The King’s College, still kicking, has a new president

Remember The King’s College?

The evangelical Christian college was based in Briarcliff Manor from 1955 until the state ordered it to close in 1994.

At that point, the school was $20 million in the red, enrollment had plummeted from 870 to 170 students and the state determined that the college’s faculty was not up to snuff.

In 1992, the college began the process for selling its Westchester property to Tara Circle, an Irish-American organization that wanted to create an athletics and cultural center. If you were around at the time, you remember that the town of Briarcliff Manor had something of a civil war over the Tara Circle plans.

The opponents eventually won out. Then it took a decade for the town to decide what to do with the property.

Early this year, ground was broken for a $350 million senior housing community, The Club at Briarcliff Manor, which is set to open in 2013.

Why do I bring up The King’s College?

The college shut down in 1994, but was revived in 1998 with the assistance of Bill Bright, the late founder of Campus Crusade for Christ.

It reopened in, of all places, the Empire State Building. According to the college’s website: “We exist to influence the world’s most strategic institutions. After a century in which many Christians have disengaged from the public square, we seek to enter it, declaring truth in a civil and persuasive manner.

New York City, the most critical city in the world, is our campus.”

Now The King’s College has a new president, the much noted and quoted conservative thinker Dinesh J. D’Souza. He is such a media force these days that The King’s College is bound to get a higher profile in the months to come.

In fact, D’Souza has just written an article in Forbes magazine about President Obama, in which he writes that “The President’s actions are so bizarre that they mystify his critics and supporters alike.”

He concludes that Obama is an “anticolonialist,” shaped by his father: “But to his son, the elder Obama represented a great and noble cause, the cause of anticolonialism.”

D’Souza writes:

*****

It may seem incredible to suggest that the anticolonial ideology of Barack Obama Sr. is espoused by his son, the President of the United States. That is what I am saying. From a very young age and through his formative years, Obama learned to see America as a force for global domination and destruction. He came to view America’s military as an instrument of neocolonial occupation. He adopted his father’s position that capitalism and free markets are code words for economic plunder. Obama grew to perceive the rich as an oppressive class, a kind of neocolonial power within America. In his worldview, profits are a measure of how effectively you have ripped off the rest of society, and America’s power in the world is a measure of how selfishly it consumes the globe’s resources and how ruthlessly it bullies and dominates the rest of the planet.

For Obama, the solutions are simple. He must work to wring the neocolonialism out of America and the West.

*****

So there is your update on The King’s College.

Dolan: Catholics must ‘recover nerve’ to support Catholic schools

While it’s appeared in recent years as if Catholic schools were heading toward irrelevance — or semi-extinction — because of financial woes, Archbishop Dolan is pledging to refocus on Catholic education.

In a strongly worded article in the Jesuits’ America magazine, Dolan makes the case that Catholic life is largely dependent on the existence of healthy Catholic schools. As a result, he writes, all Catholics — not only those with children of school-age — must take responsibility for Catholic education.

He writes: “Nowadays, Catholics often see a Catholic education as a consumer product, reserved to those who can afford it. The result is predictable: Catholics as a whole in the United States have for some time disowned their school system, excusing themselves as individuals, parishes or dioceses from any further involvement with a Catholic school simply because their own children are not enrolled there, or their parish does not have its own school.”

Dolan says that while Catholic schools were once needed to protect students from anti-Catholicism, they are now needed to protect them from secularization.

He writes:

*****

Today’s anti-Catholicism hardly derives from that narrow 19th-century Protestantism, intent on preserving its own cultural and political hold. Those battles are long settled. Instead, the Catholic Church is now confronted by a new secularization asserting that a person of faith can hardly be expected to be a tolerant and enlightened American. Religion, in this view, is only a personal hobby, with no implications for public life. Under this new scheme, to take one’s faith seriously and bring it to the public square somehow implies being un-American. To combat this notion, an equally energetic evangelization—with Catholic schools at its center—is all the more necessary.

*****

Dolan challenges Catholics to get on board without mincing words.

How about this: “It is time to recover our nerve and promote our schools for the 21st century. The current hospice mentality—watching our schools slowly die—must give way to a renewed confidence.”

Or this: “Have we Catholics lost our nerve, the dare and dream that drove our ancestors in the faith, who built a Catholic school system that is the envy of the world?”

Dolan is gradually unveiling a new approach to the schools that he calls “Pathways to Excellence.” He hasn’t released much info yet, but he wrote in a May column in the NY Post that, mostly likely, some schools would be closed, some would be merged and some new schools would be opened.

