Thursday, August 26, 2010

Faith Works 8-28

Faith Works 8-28-10

Jeff Gill


Every Conversation Starts With Some Assumptions



This year, completely aside from the New York City controversy over an Islamic community center in lower Manhattan, the celebration that normally concludes the month of Ramadan for Moslems called "Eid al-Fitr," falls on September 11.


Since the ritual observances for Islam are based on a lunar calendar, Ramadan moves "backwards" a bit each year, so this won't happen again for decades. But what to do this year?


In some communities, the Islamic organizations sponsor a large street fair or public extravaganza (like Blessed Sacrament is doing today in Newark, check it out!) for their Eid celebration, but that was being rethought even before the Cordoba Center/Park51 flap took off.


So in many settings, Moslems are either quietly downplaying their festivities, or rescheduling them. This is both unfortunate, and perfectly reasonable. Can it be both? I'd say yes.


Not many years after 9-11, that date fell on a Saturday. A couple met with me to plan a wedding. They were somewhat anxious about the convergence, but that was the only week their families and friends could get together on a Saturday.


My counsel to them was that they could make a good decision either way; if they liked the idea of having a happier memory to go with those numbers on the calendar, and didn't mind the other news that would come along with it, there was no reason to avoid the date. If they decided between the two of them that the commemorations and remembrances would be a distraction from celebrating their marriage, let's figure out another day.


They went with Sept. 11, and I believe they did the right thing. The point was getting the people they loved together to mark their day, and if others thought it odd, that was their concern.


If we were in northern New Jersey, I suspect our conversation would be different. It might or might not be doable.


In the same way, I think the fact that you can find folks spouting vile stuff about mosques and Moslems has nothing to do with whether or not it's reasonable for people to ask questions about the New York controversy. The sources of the money alone...


The primary possibilities seem to be either Saudi Arabia or Iran for funding this, and I completely sympathize with those who say they'd feel much better about this project the moment one 900 square foot Baptist prayer room is allowed anywhere in the entire country of Saudi Arabia.


Tell me a new synagogue gets approval in Iran or they stop jailing and executing Baha'is, and I'm fine with them paying the bills for a study center anywhere in this country.


Mind you, I still think Park51 should be built. They got the permits, they're legally moving forward, and that should be that. But don't call it Islamophobia, unless I get to call it Christianophobia every time I hear about a new church project getting triple scrutiny and pressure to sign a document promising not to open a day care or feed the homeless. Which happens just about every day in this country. Churches don't get free passes, they get extra scrutiny, so the Islamic center isn't getting much different treatment than the rest of us religious folks.


But then there's Glenn Beck. Yes, I know, today he's doing a very honorable and patriotic thing in Washington, and I wish him and his hundreds of thousands well, and safe travels back home with happy memories.


Right now, it's hard for me to find him trustworthy even if he were to announce that the sun was rising today in the east, or that my mother loves me.


Last Wednesday, I got a number of calls and e-mails that evening and into the next day. "Did you know Glenn Beck talked about the Newark Earthworks on his show?" Indeed he did. He also argued for Egyptian influences and Hebrew involvement in their construction, pointing at the diameter of the Observatory Circle and the geometry of the attached Octagon, saying it was "exactly, EXACTLY!!!" the same as an Egyptian "stade," 606 feet.


The problem being that this dimension is 1054 feet.


He went on to talk about the Newark Holy Stones, and how they've been hidden, or erased, or willfully misinterpreted by those who study them. By which he means, those who don't agree with his take on them.


Well, Brad Lepper and yours truly are the primary writers and presenters on those unusual and interesting objects, and it's hard to look at our individual and joint speaking schedule over the last ten years and say we've been hiding much – our wives would agree.


