A Mosque at Ground Zero?

This is not a “controversy” blog, and I will almost never write politically motivated rants here, because I lack the knowledge and confidence to do so.  And because I really don’t enjoy controversy.  But here is a news item that catches my eye for many reasons, not least being that it meshes with some things we have been reading lately  regarding the Muslim presence in the non-Muslim world through the ages.  That’s a huge topic, and I can’t begin to tackle it, but I have some thoughts regarding a proposed Islamic Center right at Ground Zero, which hopes to break ground for construction on September 11 of this year, the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attack.

First I want to detour a bit and say that it’s fascinating to me that the history of Europe, roughly between the years 1000 and 1500 was very much a story of how the Muslims were, at great cost to life and limb, being kept from infiltrating the continent.  Where the Muslims gained ground in Constantinople and in Spain, Christian nations lost land, monuments, revenue,  and trading routes.
Countless lives were lost.  And in these conflicts, even Christians  behaved in the most shameful manner,  believing themselves to be justified to do evil in fighting off a force they saw as a greater evil. National borders were strengthened as part of the ongoing war to keep the Muslims out of Europe.
And then, as my son likes to say, 75 years after the  invention of the airplane, the continent of Europe was overtaken by Muslims who simply flew in and made themselves at home, easy as pie.  And they are equally present in North America.  And we are told, and it often appears, that they have come  in peace.

But if they are here in peace, history indicates that this is a different brand of Islam.  Muslim crimes against Christians,  and  Jews are legendary.  There is also a history of intolerance against  Buddhists, women, and Muslims who do not take their faith seriously enough.  There is even a web-site hosted by Muslims which chronicles the criminal treatment non-Muslims receive when living in a Muslim culture.  And we all know the story of how Al-Qaeda funded and trained Muslim terrorists to fly four jumbo jets into large and strategic American landmarks on September 11, 2001, killing 2,995 people.

And now, Faisal Abdul Rauf, the Imam of an Islamic Center which is to be constructed two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center, has paid $4.85 million for this particular piece of property, describing it as “iconic” due to its location.  And he paid cash.  That is quite a sum!    All that has been publicly disclosed about the  funding of this project is that the support comes from unidentified sources in Saudi Arabia and Muslim ruled Malaysia.  There are many who like to point out the irony that Saudi Arabia funded the September 11 attacks too, though  the American State Department claims that the Saudi Arabian tie is uncertain.

The Mosque is to be named Cordoba House. Muslims view Spain and the city of Cordoba in particular  as a place where Muslim rule reached a glorious peak.  There is some myth of a Golden Age of equality during the Muslim occupation of Spain.  But a more accurate view is that Spain and Cordoba were places where Christians and Jews were persecuted and treated as social inferiors under Islamic oppression.

Rauf  admits this himself and is quoted as saying , “Jews and Christians living under Muslim rule simply had to pay a tax to finance their protection by their Muslim overlords.”  (That’s extortion, not protection.)  Equal civil rights never existed for non-Muslims under Sharia, or Islamic law.
But Daisy Khan, the wife of an Imam in Manhattan says  “The idea of a cultural center that strengthens ties between Muslims and people of all faiths and backgrounds is positive.”  And Michael Bloomberg’s director of the Office of Immigrant Affairs, Fatima Shama, went further. “We as New York Muslims have as much of a commitment to rebuilding New York as anybody.”   But the relationship described here is not one that is much evidenced by Muslim treatment of non-Muslims historically, what has changed?

Rauf has created an organization,  called The Cordoba Initiative, which  will measure how closely countries follow Sharia  law with a “Sharia Index”.   Sharia  covers every  aspect of Muslim life from food to clothing to  weddings,  music, entertainment, and all manner of social interaction.    Sharia demands that  Muslim life be governed by the laws of the the Koran, without the intervention of civic institutions.  For the faithful Muslim, Sharia law becomes the law of the land.   And the ultimate objective of this law code is that the Koran shall dictate that everyone, even non-Muslims, must ultimately live under Sharia.

That an institution who’s ambition may be the imposition of  Islamic standards upon non-Muslims should be erected at the site where nearly 3,000 individuals were murdered in the name of Islam is an awful irony.  It is the worst sort of insult to heap on top of such a horrifying injury.

Americans should be outraged and disgusted and busy busy busy preventing this construction.  But if it is stopped, it will only prevent the construction of one building.  The movement will continue unchecked unless Godly people work in a Godly way to turn the hearts of all men…. in homes, churches, and government, back to a humble and obedient service to Christ.