I wrote a couple of years ago that the Archdiocese of NY was planning to put groups of parishes in charge of single schools, moving away from the traditional one-parish, one-school approach. We’ll see if this new strategy is part of Dolan’s plans.

A public Muslim service in Peekskill

I just got back from Pugsley Park in Peekskill, where the Islamic Center of Peekskill held a very public celebration of Eid ul-Fitr, the Islamic festival that marks the end of Ramadan.

The group held their prayers and celebration outdoors so their non-Muslim neighbors could see them.

Several senior members and the groups’ imam, a 45-year-old fellow from Senegal, told me that public perceptions of Muslims will only change when non-Muslims see how Muslims act and live.

During his sermon, Imam Papa Sall repeatedly said that Muslims have to be true to themselves by living honorable, honest lives that will influence the way non-Muslims understand their faith. Words won’t do, he said.

It was a quiet morning on Main Street in Peekskill. Many people were at work, of course. A good number of people slowed down in their cars to see what was happening, but then went off to continue their day.

It was interesting, at least to me, that the Islamic Center of Peekskill chose to have this first public celebration just as Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is FINALLY making the media rounds to talk about himself and the plans for the downtown Islamic center.

Maybe it’s time for a Muslim public relations firm to get off the ground and to help Muslim groups in the U.S. figure out how to better communicate with all those Americans who still know nada about Islam and are unlikely to ever pick up a Quran.

The Muslim community in the U.S. is growing by the day. Its leaders must be more visible and must do a better job of communicating.

At Pugsley Park, the Islamic Center set up a table of pamphlets. I saw many of the same pamphlets I’ve seen at various mosques and Islamic events over the years.

But “Islam: The True Religion of God” and “Who Invented the Trinity” won’t cut it anymore. They’re proselytizing tracts that might have been enough when no one was paying attention to Islam. Today, they’re liking to offend passers-by.

The American Muslim community has to do better.

Muslim notes for early September

Some interesting Islam-related notes:

1. The Islamic Center of Peekskill will hold a public celebration tomorrow or Friday of Eid ul-Fitr, one of the two great Muslim festivals.

It will be at Pugsley Park (at Main Street and Bank Street) from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. We don’t have a date yet because the Eid won’t be set until a sighting of the new moon.

A press release promises “an opportunity to meet your Muslim neighbors and learn how we would like to continue to serve the community.”

2. Congregation Kol Ami in White Plains will hold an interfaith panel on Saturday, Sept 18. (Yom Kippur) from 3 to 4:30 p.m.: “Visions of a Tolerant America: Jewish, Muslim and Christian voices discuss an Islamic Center near Ground Zero.”

Panelists will include three parents who lost children on 9/11, Ann Schaffer of the American Jewish Committee and Rabbi Shira Milgrom of Kol Ami.

3. The pastor of a small evangelical church in Florida still plans to burn some Qurans on Sept. 11. What will the fall-out be?

He doesn’t care that Gen. David Petraeus has warned that “images of the burning of a Quran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan – and around the world – to inflame public opinion and incite violence.”

Numerous groups are coming out against the church, including the World Union for Progressive Judaism, which says: “We join with the sane voices from the highest offices of the American government, and religious and civic leaders around the world, to stand up against this seeming Inquisition on American soil and call for Terry Jones to call off this attack on religious freedom in a land of liberty.”

4. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is finally back on American soil and is finally speaking out about what the deal is with the proposed Islamic center.

He writes in the NY Daily News:

****

The project has been mischaracterized, so I want to explain clearly what it would be. Our planned 13-story community center is intended for Park Place between Church St. and West Broadway. It is not a mosque, although it will include a space for Muslim prayer services. It will have a swimming pool, basketball court, meeting rooms, a 500-seat auditorium, banquet facilities and many other things a community needs to be healthy. The center will offer theatrical programming, art exhibitions and cooking classes. These are amenities missing now from this part of the city.

And, yes, the center will have a public memorial to the victims of 9/11 as well as a meditation room where all will be welcome for quiet reflection. The center will support soul and body.

The center will be open to all regardless of religion. Like a YMCA, the 92nd St. Y or the Jewish Community Center uptown, it will admit everyone. It will be a center for all New Yorkers.

What grieves me most is the false reporting that leads some families of 9/11 victims to think this project somehow is designed by Muslims to gloat over the attack.

That could not be further from the truth.

‘There can be no place for religious bias of any kind…’

I just walked in after a long weekend and a morning assignment and one of the first things I see is a new statement about the proposed downtown Islamic center from a group of New York’s religious leaders.

