Ground Zero mosque: spate of terror plots fueling fears –

Passions are high. Understandably so:

Several proposed Islamic centers, including one near Ground Zero, have touched off a heated nationwide debate that raises questions about the state of religious tolerance in post-9/11 America.

A planned mosque and Islamic center, just a stone’s throw away from the World Trade Center site, even prompted Sarah Palin to send a series of Twitter posts Sunday asking peace-seeking Muslims to “pls reject it in the interest of healing.”

The possibility of an Islamic center in California compelled a Baptist minister, whose church would sit next door to the mosque, to compare the plan to putting cats and dogs in the same cage. In Murfreesboro, Tenn., a proposed mosque led to heated outbursts at public hearings, including threats to boycott any builder who works on it.

Opposition over mosque building appears to be at a new high and follows a recent string of thwarted terror plots involving American Muslims, say experts. Muslim leaders say the protests are built on bigotry and ignorance, while opponents say they have legitimate concerns over Islamic militancy.

via Ground Zero mosque: spate of terror plots fueling fears –

It’s helpful to map the landscape of this issue, naming some pertinent features of what reasoned debate/conversation would need to address. In a future entry, we’ll explore these in more detail. For now, a partial list:

1. (a theological question): The nature of the universal/exclusivist claims of Christianity and Islam. (This pertains to the California  Baptist minister’s characterization of a mosque and church next to one another being like putting cats and dogs next to one another.)

2. (a theological/psychological question): The nature and dynamics of healing. (This pertains to Sarah Palin’s tweet.)

3. (a religious/theological/political question): The relationship– or lack thereof– of Islamic teaching to radical jihadist rhetoric and “religious” violence.

4. (empirical, sociological questions): What can we truthfully say about the American Muslim community, in terms of demographics, countries of origin (if not the United States), cities and states with the largest Muslim communities, etc.?

5. (a historical question): What’s the history of American Christianity and Islam?

6. (a theological/psychological question): How does fear affect us and our relationships?

Prescription drug abuse surged 400 percent in past decade –

Check out this unsettling yet unsurprising story from the Christian Science Monitor:

Prescription drug abuse is not just on the rise – it has become a national crisis, according to a just-released White House study detailing a 400 percent increase in substance abuse treatment admissions for prescription pain relievers between 1998 and 2008.

The non-medical use of prescription pain relievers is now the second-most prevalent form of illicit drug use in America….

The abuse of these strong drugs is an indication of a much more widespread cultural problem, says addiction specialist Clare Kavin of The Waismann Method, a treatment center for opiate dependency….

“We are in a culture of immediate gratification and nobody will put up with even the slightest discomfort anymore,” she says.

via Prescription drug abuse surged 400 percent in past decade –

The culture of immediate gratification is a culture that has lost its grounding in a Transcendent Source, in a Higher Power. And who would blame us: pain hurts; gratification is fun; therefore, avoid pain and gratify oneself whenever possible.

The problem is, we’re supposed to be adults who know better. True religion, of whatever stripe, helps us become mature people who can deal with suffering in life-affirming ways– ways that include, among other things, tears and grief, anger and anguish. In other words, true religion helps us be honest– even when honesty hurts.

It goes without saying that none of this is a criticism of palliative care, or of medically necessary pain management: both are mercies for which we can be thankful. Neither, further, is this a criticism of individual prescription drug abusers, whose pain I wouldn’t try to imagine. Compassion, not scorn, is the proper response to these people.

The criticism is of our culture: the culture of instant gratification, which doesn’t give us much help as we try to make our way through suffering, loss, and pain.

Religion should teach us that, inevitably, there is a time in an authentic human life for surrender.