essentially all of them operate as predatory enterprises. They need to be curbed.

So no, no Ground Zero Mosque. No Ground Zero religious institution of any kind.

The site of the World Trade Center is not "Sacred Ground," not even close. The deaths there do not make it "hallowed" in any way. No religious institution is in competition with the World Trade Center site for sacredness. The whole idea is absurd.

Certain predatory interests have tried mightily to make the site into some kind of quasi-religious/nationalist symbol from the moment the buildings collapsed. If it is a symbol of anything, it is a symbol of materialist catastrophe. But that's the game of the predators. They thrive on the suffering and extinction of others. It is their whole reason for being. So rather than see the World Trade Center site for what it is and "moving on" as it were, they try like anything to keep their prey engaged in struggling with one another for attention and then fattening them up for the kill.

Any new Constitution for the People of the United States would need very strict limitations and controls on the predators among us, by no means limited to controls on religious institutions.

The predators have been running wild for a generation. It's time they sat a few rounds out.


  1. I'm an agnostic and have worked closely with the Program Coordinator of the American Friends Service Committee since 2006, as well as many other members of Christian, Muslim, Hindu, and Jewish faith organizations, - I've seen these people live justice and compassion through their actions day in, day out, and make an enormous difference for the better in practically effective ways, both for many individuals as well as for the structural foundations of healthier society. Of course, religious organizations such as the very diverse Quakers have a very long history of working for social justice and the protection of the Light in all humans - as well as our fellow creatures.

    Last night, here in New York at the Park51 community center site, the site that has been called the "Ground Zero" "mosque" I sat in silence listening to the prayers of members of the Sufi Masjid al-Farah, prayers for peace, for compassion, for collective action for justice and civil liberties for all.

    Che, these are real people who have laid their bodies and minds and lives on the line to care for those who have been damaged by our systems, legal, economic and social, people who have forthrightly confronted power at great cost to themselves to champion human rights and lives.

    Che, I deeply respect much of the work I've seen on this blog - I am amazed at this invective. I am asking you very sincerely how you could be so irresponsible as to dehumanize and demonize such diverse individuals and organizations with this reductive, simplistic, grossly generalized post - and your ugly photograph.

    You have attacked my own friends and loved ones here on this page. You have attacked the Muslims here in New York that I am watching carry forward a very long tradition of loving confrontation that was also exemplified by Martin Luther King, Jr., who very literally, knowingly laid his life on on the line for all the wildly different bodies and souls he saw as members of the human family. You've joined the efforts of the Tea Party to reduce us all to divided camps and flat paste-em-on labels and monster masks.

    All other readers, I invite you to explore the hard work that is being done by people of faiths that I don't share, but which I respect for the ways in which they structure and energize individual and collective action for community service, economic justice, civil liberties, and human rights. In my next comment I will post information on just three of the religious organizations I've worked with for human rights over the past years: The American Friends Service Committee, the Unitarian Universalist Service Commitee, and the Network of Spiritual Progressives.

    Che Pasa, I will always thank you for your hard work for compassion and justice. I feel real sadness at what I see here today.

    Helen Gerhardt

  2. American Friends Service Committee:

    "AFSC is a Quaker organization devoted to service, development, and peace programs throughout the world. Our work is based on the belief in the worth of every person, and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice."

    Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC)
    "The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) is a nonsectarian organization that advances human rights and social justice in the United States and around the world. We envision a world free from oppression and injustice, where all can realize their full human rights.

    Through a combination of advocacy, education, and partnerships with grassroots organizations, UUSC promotes economic rights, advances environmental justice, defends civil liberties, and preserves the rights of people in times of humanitarian crisis."

    Network of Spiritual Progressives

    "The Network of Spiritual Progressives was founded based on three basic tenets:

    1. Changing the Bottom Line in America

    Today, institutions and social practices are judged efficient, rational and productive to the extent that they maximize money and power. That's the Old Bottom Line. Now Here is the NEW BOTTOM LINE for which we advocate: We believe that they should be judged rational, efficient and productive not only to the extent that they maximize money and power, but also to the extent that they maximize love and caring, ethical and ecological sensitivity and behavior, kindness and generosity, non-violence and peace, and to the extent that they enhance our capacities to respond to other human beings in a way that honors them as embodiments of the sacred, and enhances our capacities to respond to the earth and the universe with awe, wonder and radical amazement.