As for willful misinterpretation? Mr. Beck, if you can't even get the basic measurements right, why would anyone trust your interpretation over anyone else's? I'll let you all check out my interpretation on the Holy Stones more fully next week.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he's had the pleasure of writing, speaking, and publishing on the Newark Holy Stones for years. Tell him about a mystery everyone knows about at or follow Knapsack @Twitter.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Knapsack 8-26

Notes From My Knapsack 8-26-10

Jeff Gill

"Why don't we know about these stories?" – Glenn Beck


This week was going to be a clever essay about how the idea of an
Islamic community center with a prayer room on Broadway might go over
better than a Chinese restaurant. Seriously, I don't know how some
people have so much spare time that they can worry about there being
excessive scents of ginger and soy sauce in the air along Granville's
main drag.

Yes, I've actually heard someone say "I don't know if I want a
Chinese restaurant downtown."

Would you rather smell more Aqua Velva and chicken gravy scent? Is a
Sharper Image store more in keeping with our cultural traditions? (Is
there still a Sharper Image? Nope.)

But then Glenn Beck started picking on me.

OK, not me, but on anyone who studies and interprets the Newark
Earthworks, and particularly the so-called "Holy Stones." Apparently,
according to Mr. Beck, we've been hiding stuff by explaining it all
wrong, which is to say not showing how the mounds in this area are
clearly influenced by Egyptian and Hebrew writing, ideas, and design.

Of course, one of his key "blackboard" points is that a particular
recurring dimension is exactly (EXACTLY!!!) 606 feet, which is the
side of the Giza pyramid, aka an Egyptian "stade," which is a cool
looking word. He used it a great deal.

Mind you, having walked the Octagon and Observatory Circle as much as
many golfers out there, I can tell you foot by foot, as well as from
multiple surveys and as any child with a mapping program from Google
or Bing could show, the dimension he's saying is exactly (EXACTLY!!!)
the same as an Egyptian stade is 1052 feet.

That's not very exact, if you ask me. Which Glenn Beck did not.

Glenn Beck has his own sources, but when he says his purpose is to
reveal history that "the Smithsonian, science, government, and
commerce colluded to erase," I will admit he's striking close to
home. When he's talking about the Newark Holy Stones, Dr. Brad Lepper
of the Ohio Historical Society and yours truly are the main writers
and presenters on the subject. Stephen Williams of Harvard and Ken
Feder of Connecticut State have published books that address the Holy
Stones, but they largely cite . . . well, me and Brad.

So if anyone is erasing history relating to the Holy Stones, that'd
be us.

Beck continues, "The history that has been erased in our nation and,
in particular, with the Native Americans, happened because it didn't
fit the story they created – manifest destiny. It only works if the
Indians were savages. And they had to have savages for commerce and
government to expand. The ancient artifacts prove otherwise. Why
aren't we looking into those?" (Wed., Aug. 18, 2010 broadcast)

We've been looking into them, and we have a story to tell – and have
been telling it to anyone who will listen. OHS's own magazine, Brad
did a talk at the Granville Library a few months ago, we teamed up to
present to the Denison faculty a few years ago, and were both
mentioned in a story in "Der Spiegel" about the same time.

I could go on.

Brad and I are happy to say it all again, and I'll offer an outline
in my next column. For now, I have to say, having been personally in
the vortex of the spin cycle, the grain of salt I'll take with
anything Mr. Beck says now is about the size of one of those blocks
people set out for the deer.

And for what it's worth, I think the mosque absolutely should be
built, just as soon as the Port Authority quits jerking around the
Greek Orthodox church crushed on 9-11, whose land was taken and who's
being "encouraged" to accept a site around the corner and away from
where they'd been the last 91 years.

If the church and the new tower and the memorial were done and
dedicated, I doubt we'd hear much about the Islamic center. That's
the contrast that has plenty of people of good will not feeling good
about this development. It's not the fault of the Moslem group, and
it's a shame they're taking heat more accurately aimed at the public
officials who have so poorly handled the last ten years around the site.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around
central Ohio; tell him about what Glenn Beck has said about you at or follow Knapsack @Twitter.