Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rod Dreher: Big Questions, Predictable Answers

You remember Rod Dreher. He was with The Dallas Morning News editorial board. He was the spiritual heir to William Murchison. Both think the world has gone to hell in a hand basket. You could always recognize Dreher's work. He would wring his hands about the downfall of Western Civilization because of gays or Muslims or the disappearance of the Latin Mass.

After the jump, what Dreher is agitated about now.

Dreher has a new beat with the Templeton Foundation, a non-profit organization funded by the estate of John Templeton to find ways to maintain the relevance of religion and spirituality. Dreher edits Big Questions Online, a blog that asks the kinds of questions college sophomores endlessly debate in all night bull sessions. Lately, Dreher has been obsessed with the planned construction of a Muslim community center in New York City. It's driving him crazy that Muslims would do that to ..., well, Christians I guess, or conservatives, or bigots. Dreher never does specify, exactly. What we know for sure is that he himself is sure agitated.

To his credit, Dreher concedes that Muslims have a Constitutional right to practice their religion as others do. He always concedes that inconvenient fact in passing, then swiftly moves on to lecture readers about how insensitive and provocative a mosque would be. He's personally offended that Muslims might actually exercise their Constitutional right. Displaying no sensitivity himself, he asserts that Muslims should act more politically correct (he calls it "prudent sensitivity").

Dreher's first post on the subject, itself provocatively titled "The 9/11 Mosque", conceded the Constitutional freedom of religion, then adamantly revealed that Dreher, for one, just wasn't open to reconciliation with Islam, not if they built a mosque in lower Manhattan.

"The Cordoba Mosque will not be a site of religious reconciliation, at least not to many of us, but a site of religious triumphalism at worst, and insensitivity at best -- even if it is not intended to be so." [emphasis in original]

Readers didn't fall in behind Dreher. Too many, I guess, placed too much emphasis on the Constitution, leading Dreher to post a follow-up titled "All Religions Are Not The Same" in which he more provocatively asks, "Can Islam be assimilated into pluralist democracy?" Dreher is upping the ante. It's no longer whether Muslims belong in lower Manhattan. It's whether they belong anywhere in the United States at all.

That still didn't prompt the reader response Dreher seeks. So, he left the intellectual argument behind and dragged out the heavy artillery - a play on emotion - with a post titled "Disgust and the Ground Zero Mosque".

Still, readers wouldn't cooperate and tell Dreher what he wants to hear, that Muslims should be prevailed upon or maybe forced to abandon their plans for a community center in lower Manhattan. So, he tried yet again, with post titled "A Thought Experiment" where he wants readers to consider an imaginary plan by Orthodox Christians to build a chapel in Srebrenica, where Bosnian Serbs killed 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in 1995. Dreher says, "My sense is that the decent thing to do is to avoid causing unnecessary offense, and to work for peace and reconciliation in other ways." To make sure readers didn't point out the apples and oranges in this analogy, Dreher banned anyone from commenting about New York.

I think it's time to call Dreher's bluff. Agree with him that yes, the decent thing to do is to avoid causing unnecessary offense. Then what? What if the Muslim community in New York still wants a community center? Does Dreher want to do anything more than whine about it? Does it matter to Dreher that Muslims might think Dreher himself is causing unnecessary offense by rejecting the possibility of reconciliation with Muslims if the mosque is built? Or is Dreher's demand for sensitivity a one-way street? Does he want the city, state or federal government to legally block Muslims from practicing their religion where it offends him, despite our country's principle of freedom of religion? Where does Dreher want the Muslims to go? From the planned two blocks from Ground Zero to four blocks away, where there's a mosque already? To Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where others are protesting another planned mosque? Across the continent to Temicula, California, where still others are protesting yet another planned mosque? How far away from Ground Zero is far enough? Just what will satisfy Rod Dreher? Now, that's a Big Question.

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