Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Pakistani Archbishop, Florida Book-Burner, and Living with Differences

This news is three weeks old, but I think the underlying topic will - unhappily - stay 'fresh' for quite a long time:
"Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore has asked the U.S. government to take action over the burning of a Quran by a Christian pastor in Florida.

" 'The U.S. government talks about religious freedom – but we call upon the U.S. government to prevent such actions by extremists and other fundamentalist Christians,' the president of the Pakistan bishops' conference told Aid to the Church in Need.

" 'The U.S. government should detain the pastor for some time,' the archbishop continued. 'In view of the effects his actions have had all over the world, he should be controlled and understand the harm that has been done.'

"On March 20, Florida pastor Terry Jones of the non-denominational 50-member Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida presided over what he called an 'International Judge the Koran Day.' He supervised the burning of the book in front of about 50 people.

"Video posted on the church's website showed a kerosene-soaked book going up in bright flames in a metal fire pit located inside the church...."
(CNA (Catholic News Agency))
I've discussed the recent Florida book-burning before. I think Terry Jones and company got a great deal of free publicity out of the stunt, and are unlikely to be held accountable for the consequences. Not by the American judicial system.

As for long-term consequences, I take Matthew 7:1-5 very seriously. I've gone over "Stop judging, that you may not be judged..." before. (September 11, 2010)

Practicing Religious Freedom in a Big World

This country's customs and assumptions about 'religious freedom' have worked pretty well for more than two centuries. But for most of that time, most Americans could believe that "Christian" meant "Protestant" - and still consider themselves very open-minded: because they let Baptists (or Lutherans, or whatever) build a church down the street.

I don't think we can get away with that much longer.

Book Burnings, India, and Academic License Freedom

If the "Dove" folks had burned a Quran in India, Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha probably wouldn't have had to make that request. Indian law is designed to work in a country where everybody is most definitely not on the same page when it comes to religion. As of 2001, folks in India were:
  • Hindu, 80.5%
  • Muslim, 13.4%
  • Christian, 2.3%
  • Sikh, 1.9%
  • Other, 1.8%
  • Unspecified, 0.1%
    (CIA World Factbook, India (last updated April 6, 2011))
I gather that in India, deliberately offending someone's religious sentiments is illegal:
Here in America, some of us call it 'academic freedom' - and I've written about that before, too:

'My End of the Boat isn't Sinking,' and Niemöller's Poem(s)

I grew up in America, and have learned to value the freedom of expression that we enjoy - imperfectly though it's enforced at times.

I am also appalled at the sort of casual blasphemy that seems to be regarded as a 'constitutional right' by American academics and other 'serious thinkers.'

(from PZ Myers, Pharyngula (July 24, 2008), used w/o permission)

Should America look at what India has done, and forbid deliberate insults to another's faith? I really don't know: but folks like the Florida book-burners make the approach look very attractive.

One thing I'm quite certain will not work is 'getting back to the good old days.'

Goodbye WASP Nest, Hello World

America is no longer a WASP nest. As a member of a religious minority, I don't mind the idea that we won't go back to the 'good old days' when Protestant fundamentalists were the de facto religious and cultural authorities.

I think that America needs to find some way to deal with academics, preachers, and others who seem to get their kicks from insulting the faith of others.

Maybe it seems odd, a practicing Catholic saying that burning a Quran isn't right. Actually, as a practicing Catholic, I have to believe that freedom of religion is important. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2104-2109) In practical terms, my take on freedom and tolerance is that Catholics, Muslims, college professors, and nondenominational whatevers, all live in the same country. Each of these groups can't very well go around pretending that they - or we - are the only people here.

It's like the old saying goes - 'my end of the boat isn't sinking' just doesn't make sense.

And there are the many versions of Niemöller's poem - which I've written about before. Fairly recently.

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.