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More on Cordoba House and Religious Freedom

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Read and comment on my blog.

Here is Newt Gingrich’s take on the Cordoba House, and here is a medieval historian’s response.

The idea of reciprocity sounds great. Muslims can worship freely in America if and only if Christians can worship freely in Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia. However, reciprocity is fundamentally unAmerican. It presupposes that the United States is a Christian nation and contradicts the first amendment protection of freedom of religion. The United States may be predominately Christian and does indeed have a long tradition of Christian influence. However, the Constitutional framers deliberately excluded any mention of God because they wanted to create a secular government completely independent of the church. They did this because they feared that an ascendant religious sect would seize the power of government to persecute and suppress other religions. They were familiar with the religious wars in England and the rest of Europe and hoped to prevent similar conflicts by safeguarding the government from religious control. They wanted to protect government from religion and also protect religion from the government.

At the same time they clearly recognized the value of religion, particularly Christianity, in shaping morality and ethics. They firmly believed that democracy could succeed only where the people were willing to submit their own desires to the common good. If the people—those who in a democracy constitute the government—simply voted for their own interests all the time, then the government eventually would be controlled by special interests, each intent on its own agenda. As Christianity has declined as a cultural influence in the United States, this is exactly what has happened.

Those who want to prohibit the Cordoba House would grant the government authority to persecute Muslims. Once the government has authority over any religion, it cannot be prevented from extending it over all religions. The result would be a secular state in which all religions, including Christianity, would be restricted. Those on the Christian right alarmed at the shift from “freedom of religion” to “freedom to worship” should be loudest in their defense of the Muslim’s right to build Cordoba House. By attacking it, they undermine their own liberty.

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Ungrammatical Worship

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Bad grammar bothers me. I can’t help it; it just does. Whether it’s friends asking me to “borrow” them a book or a newspaper article that confounds lay and lie, bad grammar irks me. Still, I usually content myself with a muttered correction and go on.

On Sundays when I worship, I like to be caught up in the contemplation of God. I like to sing with the rest of the congregation and let my spirit take flight. Then I’m suddenly confronted with a phrase like this one:

The beauty of Your majesty awakes my heart to sing

Leaving aside the question of whether awake ought to be a verb or a modifier, if it is a verb, it certainly ought to be intransitive, and it ought to describe the action of  the thing that awakes not of the thing that does the awakening. It ought to be:

The beauty of your majesty awakens my heart to sing

or

My heart awakes to sing because of the beauty of your majesty

Of course, neither of these lines scans with the rest of the song.

Don’t get me wrong. I really like this song. I like its focus on God and its overall singability. But that one line bugs me, and I can’t help thinking that it should have bugged the songwriter too.

Soon after we moved on to the next song. It was Father, You’re Glorious by Johnathan Stockstill. This song brought me up short with:

Nothing can or ever will come between the love we share.

“…and what?” I thought. The preposition between always takes a pair of objects: “Between a rock and a hard place;” “between you and me.” Even “between us” or “between friends” implies a pair; if their were more, it would be “among friends.” Again the meaning is plain. It should be:

Nothing can or ever will come between us in the love we share.

Am I the only one bothered by this playing fast and loose with grammar? I don’t know which is more charitable: to suppose that the songwriters don’t know or to suppose that they don’t care. Ignorance is perhaps more pardonable than carelessness, but I can’t help feeling once again that Christians are touchy-feely anti-intellectual backwoods barbarians. In short, supposing them ignorant makes me embarassed to count myself a Christian.

So I guess I need to go pray for humility.

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