Sacred Ground or Sacred Calf: One Christian’s Ambivalence towards Ground Zero

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.

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12 thoughts on “Sacred Ground or Sacred Calf: One Christian’s Ambivalence towards Ground Zero

  1. You’re treading on dangerous territory here, Lindsey. But Ground Zero is just the tip of the iceberg. 

    A “lesser” nation might have responded to 9-11 with humility, introspection and repentance.  Those quaint sentiments have been branded unpatriotic as we’ve taken the vile attacks as opportunity to further entrench our nationalistic pride and idolatrous exaltation of our own ideas and creations. And among the values to which we give such loud lipservice, those that *are* worthy of some loyalty have been thoroughly supplanted by the most primitive tribal animosities and self-righteous rage.

    The acts committed on 9-11 were indeed heinous and tragic, but I will dare say that our response to them has too often been equally unholy.

    Devotees of the populist brand of American religion would do well to consider that not even Israel or her Law–uttered by Yahweh Himself–were ever sacrosanct in the way they seem to think this nation and her ideals are.  Least of all did He count Israel above reproach or beyond judgment merely because she had been so greatly blessed. Much to the contrary. 

    • Yes, much to the contrary.

      I am horrified by the childish love for country that has taken the place of honest patriotism. The idea that America can do no harm nor shall we imply she has any guilt is a dangerous one. It turns America into the precocious child who can break the china vase and be coddled for her cuteness instead of held accountable as she deserves- only on a global scale it’s not a vase, it’s the lives of countless people.

      I share the same horror when I look at the bombing of Hiroshima. None of the excuses made seem to adequately cover the fact that a hundred thousand innocent people were killed and thousands more forever changed. The difference between the backlash of Pearl Harbor and 9-11 is that 9-11’s vengeance has gone mostly under the radar, or parades itself under the guise of such good intent that people feel guilty for calling each other on it.

      For shame, for shame…

  2. I have taken a dip out of following the news for sanity’s sake, so I was not really aware about this issue until rather late in the game. Suffice it to say that I was horrified when I figured out what was going on.

    • Words can’t describe how awful I find the whole situation to be, the most awful part being that many good friends are asking me why I’m bothering to defend the muslims, and some even have point blank asked me if I converted in secret (because why else would I care?)

      I am ashamed for my fellow Christians and countrymen. Deeply ashamed.

  3. It’s not sacred in the sense of being Holy bur rather a “respect.”

    Are any of the grave yards in the town you live in “sacred?”

    Although I do not believe that ALL Muslims are Terrorists I do believe that there are enough YouTube videos of Imam Feisal and his controversial statements to distrust his true motives.

    Any person who uses the movie FARENHEIT 9/11 as a base for their “facts” is nuts.

  4. Michael, you are making quite a leap if you say that the Imam uses Fahrenheit 9/11 as the basis for his “facts”, he casually mentioned the movie before the tape cut off, and there is no way to know in what context he had brought it up. All of the FACTS, real facts, not “facts” he stated prior to that mention are a matter of record with the UN and other public sources.

    And as far as his most controversial statements are concerned, they are all uncomfortable to hear but I’ve yet to see any that aren’t true, other than that he didn’t denounce Hamas as a terrorist group which understandably chaps a lot of people.

    And yes, graveyards are “sacred”, as they are devoted to a religious purpose. I’ve seen them beside golf courses and even in one odd spot a strip club, and I certainly would never beat a mannequin dressed as a Muslim while screaming “go back to Saudi Arabia” if someone tried to build a mosque across from one.

    There’s respect, and there’s fanaticism. People’s regard for Ground Zero crosses a very important line.

      • My eyes are wide open. I took the time to research the Imam (not by reading posts full of conjecture, misleading quotes or outright lies) and saw a man who is respected by his peers, the city that he lives in, and the Muslims living abroad. I saw a man who has worked many times on behalf of the State Department and has been consistently regarded as someone who genuinely works to build bridges between Islam and the West.

        I could as easily turn to you and say “none is as blind as those who choose to judge based off of emotions, their past, and the mistruths of others.”

        It’s not blindness, Michael. I just trust that God has not given me a spirit of fear and I choose to be guided not by fear but by principle. Both my faith and the tenets on which America was founded lead me to believe that I should not curb the rights of others based off of xenophobia.

