“we simply want an even playing field. The reality that we face is that it is religion that seeks to exclude all, we simply want to open up that closed shop“.
Well, I’ve changed my mind and now argue that the lawsuit is a really bad idea and was totally inappropriate. No I’ve not suddenly converted, nor have I moved into the accommodationist camp, nor am I concerned that this was unpopular. Instead, I now have a clearer view of what is going on here and it is that clarity, the new facts, that have changed my mind.
The understanding that I had initially was that the deployment of the cross into the museum was an attempt by believers to claim this exclusively Christian symbol as a universal memorial for all that happened, so I did indeed feel that 9/11 was an atrocity against all and not one specific group, hence it was not appropriate – the problem here is that my understanding was wrong.
What has changed my mind is an article I came across in the Washington Post written by Susan Jacoby. In it she clarifies quite a few things.
First, what is the 9/11 museum all about? She explain it as follows …
The 9/11 museum is intended to reflect as much as possible about the varied ways in which New Yorkers responded not only on that terrible day but in the following weeks and months.
The museum will doubtless contain examples of the impromptu memorials that sprang up at ground zero and throughout Manhattan, with pictures of the dead and the missing that also contain many religious symbols. I saw many Stars of David and a few small statues of Buddha at those memorials in the weeks after the attacks. Should they be eliminated too, if there weren’t enough symbols of other faiths and secular thinking?
Now … given that fact, it is clearly appropriate to include that cross as one of the many displays that illustrated how people responded to what happened. Workers found this cross-shaped metal beam and some saw it as a symbol of hope amid the ruins. So including it is simply telling part of the story, in no way is it being deployed as some form of declaration of belief. If they tried to deploy it as the official symbol for the entire museum at the entrance, then perhaps there is a case here, but my understanding now is that is not the intent at all.
In this context, the comments from David Silverman look daft and silly. He has said the suit’s goal was either to have the object eliminated from the museum altogether or to provide equal representation for all religions.
“They can allow every religious position to put in a symbol of equal size and stature, or they can take it all out, but they don’t get to pick and choose,”
So if we follow this logic to its conclusion, we then end up in a truly insane irrational position. As beautifully described by Susan …
Why not make sure that the permanent collections of tax-supported museums contain a precisely equal number of paintings and pieces of sculpture so that all religious and nonreligious beliefs will have artistic parity? Let’s make sure there’s one painting of the solar system for every painting of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
Bottom line here – her article has greatly helped to clarify this entire issue for me and I have changed my mind, the entire lawsuit is quite frankly insane when you consider it within the context of what is actually going on here.
The cross is part of the history of what happened on 9/11 and how people responded to it, that is all, it is not an endorsement of Christianity. If we truly do wish to go in and start sanitizing museums to conform to our thinking then we are no better than the Taliban lunatics who decided to dynamite some historical Buddhist statues because they represented a belief that was not theirs.
Have you also supported this lawsuit? If so, then you might like to re-think this entire issue as I have done.