I sometimes wonder what we North Americans expected.  As a culture, and in the name of open mindedness and inclusivity, Americans have smiled and nodded and allowed all sorts of sin into the church, all sorts of godlessness into our culture.  We have not protected our hearts, we have not protected our homes, we have not been diligent to understand Biblical teaching or to apply it in our lives.  Our complacency has caught up with us.   But more, American Christians need to be more rigorous in our understanding of how Islam fits into Biblical history.  How does the sovereign God of the Bible, who’s earth this is, view it all.  Has he forgotten us?  No.  Is this God’s judgement on us as a lazy and unconcerned nation which claims a form of godliness, forgetting and denying its power.
Probably so.

Preparing for Christmas a little early

My friend Scott posted on his facebook page last year some pretty inspirational photos of his extended family’s Christmas celebration at which all gifts were hand-made by the giver, nothing was purchased.  In each photo, each recipient is holding his/her gift with such a look of amazed appreciation.  And they were just having the most contagiously great time.

I kept returning to those photographs, admiring the creativity and love in each of the gifts.   I remember that there was a picnic table, a beautiful turned wood light post, handmade interior furniture, tie-dyed shirts, cookies, and so much more.  For a brief moment, I thought I would ask if they would adopt us.  Then, in a flash of insight I thought “Why join them when I can  just copy them in a shameless way?”

So that’s what we are doing.  This year, we are picking up the challenge, and the kids and I have come up with some pretty fun ideas for gifts to give to people in our house.  We won’t do the entire extended family this year, we’re starting with a more manageable task.

I cannot share all the things that are being prepared, though I will do my level best to remember to get pictures of it all at Christmas.   And as I am making and looking for ideas for things to make, I thought I would share that I am getting some ideas from this blog right here, the blog of my friend Paula.

I have also gotten some cool ideas from knitting blogs and books, but if I show those it would spoil some surprises.  It’s been so much fun working on projects for my little gang and then tucking some things away already, knowing that I have  sweet gifts to pull out in December….

Friday, May 7

I sprang out of bed at 5am, ready to do something amazing with this day.  I had it in mind to sit down and write an amusing blog post about how stimulating it is to read aloud (serially, but in one sitting) Winnie the Pooh, Moby Dick, a biography of Christopher Colombus which is of mediocre quality, and Jensen’s Grammar, and then to read Kafka silently when my tiny brain is already over-full.  I thought there might be something funny in that……

After reading Ephesians, Proverbs and a little smack of John Calvin,  I sat down at the computer to write my amusing post.   My ancient, arthritic, obese dog saw this as his cue and threw-up just behind my chair.
So I didn’t write anything….as I was busy cleaning up dog throw-up, with a cheerful attitude.
And, since  I was up, I got the laundry moving,  figured out breakfast for seven, chatted with my burly husband, threw back a couple of cups of coffee ,  and then sat down to write an amusing blog post at 6:15.
Just then,  Two Children entered the room squabbling about something trivial.
I stopped writing, gave a mini-lecture about The Blessedness of the Peace-Maker and then  went straight out for a long run on the trail by the river, while the squabblers made peace and went over their math corrections.

There is nothing as rejuvenating as a run in the green green forest in May, by the way.
Once home, I showered, fed the gang and planned the day with them, cleaned the kitchen up, did  math and grammar lessons, marked a geometry test,  paid a pile of bills, and then sat down to write an amusing blog post.  While I was trying to be amusing, there were four people in the room talking to me and about me, and then the phone rang adding one more talking person which caused my brains to melt and ooze out of my ears.  When I read whatever I had written, I discovered that it was not amusing in the least.  It seemed like a good time to put together the information the Heart and Stroke Foundation asked me to prepare for them to pick up by 9am…as it was 8:45.

Then I corralled a couple of well-behaved kids,  and we popped out to shop for a new toilet to replace the one which was ruined forever when the septic tank reversed itself explosively into my guest room two weeks ago.
While we were out, we decided to   pick up a new  rug to replace the one that was rendered unfit for humanity on the day of the revenge of the septic tank.   It occurred to me that my mother is coming in four days, and I have to get the room all cozy for her.

~~After one’s septic tank backs up, for a few days it’s just immensely satisfying to have the room CLEAN and STERILE again.  Cozy comes later.

We also bought  32 chicken legs on sale, and the makings of cherry pie a-la-mode,  a bottle of gin and some white wine, three DVD’s for the price of one, a can of paint for the shelving in the mud-room (Benjamin Moore, Raisin), and then arrived home with an ache in my head.

