John Andrist: Islam Isn't Bad, It's Just Behind A 500 Year Curve


Palestinian men pray on the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, near the Dome of the Rock at the compound known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City July 17, 2015. REUTERS/Ammar Awad - RTX1KN2O

One of those light bulbs in my head got turned on yesterday, making me realize the Islamic religion isn’t bad, it’s just 500 years behind the times.

Thanks for this discovery goes to PBS for a fascinating documentary aired a few years ago, called “God in America”, still available on web or DVD — and worth it.

You see 500 years ago Christians were pretty much in the same place as Islam is in today’s world. It was judgmental and allowed no room for dissent or contrarian viewpoint.

And there was little kindness shown to any dissenter. That led some of those strongest dissenters to flee for their lives to a new country called America, where they formed colonies of like- minded folks.

Alas, those colonies became just as intolerant as the lands they had fled. They banished other settlers with new ideas from their midst, sometimes subjected them to public lashing, and occasionally death.

That’s why, when 100-200 years later this new land began to get serious about forming a new government that would replace colonies with free states, the founders figured out that to protect folks from intolerance they had to separate religions from government.

And about 240 years ago they figured out that if the new country was to endure it must protect free speech, freedom to put divergent ideas into print, and freedom of religious thought. It was a pretty revolutionary idea, one that has still not been copied in totality by any other country.

We talk a lot these days about a wall of separation between religion and government, but the intent wasn’t to inhibit religious dogma, but to protect people from imperialistic domination by the religious establishment.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]We talk a lot these days about a wall of separation between religion and government, but the intent wasn’t to inhibit religious dogma, but to protect people from imperialistic domination by the religious establishment.[/mks_pullquote]

Sure, we’ve gotten carried away by limiting many proselytizing activities — like praying in public and posting religious dogma on public property.

But that document we call the Bill of Rights, while frequently creating problems for American society, remains as a beloved part of our U.S. Constitution.

It has protected Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and agnostics from killing each other — at least as an expression of their religious belief.

So take heart. History tells us we will ultimately prevail over ISIS. We just have to be patient; 500 years flies by so fast now days.

And that’s my history of the world. If you don’t like it, write your own. It’s safe. You won’t be beheaded or burned at the stake. And you are not allowed to burn me either.

Once upon a time

A beloved Fargo sports broadcaster died this week of cancer, well before his expected “three score and ten”.

The public reaction was immense. The Fargo Forum devoted it’s entire front page, and another inside page to this community icon.

It brought back some childhood memories for me. In my impressionable early teens I had my heart set on becoming a famous radio sportscaster.

That was before TV, and as far back as I can remember I was drawn to competitive sports.

Unfortunately, other than for some success at basketball, my skills were wanting, so describing the action, scoring baseball games, and student manager chores seemed to be as good as it could get for me.

With a pal of mine we would listen to radio broadcaster Bill Stern for a while, then run out to the vacant lot next to our yard, and proceed to win a game of our own.

It was easier when our opponents were imaginary, and I could make up my own broadcast jargon.

When I became smitten with the love of my life in high school, those dreams evolved to more practical and attainable goals,

Love can sweep you off your feet, but when it starts to get serious you look for ways to get your shoes back on the ground. Or at least it did for me.