This is my essay that appeared on Catholic Online today.
NAPLES (Catholic Online) – Muslims have it over secularists, but not Christians – at least the clear thinking ones anyway. The Muslim proposal to build a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero is not only an affront to all people who died there, but another chapter in a cultural jihad that seeks to replace the cultural traditions of Christendom with Sharia, the code of law derived from the Koran and from the teachings and example of Mohammed.
First the caveats. Yes, most Muslims are not jihadists; they may see the non-Muslim as an infidel but won’t resort to violence to defeat him. Yes, Muslim believers pose no threat to American cultural norms and legal structures as long as their numbers remain small. Yes, every Muslim citizen should be afforded the rights due to all Americans regardless of their religion.
The $100 million mosque however, represents more than religious freedom. Named the “Cordoba House,” it is meant to recall the great Cordoba Mosque built in Cordoba, Spain in 784 after the Muslim conquest (and etch it forever in the West’s historical memory). The Cordoba House in New York (which assuredly will function as a mosque) is meant to broadcast to the world that the destruction of the Twin Towers was a victory for jihad.
It’s a perverse twist to a practice that Christians hold dear: Some ground is sacred and must reference God to make sense of the events that took place on it.
Sacred ground is more easily understood by European Christians than their American counterparts (the relative youth of America may have something to do with this). Some events are so catastrophic, or prove to be so historically significant, that they transcend the categories we normally employ to explain them. These events must reference something higher to make sense to us; they must appeal to something outside of ourselves that can explain paradox or recognize great moral courage or even reconcile inhuman suffering.
America has places of holy ground, even though most Americans, while drawn to those places and often deeply moved by their visits to them, don’t always grasp that the sacred character of those places is what moves them. Appomattox, where the American Civil War ended with Lee’s surrender to Grant, is one such place. The USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor comes to mind. Ellis Island is another. There are surely more.
The secularists don’t see it that way of course. But their blindness (which must inevitably default to perceiving these question only in legal categories) is the result of an a priori rejection of the sacred dimension of life.
You can think of secularism as merely a long layover from one city to the next, although this trip takes a few centuries instead of hours. Secularism is not strong or deep enough to sustain a culture. It can’t and won’t hold. Secularism lives off the religious heritage of Christianity (and Judaism before it), and if Christendom ceases to be Christian the secularist will end up embracing Islam .
The Muslims understand this. Some Christians do too. That is why building a mosque represents not, as some Americans think, an example of American tolerance towards “religious belief,” but the continuing desacralizing of American culture under the rubric of tolerance.
If the mosque is built, we will see the slow but certain drift to referencing 9-11 to the god of Mohammed rather than the God of Abraham. And if we drift far enough, religious freedom will die and so will the political and cultural freedoms that are its progeny.