Then, I thought I would write an amusing blog post about reading a pile of unrelated books and having not much of a brain, but now I see there is nothing to laugh at in there.   Daniel and I have spent a bit of time talking about how to best love one’s sisters.  And someone just rolled by to announce that a certain written assignment due on Monday is going to cause them to perhaps run away and become a gypsy.
I think that the point of this post is that my brain IS over full and not large enough.

I am thinking of hiring a stunt blogger for Fridays.

Anybody interested? I will be in the hammock…….

Jon’s Answer to the Garbage Question

Here, below, are Jon’s answers to the questions on yesterday’s post.  If it doesn’t make sense, just read the post below.

Katie was the only one to answer……she gets a copy of this very good book.  Thanks for participating Katie!  It will be going out in tomorrow’s mail.

Well,  As in most of life, there is no right answer.

What is important is how you specify your assumptions and solve the problem based on those assumptions. MY assumptions in writing the question was: Peter is DRIVING. So, he throws the garbage out the window to the left holding the steering wheel with his R hand. I am also assuming he is NOT driving a convertible, so he can’t throw the garbage straight up. I suppose he could have thrown it out to the right, but that would be awkward and would assume the passenger window is open (vis: Harry met Sally), He can obviously not through it “out” backwards.

That would land the garbage in the back seat.

So, Peter, going 40m/hr straight ahead, throws the garbage out straight to the left at 30m/hr. The relative velocity of the garbage would be sqrt(30^2+40^2) or sqrt(900+1600)=50m/hr. So, the garbage travels 50m/hr x2/60 hr = 5/3 m or 1.6m from the point it was thrown out. Now, Peter has traveled 40m/hr x 2/60 hr = 4/3 m or 1.3 miles, The relative DISTANCE of Peter from the garbage would depend on the angle between the two trajectories. ASSUMING a square-angled triangle and that the garbage trajectory would make up the hypotenuse of that triangle, the remaining side would be sqrt(1.6^2 – 1.3^2) or sqrt(25/9m – 16/9 m) = sqrt(9/9 mi^2) = 1 mile.

Part B is the critical one to show you understand the difference of absolute and relative distances/velocities. John stands fixed (in utter disgust at Peter’s lack of environmental responsibility) at the point where the garbage was thrown out, and hence is 1.4 miles away from it when it hits the ground. (we are NOT bothering to figure in the hight from the ground, gravity, 3-dimensional angles, etc). The simplest solution is most often correct. Full credit would be given for a simple diagram that outlines the correct relationships and illustrates an understanding of the concepts even if the numbers are wrong.

Of course, some wise-ass student could simply ASSUME that it was raining and that the windows were closed, so the garbage traveled with Peter all along. THis would violate the problem that states that the garbage did in fact hit the ground.


Mixing it up with a little physics quiz…

Anyone who has spent any time at all with my kids since August 2009 is aware that the three oldest are staggering toward the horizon under a crushing weight of physics and chemistry which has been lovingly laid upon their shoulders by their father.

Have any of you heard them groan and complain about this?
Yes, we have all heard it…..and I think it’s kind of funny because I know they don’t really mean it.  If you have heard any physics complaints which were particularly creative, you can share them here as a comment.  It might encourage some other mother who’s got kids howling and writhing on the floor over grammar or algebra or something.

And just to give you an idea of the fun side of physics, and by way of cheering us all up and blowing away some of the thick fog of The Faerie Queene…..here are two of the first questions on a physics test from a few months ago.  Please try to work out the answers and leave them as comments below.  Anyone who gets this one right wins a free copy of Gene Veith’s book Reading Between the Lines. In case you aren’t familiar with this book, read the quotes from it below.

Question One:  Peter is driving along the road at 40 miles an hour.  He throws a bag of garbage out the window at 30 miles and hour (he is very strong).  How far away is he from  the garbage when it hits the ground two minutes later?

And Question Two:  John was right next to the car when Peter threw out the garbage.  How far might John have to walk before he would find the garbage ?

(If you can only answer one question, but you get the correct answer, you are still right. )

Reading Between the Lines

Here are a few little gems from Gene E. Veith’s excellent book Reading Between the Lines, A Christian Guide to Literature.

“The habit of reading is absolutely critical today, particularly for Christians.  As television turns our society into an increasingly image-dominated culture, Christians must continue to be people of the Word.  When we read we cultivate a sustained attention span, an active imagination, a capacity for logical analysis and critical thinking, and a rich inner life.  Each of these qualities, which have proven essential for a free people, is under assault in our TV-dominated culture.  Christians, to maintain their Word-centered perspective in an image driven world, must become readers.”

