Friday, September 10, 2010

Washington Wouldn't Burn the Qur'an

Over at the Religion in American History blog, historian Chris Beneke points out how the current drama over the scheduled burning of the Qur'an on 9/11 by nut-job idiots is invoking a powerful rebuking from General David Petraeus. General Petraeus has urged Americans to abstain from such hate-filled activities not only because of their obvious prejudice but because they also, "put our troops in harm's way."

As Dr. Beneke points out, General Petraeus' admonition is not without its historical precedent. In 1775, General George Washington also had to shoot down a similar act of religious hatred within the ranks of his own army. Dr. Beneke writes:
Amid the siege of British-occupied Boston in 1775, the recently appointed commander of the Continental Army, General George Washington issued an order that must have resulted in some grumbling in the ranks. For decades, English and American Protestants had burned effigies of the Pope to celebrate the thwarting of (the Catholic) Guy Fawkes' attempt to blow up Parliament on November 5, 1605. Bostonians marked the anniversary in a particularly lively way that featured fireworks, two flammable "Popes," and one grand fistfight. But in November 1775, with Catholic support for the American war effort desperately needed, an irritated Washington ordered his soldiers to forgo their beloved Pope's Day festivities.
These Pope Night activities are something I have written about before on this blog (click here and here to read the articles). For the General, these activities represented a clear breach of morality and discipline. Washington's General Order of November 5, 1775 illustrate this fact:
As the Commander in Chief has been apprized of a design form'd for the observance of that ridiculous and childish custom of burning the Effigy of the pope -- He cannot help expressing his surprise that there should be Officers and Soldiers in this army so void of common sense, as not to see the impropriety of such a step at this Juncture; at a Time when we are solliciting, and have really obtain'd, the friendship and alliance of the people of Canada, whom we ought to consider as Brethren embarked in the same Cause. The defence of the general Liberty of America: At such a juncture, and in such Circumstances, to be insulting their Religion, is so monstrous, as not to be suffered or excused; indeed instead of offering the most remote insult, it is our duty to address public thanks to these our Brethren, as to them we are so much indebted for every late happy Success over the common Enemy in Canada.
One can only hope that the admonitions of both generals (Washington and Petraeus) will not go ignored by the masses.


Angie Van De Merwe said...

Did you see where Denmark awarded the cartoonist that outraged Muslims by his portrayal of Mohammed, won an award? Will there be a reaction in the Muslim world because of this? Or has this particular ploy for playing to the media and people's fears, has passed?

Where do we draw the line in our offensive behavior? The head-dress is being "limited" in France. We must adhere to our own cultural ideals, of liberty, otherwise, we will be limited by all kinds of narrowness.

Perhaps, if the pastor had performed his disdain/protest against the Koran by putting it in urine,just as the cross was, then it would have been considered "art"?! I don't agree with his choice of action, but he is only making the point that he has been offended and it is his First Amendment right to express his opinion.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

BTW, I didn't see any "outrage" over the Black Panthers verbalizing their "hate of the cracker"! nor of their call for death to "cracker babies". If anyone had dared to express such about Muslims or African Americans, there would be hell to pay!

King of Ireland said...

This is there with the mosque thing. You have a right to burn a Koran but it is in bad taste. Real bad taste. Well done Brad. Nice to GW.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Would you personally, defend the pastor's right to express his opinion in such a way, even though you didn't agree with him? Even though I did not agree with the artist's putting the cross in urine, art is supposed to "make a statement" of some kind. And sometimes it as a cultural critique.

Tom Van Dyke said...

The chattering class was all about "rights" not "wisdom" a week ago with the mosque. Now it's the other way around. Now THAT's moving the goalposts.

Angie is correct of course about "art." I don't expect we'll hear much from the chattering class about that either.

Brian Tubbs said...

Nice tie-in with GW, Brad.

Brian Tubbs said...
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Brad Hart said...

Thanks, Brian but I really can't take full credit. That must go to Dr. Beneke of the Religion in American History blog.

bpabbott said...

KOI: "You have a right to burn a Koran but it is in bad taste.


Angie: "Would you personally, defend the pastor's right to express his opinion in such a way, even though you didn't agree with him?"