  5. I’m not at all fearful but will readily admit to having “earned” the emotional title.

    However, you fail to recognize some of the things this Imam has said to be less than “bridge building.” I mean his refusal to denounce Hezbulah as a terrorist organization… C’mon! Let’s see which terrorist organizaation was it that blew up the embasy in Lebanon killing nearly two hundred US Marines?

    I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw a video of the Imam with sword….. never mind.

  6. However, you fail to recognize some of the things this Imam has said to be less than “bridge building.” I mean his refusal to denounce Hezbulah as a terrorist organization… C’mon! Let’s see which terrorist organizaation was it that blew up the embasy in Lebanon killing nearly two hundred US Marines?

    You’re talking about 200 marines when Americans have killed around 97,691 – 106,000 Iraqui civilians since invading (and that’s just the documented ones)? I’m not condoning any acts of violence – those 200 marines are 200 people who died in a vicious and devastating way at the hands of hateful people.

    But Americans should be very careful about throwing the word ‘terrorist’ at other groups of people.

    http://www.iraqbodycount.org/

    I’ll be honest with you. I know that the individual American is a lovely person – I know you all are – but America as a nation scares the shit out of me.

    I’m just happy that I live in a predominately white country (Australia), or I’m afraid that your government probably would have tried to help us with ‘aid’, or ‘democracy’ – just like it has to so many countries of non-white people in Asia, africa, the middle east and south america – in order to get at out natural resources.

    • You are making the same mistake that most anti-American-military people make.

      Even the link you referenced clearly states, (paraphraseing) that the US lead coalition gets ALL the “credit” for every single Iraqi death simply because the US lead the attack.

      Al Quida doesn’t get any credit for the tens of thousands of civilian men, women and children they have killed through suicide bombings?

      Give me a break.

      Although there have been too many deaths caused by “colateral damage” those lives lost are no less dead to the family members.

      Additionally, some Iraqis must accept responsibility for their family member’s deaths. If you are repeatedly that an offensive is going to take place and you choose to stay in the area… It stinks, I know but there it is.

      Incidentally, if Mr. Husein had not been trying to shoot down airplanes in the No Fly Zone, gassing his citizens and held true to the UN Oil for Food program and other UN mandated “rules” (due to Huseins invasion of Kuwait) it is likely the US lead coalition would not have been formed.

      France also holds some resopnsibility for circumventing the Oil For Food program for their own profit.

      • Even the link you referenced clearly states, (paraphraseing) that the US lead coalition gets ALL the “credit” for every single Iraqi death simply because the US lead the attack.

        Al Quida doesn’t get any credit for the tens of thousands of civilian men, women and children they have killed through suicide bombings?

        Saying ‘But Al Qaeda killed some of them too!’ is really…disgusting – as if that takes some of blame away from your own countries actions. I can’t understand why you don’t see that. It really puts you on par with terrorists.

        Additionally, some Iraqis must accept responsibility for their family member’s deaths. If you are repeatedly that an offensive is going to take place and you choose to stay in the area… It stinks, I know but there it is.

        When your country is invaded you don’t have anywhere to go. Some lucky ones get refugee status in other countries, most don’t.

        What are you supposed to do? Pack up your family, walk into the desert and wait till its over (its been going to years now)? You utter lack of sympathy for the victims is astounding, especially for a Christian. Would you blame the French for when the Germans invaded France in the second world war?

        Incidentally, if Mr. Husein had not been trying to shoot down airplanes in the No Fly Zone, gassing his citizens and held true to the UN Oil for Food program and other UN mandated “rules” (due to Huseins invasion of Kuwait) it is likely the US lead coalition would not have been formed.

        Don’t even start about ‘Mr Hussein’. American companies supplied him with the pesticides and weapons of warfare that he murdered the Kuwaitis with – your nations economic welfare was partly built by doing business deals with people like him.

        The bush family has a long and dirty history of business relations with the Husseins. Perhaps you should start to read some of your own country’s history.

        France also holds some resopnsibility for circumventing the Oil For Food program for their own profit.

        That’s great – they do. It doesn’t abdicate your own responsibility.

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