"Muscular Christianity" and Mexican terrorism

I have an interest in Mexico, having done volunteer work there, and so the cover story of the May 31 New Yorker caught my eye. The article, by William Finnegan, is titled "Silver or Lead: The drug cartel La Familia gives local officials a choice: Take a bribe or a bullet." (Unfortunately, this article is unavailable online unless you are a subscriber). The article describes the reign of terror committed by a crime syndicate in Mexico:

On the morning before his arrival, the dismembered body of a young man was left in the middle of the main intersection. It was an instance of what people call corpse messaging. Usually it involves a mutilated body and a handwritten sign. “Talked too much.” “You get what you deserve.” The corpse’s message—terror—was clear enough and everybody knew who left it: La Familia Michoacana, a crime syndicate whose depredations pervade the life of the region.
This use of terror to enforce control over that region is horrific but effective. What caught my eye, though, was a passing reference in the article to the relationship between the group that commits these acts and evangelical Christianity:
La Familia's corpse messaging often mentions divine justice. Its soldiers are said to be required to carry Bibles or, alternatively, a self-published volume of epigrams by the gang's leaders, who is also known as El Chayo, or El Más Loco (the Craziest). El Chayo is inspired, in turn, it has been reported, by the muscular Christianity of John Eldredge, an American evangelist whose self-help best-seller "Wild at Heart" is reportedly studied, in Spanish translation, at La Familia training camps.
The author of the article moves on to other topics after making that comment. A good description of the use of Eldredge's "muscular Christianity" as a basis for the terrorism of La Familia can be found in this blog entry from last year, who in turn quotes from another blogger who explains what "muscular Christianity" is:
Eldredge’s books are targeted primarily at men and his writings have great appeal for men, many of whom feel that society has forced them to be like Mr. Rogers – harmless and just a little effeminate. Eldredge encourages men to be real men – to head to the wilderness and be the rugged warriors we all want to be if we look deep inside ourselves. Eldredge continually writes about William Wallace of Braveheart or Maximus, the main character in Gladiator – real manly men.”
La Familia has also been tied to a Christian extremist group called the New Jerusalem movement.

One of the messages left behind with a group of severed heads was the following: "La Familia doesn’t kill for money, doesn’t kill women, doesn’t kill innocent people. It only kills those who deserve to die. Everyone should know this: Divine justice."

Is a boycott the best way to oppose SB 1070?

Eleanor Goldberg of the Religion News Service reports that many faith leaders who have opposed the new anti-immigration law in Arizona are hesitant to endorse a boycott of the state:

Yet a central feature of the apartheid fight — a church-led boycott against South Africa — hasn’t been fully embraced by religious groups who are treading carefully on whether to withhold spending in the Grand Canyon State.
I am somewhat torn on this question myself. While I am as outraged over this racist piece of legislation as anyone else, and thus am sympathetic towards the idea of a boycott (and I find myself rooting for Major League Baseball to pull its All-Star game out of the state next year), at the same time, I am also sympathetic to the argument that an economic boycott would hurt many of the very people who we want to be supporting--since many Hispanics in Arizona work in the hospitality industry. I am also a little unclear as to whether those who advocate a blanket boycott would extend it to the many Native American tribes who live in the state, including the Navajo Nation and the Hopi and Apache reservations.

So what do you think? Is a blanket economic boycott the best way to oppose this law or not?

More news on the terrorism front

Amanda Robb has written an investigative report into the murder of George Tiller by Scott Roeder. While Roeder has been depicted as a "lone wolf", it appears that he is well connected with extremist Christian groups that advocate similar acts of terrorism against doctors who perform abortions.

And in other news, a right wing radio host has said that he "hopes" that a mosque in New York City that is to be built near the World Trade Center site will be blown up.

God and prayer

Here is a cartoon from the blogger NakedPastor that I think nicely summarizes the problem with the idea that God somehow intervenes with miraculous acts of omnipotent power to answer our prayers--but only sometimes.

When things go the way we prayed them, people often see that as some sort of proof that God answers prayers. But how can that be any "proof" of anything, when there are so many clear counterexamples? Sometimes I think that more people need to study statistics in school, so they would better understand that no proof lies in selectively picking the desired outcomes of predicted events after the fact.

H/T James McGrath.

Muslim terrorism versus anti-Muslim terrorism

I found an interesting article about the double standard in media coverage between the coverage of terrorism committed by Muslims and terrorism committed against Muslims. Guess which of the two gets the big coverage and which is virtually ignored by the US national news media?

Should I care about who wins the Miss USA pageant?

I have to admit that I really don't care about beauty pageants. They don't interest me, I find them pointless, and I am not really sure what purpose they are supposed to serve in the twenty first century world. Still, the brouhaha last year about Carrie Prejean's homophobic comments showed that what transpires in those pageants can sometimes reflect issues in the real world; and now this year, something truly controversial has happened--a Muslim American won the contest!

You can of course imagine that the usual crowd of anti-Muslim bigots are foaming at the mouth over this, and you would be right.

Religious intolerance in NYC

Some people in New York are offended by the building of a mosque near the site of the World Trade Center bombings. Clearly these objections to the mosque are rooted in bigotry rather than common sense. Obviously, the people who committed those acts of terrorism do not speak for Islam any more than the man who gunned down abortion doctor George Tiller speaks for Christianity, but you wouldn't hear people suggesting that it would be insensitive to have Christian church services located near the site of George Tiller's killing.

Columnist Andrea Peyser of the New York Post betrays her own prejudice in a column about this issue in which she characterizes a group with an explicit agenda of hostility towards Islam as a "human rights group". The name of the group? "Stop Islamicization of America" 'Nuff said.

It is clear that we have a long way to go towards interfaith dialogue. Fortunately, the press report that I cited above does indicate that not everyone looks at it in the same way:

Marvin Bethea, a paramedic who survived the toxic collapse of the twin towers and suffers from a range of afflictions, including post-traumatic stress disorder and asthma, said he supports the mosque.

"Not all Muslims are terrorists," Bethea said. "Muslims died on 9/11, as well. This is a tremendous gesture to show that we're not all full of hatred and bigotry."