“We think with words. Our attitudes and our behavior are shaped by the language that we choose, or that we pick up unconsciously from the world around us.  For this reason, Christians need to cultivate a sensitivity to language.  Reading and reflecting upon literature is perhaps the best means to that end.”

“Some Christians do not realize that they are heirs to a great literary tradition.  From the beginning of the church to the present day, Christian writers have explored their faith in books, and in doing so have nourished their fellow believers.  Some of the best writers who have ever live have been Christians, working explicitly out of a Christian worldview.  To their loss, many contemporary Christians are unaware of Christian writers – both from past generations and those writing today.”

Jeremiah Burroughs

“All God’s strokes are strokes of love and mercy, all God’s ways are mercy and truth, to those that fear Him and love Him (Psalm 25:10). The ways of God, the ways of affliction, as well as the ways of prosperity are mercy and love to him.
Grace gives a man an eye, a piercing eye to peirce into the counsel of God, those eternal counsels of God for good to him, even in his afflictions; he can see the love of God in every affliction as well as prosperity.
Now this is a mystery to the carnal heart. They can see no such thing. Perhaps they think God loves them when He prospers them and makes them rich, but they think God loves them not when He afflicts them.
That is a mystery, but grace instructs them in that mystery, grace enables men to see love in the very frown of God’s face, and so comes to receive contentment.”

The Rare Jewel , p. 21

The Faerie Queene

We are just about to wrap up discussions of Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene.

I must mention here that whenever an epic poem appears on the horizon in my little homeschooling world, I start to feel a bit itchy and hope it gets sort of magically “covered” without too much suffering on my part.  And when it was The Odyssey , and I had to read it aloud to my pups, they all surprised the stuffing out of me by being all involved and explaining it back to me in such a way that I was able to fully comprehend what I had just read.  Whew!
Then it turned out they had been listening to Derek Jacobi reading The Odyssey since they were toddlers.  David would turn the cassette on when they all crawled into bed back in California when we had five kids sharing the one bedroom, and they would listen until they fell asleep.

Last year,  I read the Aeneid, and it was almost like that, only not quite as satisfying as it was the first go-round for Virgil at our house.  I was thinking at the time…”should have listened to this one on tape when they were younger….”

So now as we’re winding up   The Faerie Queene, I am completely persuaded that listening to these epic poems on audio-tape is the way to go.    The FQ is available free at Librivox, and I have been turning this on for a little while some mornings so I can hear somebody who knows what they are doing reading it better than I can.  And I can tell you that washing the breakfast dishes is  just way more satisfying if you’ve got a man with a perfect English accent reading Edmund Spenser, loudly in order to drown out the dish clatter.

If I had  played this as background noise in the car or the playroom a few years ago, I could have saved myself a pile of work today.
The kids would be teaching the poem to me now.
As it is though, all three boys heard the name of this poem and they  recoiled a bit because they expected  herds of feminine fairies.
Actually, Audrey and Helen also expected fairies.  And only Helen thought fairies might be a good idea.

But as they have discovered knights and monsters and evil shape changing villains, and lots of sneaky allusions to the Catholic church, my guys joined in with a bit more gusto.
They would have LOVED the story when they were smaller,

And if they were, today, completely familiar with the story,  we could just slap on some good explanations about meter, pastoral mode, characteristics of allegorical Renaissance poetry, and the Spenserian stanza….and we’d have this one nailed.

So, if you are reading this and you have small children, I am just saying:  Fine Literature on Audio is the way to go.  And it seems to be everywhere.

Heaven and Hell. Life and Death. Milton, Homer and David

Going through my notes on Paradise Lost, these three perspectives on life, death, heaven and hell were kind of thought provoking.

First from Milton:

“To reign is worth ambition, though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven”

Satan, galvanizing the support of  Beelzebub towards a zealous rule in their new home outside of Heaven, ParadiseLost 1.262

Then from Homer:

“Nay, seek not to speak soothingly to me of death….I should choose, so I might live on earth, to serve as the hireling of another, of some portionless man whose livelihood was but small, rather than to be lord over all the dead that have perished.”

Achilles, sharing his views of life as a dead man with Odysseus

And finally, from David in Psalms:

Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.”

Psalm 84:10

I am plodding through John Milton’s Paradise Lost, amazed that I have never read it before.