I would not defend him. He is an embarrassment to me ... but it is his right to do so. Even so, I think he is antagonistic to American Liberty.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I was just thinking tonight about how the pastor, as a pastor, was/is "out of order", but as an artist, he would be in a better position to defend his right, as more "in taste". I suppose, art is a more "critical" discipline than theology...

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I suppose my defense of this pastor is really because I am frustrated at the discrepency over how certain groups are treated over against other groups.....and it has to do with priviledge of speech, behavior, monetary support, and insensitivity....In this regard the First Amendment has been terribly abused.

King of Ireland said...


People have a right to do stupid stuff. Yes I would fight to defend his right to burn it as I chastized him for being ridiculous.

I think we are hitting on the "zone of autonomy" and "liberty not license" again. As far as the Founding goes these concepts were based on love of neighbor and self.

I hope we stay here for a while and really hash this out. That is because modernity seems to seek to throw out the concepts listed above for utility and relativism, yet claim the founding as the source of these ideas.

King of Ireland said...

"I think we are hitting on the "zone of autonomy" and "liberty not license" again. As far as the Founding goes these concepts were based on love of neighbor and self."

If so, then I think Tom's statement of the utter hypocrisy of the competing camps over the issue is correct. Maybe the Culture Wars would end if we got back to the concepts above!

King of Ireland said...

Here is the link to the post I did on Tierney's research into "zone of autonomy" :

I think this concept is central to understand the Christian West and our Founding. Not that there were not competing concepts out there(those are unfortunately the ones that get all the press from the non-religious left) but this one goes way back.

But I have no real hope that most will pay attention to the "nit picking" because we prefer to all point out the splinter in our brothers eye and refuse to take the long out of are own.

The eye salve needed to cure our blindness(I include myself in this too and surely I was the biggest non-religious and then reliigious ass in the world) to are own hypocrisy is found in this zone and the admonition to love neighbor as self.

Does anyone think that if we focused more on our responsibilities to our fellow man and not our "rights"(and I am a big proponent of rights believe me) that we would avert building mosques where we know people will be offended and burning books that we may disagree with but out of respect to diversity and culture do not burn?

If anyone has missed it, this self obsessive attitude that seems to border on "license" and tip the teeter totter to an unhealthy balance was the French Revolution not ours.

As a gentle warning I would remind us how quickly that that teeter totter snapped back the other way and ended in tyranny.

No I will step down from my soap box.

King of Ireland said...

should say now I will step down not "no"

King of Ireland said...
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bpabbott said...

Re: "but as an artist, he would be in a better position to defend his right"

Perhaps, but if the point of the artist is promotion of hate and intolerance, then I don't think so.

But if the artist were using artistic license to encourage a closer examination of our human flaws of hate and/or intolerance, then ok ... In short, it depends upon the context.

In any event, I had wondered what the response would be if an "artist" were to follow up the (now canceled) burning of Koran's, by burning an equal number of King James?

Would such encourage some who support the burning of the Koran to reexamine their position? ... or would it just escalate the prejudice?

Tom Van Dyke said...

I don't think there are many who favor burning the Quran. Neither is "prejudice" exactly accurate, since it overlooks the reality of 9-11.

This Rauf character is now threatening that if the mosque isn't built, [some? all? radical?] Muslims will be angry, or whatever.

Where is Rauf's call for calm among Muslims? The nature of these things is that we have greater power to talk sense into "our own."

These things get abstracted beyond all reality and obscure the elephant that is actually in the room. For example, I must admit I'm not artistic enough to perceive the deep conceptual importance of a crucifix in urine, and I realize that I'm some benighted brute for not wanting some publicly-financed space to exhibit it.

And yes, as King says, this liberty thing depends on each of us prudently restricting our own. All rights need not---and cannot---be exercised always if we're to get along.

bpabbott said...

Re: "Neither is "prejudice" exactly accurate.

I tend to look at prejudice and preference as different sides of the same coin. There isn't any necessarily nefarious about either perpective. However, I do think it improper to actively escalate religious prejudice.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Again, that's abstracting away the elephant in the room. The mosque controversy isn't about Islam, it's about 9-11.

