The Mosque in Murfreesboro

I tried to find a picture of Dan J. Qualls.  Here’s the way the New York Times described him

Only one opponent of the mosque came to voice his concerns at the opening [of the local mosque], a former auto plant worker wearing an “I Love Jesus” hat and a Ten Commandments shirt.

Then I decided it didn’t really need a picture; the words are pretty graphic.  Most of the people I talk to regularly would not wear either the shirt or the hat and most especially would not wear either in opposition to the opening of a non-Christian place of worship.  I wouldn’t either, of course.  That’s partly why I hang out with those people.

The easiest way to condemn Mr. Qualls is to call him a hypocrite, but I’m not sure that’s the best way to respond to his discontent.  The case for  comes from the hat and the shirt.  The Ten Commandments, for instance, comes from a tradition that is quite outspoken about the duty of hospitality, especially toward the stranger and the foreigner.  The closest Jesus ever came to Mr. Qualls confrontation with a mosque is probably his encounter with the Samaritan women given in the Gospel of John.  In that exchange, Jesus said, “Neither your religious traditions or ours are worth disputing over because God is in the process of moving the notion of “worship” to a level we have never even dreamed of.[1]

But a “hypocrite” is a play-actor.  It is a word from Greek theater (hypokritēs) and it means “playing a part.”  Jesus sometimes castigated the Pharisees for hypocrisy on the grounds that their religious observances were not genuine piety, but only good theater.  But what part is Mr. Qualls playing?  He said he heard about the opening of the mosque on the TV news and decided to “come out and represent the Christians.”  Is that a religious act?  Or is it more tribal or maybe ethnic.  It is a demographic group he is representing.  The teachings of his faith—either the hat or the shirt—seem beside the point.  He is there to represent the interests of his group, not the teachings of his group.

On the other hand, Mr. Qualls’s comment seems pretty small potatoes.  “My honest opinion is, I wish this wasn’t here.”  I’m OK with that.[2]

On the other hand, vandals have spray-painted “Not Welcome” on the construction signs and have set fire to some of the equipment.  At a public hearing, residents testified that Islam is “not a religion” and that Muslims are trying to overthrow the Constitution.  A local Republican candidate for Congress tied the center to Hamas, which is a terrorist organization and the freely elected government of Gaza. Robert E. Corlew III ruled that the county had not given sufficient notice of the public hearing and stopped the building permit.  The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro and the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department filed separate lawsuits asking the Corlew’s ruling be set aside. 

That’s what else was going on in Murfreesboro and it is what makes me think that Mr. Qualls lament—the ball cap and the tee shirt aside—is not what we have most to worry about.



[1] Had Jesus been speaking Arabic, rather than Aramaic, he would have said that this is something Allah was doing.  “Allah” is a linguistic marker, not a theological one.  “Allah” is the Arabic word for the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

[2] The Constitution guarantees freedom of religious expression.  It does not specify that others need to be happy about it.

About hessd

Here is all you need to know to follow this blog. I am an old man and I love to think about why we say the things we do. I've taught at the elementary, secondary, collegiate, and doctoral levels. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. I have taught political science for a long time and have practiced politics in and around the Oregon Legislature. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. You'll be seeing a lot about my favorite topics here. There will be religious reflections (I'm a Christian) and political reflections (I'm a Democrat) and a good deal of whimsy. I'm a dilettante.
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