Over the last few weeks you’d have to hide under a rock to miss the fact that there are going’s on near Ground Zero. I could write a long dialogue about the facts behind the hubbub and how much of it may be no more than a media frenzy to fill the polls come midterm elections, but there are plenty of brilliant scholarly bloggers already doing the same. In fact, if you’re looking for explanations about how it’s not really a mosque or there’s already mosques there or that the war between Islam and the West is mostly fictitious, just google that stuff and back away from this post. I’m not going to write about the “facts”, as they are.
I’m going to write about how I think that the fervor towards Ground Zero is idolatry, and that I think if God were going to become infuriated by American culture I think that patriotic idolatry could be a bigger tipping point for the great I AM than gay marriage.
I feel deeply ambivalent towards Ground Zero. I find it to be a place of great sadness and a monument to national pain. I find it fitting that whatever is built there is a suitable memorial to the thousands that died that day, and the many lives impacted by the tragedy. I think it would be incredibly disrespectful to take a place of such loss and turn it into a mega-mall or monument to consumerism. Yet, I also feel that many people take that sense of deep regard and carry it too far. One example? While writing the previous sentences, I had to catch myself about to type “it would be sacrilege… to build”, and I am again reminded of the language that many people use when discussing Ground Zero.
Ground Zero has been called “Hallowed” or “Sacred Ground”. The idea of building a mosque near it is called “sacrilige” or “abuse”. We have elevated Ground Zero in our minds far beyond the honor that seems fitting, and to a point where our regard seems to have transcended respect and tipped into idolatry.
What, exactly, is the reason that Ground Zero needs to be respected? Is it because people lost their lives? Because it’s a national tragedy whose scars have yet to fade with time? Because it is a place where a great act of voilence occured, and the reverbrations there of have not quited? Or because our Nationalistic Pride demands that good patriots elevate its status to thus prove their devotion? Any of the excuses that could be used for showing reverence make sense to me, except the last.
Yet the language that is utilized when discussing Ground Zero seems to imply that the truth is the fact that we of patriotic tendencies have made it our own Sacred Calf. We have set aside the “ten commandments” of our Patriotism, that is, our constitution and societal principles, in order to defend our Sacred Ground from the assault of enemy Muslims. We defend Ground Zero not with rational arguments but with vitriolic attacks towards those who may be wholly innocent. We practically worship Ground Zero, making it not just a monument in our minds but something bigger, something not just set apart but wholly unassailable. Just look at the expressions on pundit’s faces as they defend it- if the volume were on mute, you’d have to assume that someone threatened to rape their mother.
The Bible is clear: idolatry is bad. When the Israelites again and again turn to Idols and turn away from God, God is clear about what will happen to them as a result:
Leviticus 26:30-31 I will destroy your high places, cut down your incense altars and pile your dead bodies on the lifeless forms of your idols, and I will abhor you. I will turn your cities into ruins and lay waste your sanctuaries, and I will take no delight in the pleasing aroma of your offerings.
I shudder for the thought of what will happen to my country, a country I dearly love, if people continue to turn away from the tenets of our faith (loving the alien among us as our equal, as we were once aliens in Egypt, to paraphrase the Bible) and the principles of our country (liberty and justice for all, for one) out of patriotic idolatry. Do I believe that God will destroy us? No, not really.
I believe we’ll do a fine enough job of that ourselves.