And "prejudice" is certainly a pejorative, and not synonymous with "preference," but "bigotry." And if you want to see anti-religious, um, preference, go look at Brayton's blog, which positively drips with it.

jimmiraybob said...

"...with Catholic support for the American war effort desperately needed,..."

GW - ' a Time when we are solliciting, and have really obtain'd, the friendship and alliance of the people of Canada, whom we ought to consider as Brethren embarked in the same Cause.'

And, of course, actively wooing France for support, a Catholic country, was on the Second Continental Congress' agenda. And relations with Spain, a Catholic country, were on the line too.

bpabbott said...

The mosque controversy is genuinely inspired by the events of 9/11, but it is about a preference/prejudice of Islam.

While prejudice is not synonymous with prejudice it is the opposing view. i.e. "preference" is to "prejudice" as "like" is to "dislike". The idea is I can harbor a prejudice without being actively engaged in conflict.

If I'm prejudiced and engaged in a conflict to preserve my preference at the expense of my prejudice, then I qualify as a bigot.

For example, I will never pass an opportunity for vanilla ice-cream, and will consistently pass on chocolate, but I have no interest it eliminating chocolate ice-cream from my vicinity. I have a clear preference and prejudice, but I'm not a bigot.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I think much of our problem has to do with the emphasis these days on collectivity. The Founders were wanting a government that affirmed the individual and their liberty of conscience.

I don't think the Founders were "romantics". Theirs was the Age of Reason. Duty, but not love, was their "obligation" and responsibility. But, it was NOT toward their enemies, otherwise, we would not have had a Revolution or a new form of government!

Enemies are enemies and we must deal with them with caution, and discernment, not naivite'.

9-11 happened, that is a FACT. There is no call from ANY Muslim for caution or remorse (repentance). There is only somber warnings.

Even though there are many wealthy Muslims, they are not forthcoming with monies to move the mosque out of consideration, or as you call it "love"...Donald Trump offered 25% above the paid price and was turned down. Why?

I am grateful that 9-11 has passed without incident.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I am not supportive of blasphemy laws. And I don't think the Founders would have supported the State sanctioning religious law, as separation of Church and State was of importance. Two spheres of influence, but separate.

Ours is a "Christian nation", if one compares the nation to a Muslim State, or theocracy. But, the government was not to interfere with religious conscience nor to sanction a specific religious conscience.

Chris said...

Hmm... Let's compare the two:

1) A guy decides to deliberately insult a religion and culture by burning their holy book, and inciting others to do so as well.

2) A sect of a minority religion, a sect devoted to religious tolerance and inter-faith communion decides to build a cultural center to promote these aims, in the general vicinity of the site where religious extremists unrelated to this group in virtually every way committed a horrible act of terrorism and violence.

Yeah, I can see how these two things are the same, and anyone who condemns one but not the other is a hypocrite.

Tom Van Dyke said...

1) A guy decides to deliberately insult a religion and culture by burning their holy book, and inciting others to do so as well.

Actually, he appears to have held their holy book hostage because of building a mosque on 9-11.

It's pretty funny, if you think about it, which obviously, you haven't.

bpabbott said...

I think Chris makes a good point. Although, the building of the mosque appears insensitive to those who point to Islam for the events of 9/11 ... those who plan to build the mosque have not demonstrated any ill will. The same cannot be said for my fellow Floridian, Pastor Jones.

This is this kind of stuff that makes for great cinema.

Have you guys read what Pastor Terry Jones's daughter has to say?

Of course, then there are the riots in Afghanistan.

All in all, not a pretty picture of humanity.

In any event, Tom has a good point. It's pretty funny, if you think about it in the proper perspective.

Thank God for Jon Stewart ;-)

p.s. Fortunately the Pastor has had a change of perspective.

King of Ireland said...

I think Chris missed my larger point that it is not always "wise" to do what we have a "right" to do.

Chris said...

KoI, it's true that the same arguments have been used. What's not clear is whether there are any other similarities, or whether the arguments are equally valid. New Yorkers, for the most part, weren't upset about the center, and the people behind it were standing up, to people who's been riled up with bigotry and xenophobia for political purposes, out of principle--to make it clear that it's not only wrong to lump them in with terrorists, but to show that doing so wouldn't result in them backing down, giving the appearance that the connection might be valid.

