George: The Tennessee fire

Sunday, September 12, 2010 at 11:45pm

At the northwest corner of Public Square, the center of daily life in downtown Murfreesboro, there is a lectern made of translucent, weatherworn plastic. On it, encased, is an old leather-covered Bible split open to Luke, Chapter 2.

Casting a long shadow over Christ’s origin story is the Rutherford County Courthouse, a historic structure that has benefited handsomely from its city’s appreciation of the past. Its red brick and massive white columns, its stately squareness, remind that this Middle Tennessee town that sits 35 miles southeast of Nashville was once, for a brief decade during the 1800s, the state capital.

All around the courthouse, blocked in perfectly square rows, are businesses that recall yesterday’s Americana: cleaners, barber shop, cigar store, restaurants and bars, hardware store, realtor-cum-auctioneer — all brushed with the unmistakable veneer of localness. There are the law firms and bail bondsmen often found dotting the parapets of courthouses. This is the heart of local commerce and government.

But in the buckle of the Bible Belt, as the strategically placed holy book suggests, religion is rarely far out of mind.

In the past couple of weeks, Murfreesboro’s burgeoning national reputation evolved from New York City’s rat-tailed little brother in anti-Muslim fervor to the standard-bearer of a new, violent kind of white-bred, Christian-inspired bigotry. The arson at the site of the proposed new mosque in Rutherford County, just outside the ’Boro city limits, took some people by surprise, including our friends in the mainstream media, who flocked down here like wild dogs blind with the scent of raw meat.

It shouldn’t have surprised a soul.

The anti-mosque (and, by extension, anti-Islam) movements sprouting up throughout rural America tend to position themselves right on the line between bluster and violent action. If you are to believe their rhetoric, the ultimate goal is to fend off a coming war. They have been churning toward a violent end, trying along the way to intimidate with promises of protest, threats of legal action, large-scale demonstrations and a boatload of media coverage. They wrap themselves in our flag and wield the Old Testament as a sort of lance, fending off the perceived “evil” of the world’s second-largest religion, a point of view based on the actions of a strict minority of Muslims.

This is just the sort of thing Laurie Cardoza-Moore seems to be encouraging. The Nashville-based, self-professed leader of the anti-mosque movement in Murfreesboro, also a shaker in the controversy over the proposed mosque near Ground Zero, has made the rounds — from CNN to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart — alleging terrorist connections at the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro and portents of violence if the new mosque is built. That, despite the congregation’s 30 years of peaceful existence in Rutherford County.

Cardoza-Moore and others have insisted their screeds against Islam have nothing to do with religion, which — like their right to spit such fury — is protected by the First Amendment. Rather, they suggest they’re the would-be victims of a coming holy war to be waged by Muslims across America.

“Let me be very clear … this is not about religion, it never has been,” she wrote in a letter sent to the Rutherford County Planning Commission in late July, more than two months after the commission had approved the mosque. “It is about this community’s concerns about advancing the political agenda of radical Islam in Tennessee!”

Wars are fought, not argued. To suggest that what Cardoza-Moore and others are saying carries no implied threat of violence is to obfuscate a basic tenet of their approach, which by all indicators is to engender so much fear and loathing over a coming Islamic revolution in America that a tipping point — even a violent one — will be achieved. Their people, it is suggested, will have to rise up.

Paradoxically, it appears those in the anti-mosque community are operating under the same fundamental misunderstanding of America’s constitutional history as Al Qaeda and other groups that aim to threaten our country’s foundation: that the rule of law and civil rights are the expendable creations of an overly liberal majority that has strayed from its God. On the contrary, they’re the well-traveled rewards of our country’s designed distance from theocracy. And they protect the right to speak out even of those whose objective is a return to rule by religious doctrine.

As mainstream conservative Christians — including the Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention and the National Association of Evangelicals, among many smaller congregations — have indicated in public statements, their edict as interpreted in modern society does not advocate for the burning of others’ holy books or violence against practitioners of another religion.

Christian Reconstructionists believe in imposing and enforcing strictly interpreted biblical law onto their country. Yet their fellow Christians don’t suggest the Reconstructionists are attempting to overthrow American law and enact sadistic biblical doctrine any time they insert themselves into the news.

Perhaps that’s because the mainstreamers realize, on some basic level, that a sliver-sized minority group is not representative of their whole — like Muslim terrorists, or Christians bent on terrorizing mosques and their congregants. Some understanding of the boundaries is in order, before another fire is lit.

Filed under: City Voices

5 Comments on this post:

By: govskeptic on 9/13/10 at 6:09

Thanks Mr. George for this long list of babble that seems to
have no end. The 30 yrs of peaceful existence could be
mainly attributed to the fact there were only a handful of
worshippers. That is no longer the numbers in Murfreesboro
or other cities and towns across the nation. We have just as
many Reconstructionist in the Judicary as we do in these
cites and towns concerning Muslims and the Holy Quran.
The difference is the amount of press one gets over the other!

By: brrrrk on 9/13/10 at 10:37

This article reminds me of my two favorite James Madison quotes....

"We hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth 'that religion, or the duty which we owe our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence.' The religion, then, of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man: and that it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate."

And....

"What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient allies."

By: yogiman on 9/13/10 at 11:19

Mr. George,

Islam has been at war with the US since 1979. It is known they built a mosque at every location they beat their enemies. It is simply their mosgue of victory.

You say the Muslims have been peaceful for 30 years in M'boro, but considering the number now let me ask you; how many were in the USA 100 years ago? 75 years ago?
50 years ago? 25 years ago? and the number now? Thousands. Its simply one step at a time, Mr. George.

Looking at the same issue on our government today; 100 years ago our congress personnel went in office to serve the citizens of their (our) nation. When did congress decide it was time to take control over the nation as they are in the process of doing today? Who is actually in control out our nation today, them, or us? Congress is passing 'so-called' laws for the benefit of the people. We could go on and on about laws that have been passed by congress for the 'benefit of the people'. Many of them are highly questionable. I have concluded our DC dwellers are in there for themselves, not us.

By: localboy on 9/13/10 at 3:54

Good points govskeptic and brrrrk...
roll Titans roll

By: Tull on 9/14/10 at 11:44

When a terrorist attack occurs we hear the reasoning that "it's just a small radical faction" of Islam but when something like this or the book burning in Florida happens all we hear from the left is all Christians are evil and dangerous. How come they don't get the same treatment? Do you really think that MOST Christians would go blow something up in the name of religion? The left is so out of touch with the majority of Americans!