20 January 2011


I share the concerns of the ADL and the Birmingham Islamic Society about whether the Alabama Governor can be truly fair and equally concerned about other communities (non-Christian) in Alabama. Would the Governor be concerned equally about rhetorical bashing, even violence, that is Islamophobic or anti-Semitic? After all, those communities do not fall within his spiritual cartography, as non-Christian people, who, according to the Governor, are bereft of God and do not have the Holy Spirit.

We should expect better from public officials, especially in a State that has a long history of lynchings. Today, the Southern Poverty Law Center lists 32 hate groups in Alabama, many of whom claim Christianity as part of their ideology (such as the several neo-Confederacy groups). On the world stage, this kind of thinking has been the source of pogroms.

Admittedly, it is a long way from a mild statement of inclusion/exclusion to pogroms, genocide, Crusades, and hate crimes. But, in the climate of political/cultural rhetoric we have today, the Governor's statement could go some way to give further permission to a hate group or two. There are lots of groups--e.g., in the Patriot movement--who blame "World Jewry" for what they see as the Federal Reserve conspiracy of Jewish-banker control over every aspect of American life, the New World Order, and even 9/11.

Once the boundary is drawn for inclusion/exclusion, it is easy to begin to place on the outside any other groups who would have no inherent characteristics that would warrant that exclusion according to religion. For example, in terms of fighting poverty, would the good Governor be lacking in concern for communities of poverty--part of the citizenry that the Governor might say is mostly non-Christian? The Governor unconsciously might be imbued with the idea that the poor are essentially bereft of God, thus the cause of their plight. This is, after all, a central view of traditional Social Darwinism, which I believe is still extant: The poor deserve their (self-created) place, because God is not on their side.

And, what of anti-gay/lesbian groups, all probably casting some of their beliefs in rhetoric of Christian ideology. Would the Governor be sympathetic to laws against anti-gay crimes, with his beliefs? In Alabama, Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker ran an election ad that said that a federal judge who temporarily ordered the military to accept openly gay recruits should be added to a list of "America's biggest security threats," along with Al-Qaeda terrorists.

As postmodern cartography informs us, the map proactively helps to create the territory. By the same token, a spiritual cartography that draws a line--a border of brotherhood!--between the anointed and the lost creates a conceptual structure--a mental map--of brotherhood and otherness, its opposite. I contend that the boundaries on our conceptual maps should, when they deal with people, be erased of those political and spiritual divisions of inclusion/exclusion.

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