    2. Challenging the misuse of religion, God and spirit by the Religious Right

    Educating people of faith to the understanding that a serious commitment to God, religion and spirit should manifest in social activism aimed at peace, universal disarmament, social justice with a preferential option for the needs of the poor and the oppressed, a commitment to end poverty, hunger, homelessness, inadequate education and inadequate health care all around the world, and a commitment to nuclear non-proliferation, environmental protection and repair of the damage done to the planet by 150 years of environmentally irresponsible behavior in industrializing societies.

    3. Challenging the many anti-religious and anti-spiritual assumptions and behaviors that have increasingly become part of the liberal culture

    Challenging as well the extreme individualism and me-firstism that permeate all parts of the global market culture. We will educate people in social change movements to carefully distinguish between their legitimate critiques of the Religious Right and their illegitimate generalizing of those criticisms to all religious or spiritual beliefs and practices. We will help social change activists and others in the liberal and progressive culture become more conscious of and less afraid to affirm their own inner spiritual yearnings and to reconstitute a visionary progressive social movement that incorporates the spiritual dimension, of which the loving, spiritually elevating and connecting aspects of religion has been one expression (but so has the group-in-fusion experience of the movements of the 30s and the 60s and the communitarian aspirations of many other efforts -- social healing and health care, progressive summer camps, the wide appeal of service and service learning, the women's spirituality movement etc)."

  3. Helen,

    Oddly enough, I understand your dismay.

    "I am asking you very sincerely how you could be so irresponsible as to dehumanize and demonize such diverse individuals and organizations with this reductive, simplistic, grossly generalized post - and your ugly photograph."

    Yes, well, there may be more to it than at first meets the eye. The picture is of course from the movie, "Predator." We often think of the predators among us as benign -- they certainly try to pass themselves off that way -- but they are not.

    The nature of predators and predation has been on my mind a lot lately, in part because of what I see in the political, social and economic realms, in part from life experience.

    I know and have worked with far too many people in the faith community to feel any kind of animosity toward them as individuals and/or parishioners. And I've known and worked with some who are simply foul. It's the way of the world, not limited to those of a religious bent.

    But what I am talking about is the general nature of religious institutions in this country, most of which are simply predatory. It has been that way from the beginning of European colonization. It's a systemic flaw.

    And if you are a believer, it's very difficult to come to grips with that realization. As an example, I know so many Catholics who are absolutely wonderful people, and I have immense regard for most of the tenets of the Catholic faith, and yet scratch below the surface and it's pretty obvious that one of the purposes of the Church is to prey rather than to pray. Preying on the vulnerable -- in many different ways -- is typical of most religious institutions in this country. It's all but inescapable.

    Religious institutions have had pretty much free rein in America from the get go, and I personally think it is past time to put some serious curbs on them. I oppose the Cordoba House Project on that basis. I would oppose the installation of any religious institution at that site. We have enough of them.

    It has nothing to do with the ultimate goodness or badness of those involved. Nor does it have anything to do with their kindness and generosity, their courage or philosophical appeal. That's not the point.

    The point is that religious institutions have been the cause of much suffering, bloodshed and plunder over much of human history. It doesn't matter the denomination or religion being fostered. What matters is that the institution of religious faith (rather than the faith itself) is a bane on humanity. The good works that come from time to time from the religious community don't really make up for that.

    So, I say "no." And I know I'm going against the nearly universal "Progressive" Party Line -- which, if you look into it, is only concerned with narrow rights.

    The United States doesn't really have a history of anti-clericalism such as we find in Mexico and much of Europe. So the idea of curbing religious institutions in this country, regardless of their denomination, is radical, but it's not in line with the Tea Party at all. They would only curb the scary Muslims, wouldn't they. To them, Muslims are the New Jews, or as a friend said, "The New N***ers." The despised ethnic/religious/racial minority to be scapegoated for the sins of the majority.

    I don't go along with that, not even close.

    No, I say curb them all, without exception. This is a secular country -- or at least it was meant to be -- so let's be secular.