It’s basically a call for civility.

I’m sure you’re getting tired of hearing about this (and so am I), but here is the statement:

*****

JOINT STATEMENT FROM NEW YORK RELIGIOUS LEADERS

New York has a long and proud history of dialogue and respect among the various faith groups that live together in this magnificent city. It is especially troubling, then, whenever religion is seen as a source of misunderstanding and disagreement. As religious people, Muslims, Jews and Christians know that at the heart of each of our faiths is the promotion of peace and understanding among all God’s children. Consequently, there can be no place for religious bias of any kind – including anti-Semitism, anti-Christianity, or anti-Islam — in any of our communities.

Public discussions about the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero have recently become an unfortunate source of tension and animosity here in New York City. As leaders in our religious communities, we join together to voice our shared concern for the way in which New Yorkers have become polarized on this issue. All of us must ensure that our conversations on this matter remain civil, that our approaches to each other are marked with respect, and that our hearts stay free of bitterness.

As religious leaders, we stand ready to assist in facilitating a dialogue that will not only lead to a resolution of the current dispute, but also lay the foundation for a new and deeper understanding among us all.

Imam Shamsi Ali
Director, Jamaica Muslim Center, New York

Rev. Dr. A. R. Bernard
President, The Council of Churches of the City of New York

The Most Reverend Nicholas A. DiMarzio,
Bishop of Brooklyn
Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn

The Most Reverend Timothy M. Dolan
Archbishop of New York
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York

Rabbi Yaakov Kermaier
President, New York Board of Rabbis

Imam Izak-EL M. Pasha
Masjid Malcolm Shabazz, New York

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik
Executive Vice President, New York Board of Rabbis

NY’s mainline Protestant leaders support proposed downtown Islamic center

It’s taken a while, but New York’s mainline Protestant leaders have issued statements about the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero.

No great surprises here. The NY bishops of the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Episcopal Church all gently support the project, while acknowledging the pain still felt by so many.

I’ll paste their full statements below.

United Methodist Bishop Jeremiah Park declares his support for the project, writing that “denying the fundamental right of a religious community, as long as it fulfills the same legal requirements applied to all other religious communities, by singling it out for the wrong reasons, compromises the integrity of who we are at our core.”

He also writes: “Our hearts break over the sacrifice of the dead from 9/11 and the pains and sufferings of their loved ones and our country. However, to truly honor them, to truly preserve the historic significance of the Ground Zero, and to truly triumph over the evil force of 9/11, it is necessary to stand firm on what America believes in and be willing to pay whatever the price to protect and preserve freedom and equality for all.”

ELCA Bishop Robert Rimbo doesn’t offer the same outright pledge of support, but concludes with this: “There is much pain very near the surface of our emotions with regard to the tragic events of September 11, 2001. But how will preventing this center from being constructed help us to deal with that pain? There is great fear driving our lives today. How do persons of faith respond to that fear? We commend ourselves to the reliable and merciful arms of the God of Abraham, the God whom Jesus calls Abba, the God whom Muslims and Christians in various parts of the world call Allah. This God promises a reign in which all shall be well. Our faith is bigger and stronger than all our fears.”

Italics mine. Sure sounds like he is in favor getting beyond the fear and building the place.

Finally, Episcopal Bishop Mark Sisk, as I noted last week, wrote a public letter supporting the Islamic center. It includes this: “The plan to build this center is, without doubt, an emotionally highly-charged issue. But as a nation with tolerance and religious freedom at its very foundation, we must not let our emotions lead us into the error of persecuting or condemning an entire religion for the sins of its most misguided adherents.”

Of course, Archbishop Tim Dolan has offered to be a conciliatory voice, but has stopped short of taking a position. In a recent blog post, he wrote: “Although I have no strong sentiment about what should be decided about the eventual where of the Islamic Center, I do have strong convictions about how such a discussion should be reached: civilly and charitably.  The hot-heads on either side must not dominate.”

Here are the full UMC, ELCA and Episcopal Church statements… Continue reading

Who’s the devil?

So I was on the new Exit 7 ramp on 287-West yesterday afternoon — a very, very long ramp — when I saw a guy walking along the road.

He was shirtless. Looked disheveled.

On his back was the tattoo of a word. In large, capital letters.

At first I thought it was EVIL.

When I got closer, I saw it was DEVIL.

DEVIL struck me as something of a relief, compared to EVIL.

Who was he? Where was he going? What exactly was his message to the world?

I can only wonder.

No, I didn’t get a picture. It didn’t occur to me to stop my car and provoke the guy.

Did you see him?