Tom, to me, that only makes the Koran burning doubly offensive and doubly stupid. A group seeks to reach out, and some bigoted, attention-whoring ass in Florida responds by insulting hundreds of millions of people.

Tom Van Dyke said...

A group seeks to reach out

I don't buy that.

bpabbott said...

Re: "I don't buy that."

I assume you question whether the Imam is genuine?

... or are you questioning whether he has actually "reach out". Which I think he has, as indicated here and here. Although that also depends on what is inferred or implied by "reached out".

King of Ireland said...

I am not so sure this dude is reaching out either. He had to have known that circus this was going to cause.

Tom Van Dyke said...

This has grown into a partisan matter, idiot "conservatives" vs. the forces of Enlightenment and the Constitution.

But I looked it up, and pls check my research---although 88% of Republicans don't want the mosque built there, so do 57% of Democrats. CBS News poll, as I recall.

America ain't buying this Rauf guy and the mosque thing. I don't care enough to litigate here on this blog, or frankly, anywhere else on the internet. Most of us aren't feeling this as a "reach-out," and even if Rauf's "reach-out" were well-intentioned and sincere, if you're well-intentioned and sincere, you find an alternate way to show your good intentions and sincerity when your first "reach-out" fails, which this one did.

That would be common sense, I think. If your wife doesn't exactly appreciate your gift of a new vacuum cleaner, you go buy her some jewelry.

Pronto. You don't argue why she should appreciate your thoughtfulness with the vacuum cleaner.

I mean, geez, once we have to start explaining common sense, we are lost. Abstractions will be the death of us.

jimmiraybob said...

The "reach out" began a long time ago without problems arising. Rauf's wife was even on Fox News' Laura Ingraham* show in December 2009 where Ingraham said, "I can't find many people who really have a problem with it," Ingraham says of the Cordoba project, adding at the end of the interview, "I like what you're trying to do."

This whole "mosque controversy" is manufactured to play on people's fears for an election cycle.

*known to have rather strong Christian conservative views.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Because she's not buying Rauf's act either.

"Ingraham said about her December, 2009 interview with Khan, "It all sounded like the kind of Islamic reformation that we need in America. But in the ensuing months, we all discovered that there’s a lot more to the story, including incendiary comments from Ms. Khan’s husband."

jimmiraybob said...

Of course she's backtracking now that it's become convenient to her politics during an election cycle. Not to mention that she'd risk being tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail for betraying the whipped up angry masses.

This is fodder for the reactionaries and opportunists.

Tom Van Dyke said...

57% of Democrats, too, then. Or maybe the idea just stinks and Rauf has something else in mind besides "reaching out."

bpabbott said...

I don't think the poll data of Republicans and/or Democrats has any relation to whether, or not, Rauf is genuinely reaching out.

I don't expect pundits to be genuine, and don't expect them to be persuaded by an individual's integrity.

Since Laura Ingraham is a pundit, I have no expectation of her opinion being related to whether or not she thinks Rauf is being genuine.

My point is that popular opinion regarding the mosque is irrelevant to whether or not Rauf is genuine.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I agree that what the American people want does not reflect the honesty of integrity of Rauf. But, just has been illustrated with the example buying one's wife a vacumn cleaner, if one is open to real peace, then, one will consider another's opinion and compromise or negotiate. And this is where I believe it is impossible to believe Rauf, because if one truly believes in the God of Muhammed, (or any other God for that matter) then one must also not compromise regarding God. God is of primary importance, everything that comes before God is idolatry.
America allows any view of God, even an atheistic view. This tolerance is not admitable for those that believe. Symbol is not the way that these understand religion. And this is why religion can be so dangerous to a free socity.

Jason Pappas said...

During Washington’s day, rights and freedoms were curtailed during wartime. In the Revolutionary War censorship was deemed necessary and there was a general ban on the performance of plays.

If we take Washington’s example, movies like Syriana and Fahrenheit 911 would not be released.

Of course, we don’t have a declared war. As John Adams learned, restricting liberties in an undeclared war or threat of war is not acceptable.

I tend to think the acceptance of wartime restrictions during the Revolution but rejection of the restrictions during Adams’ Presidency sets the standards. What do others think?