Sunday, April 11, 2010

Modern Iconoclasm To Me

During the Byzantine period political and religious leaders wanted to have sculptures and idols smashed because they believed it was a form of idolatry. Idolatry they felt was against their religious doctrine. Idolatry is portrayed as evil and wrong by interpretations of the Bible as written by early Christians. We now know this as iconoclasm or image-breaking. I guess these leaders thought by destroying these symbols they could also destroy a differing opinion and belief. But can anyone really change an entire societal belief system through destruction, hiding or censorship?

Ms. Lewis' posting of the Dixie Chicks anti-Bush, anti-war controversy gave me reason to pause. Was it Natalie Merchant that was attacking President George Bush? Was it Natalie Merchant attacking the United States? Was it Natalie Merchant's right to free speech voicing her own personal opinion and belief? Was it the thousands of country music fans and other American citizens attacking the popular Dixie Chicks to silence the opposition? I think the answer to all the above is, Yes. The music industry has a long tradition of addressing social and global issues. The Dixie Chicks were nothing new. How soon we forget about music for change like that of Peter, Paul and Mary, John Lennon and many others. As Americans, each side of the opinion has the right to voice their opinions. I call this part of education. But let's stop the hate, threats and violence toward others.

The definition of the word Iconoclasm today has grown to include any attempt to attack and destroy popular symbols, figures or icons beyond the strictest religious sense of the word. Take the modern day event of 9/11. On that very dark day of September 11, our World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked by religious extremists who think differently than most of our Christian America. I believe that these sites for destruction were chosen for a couple of reasons. Due to the ominous size of each of these structures each is a "city" within itself. First, I think they were chosen to disrupt two major operations that are the heart of American life, each encompassing thousands of United States citizens. By crippling such a major center of business and finance as the World Trade Center Al-Qaida extremists thought they could show our vulnerability and dependence on these particular industries of capitalism. By attacking the Pentagon they again were hoping to show a weakness and vulnerability of our primary national defense headquarters. But I also believe the attacks of 9/11 were a form of iconoclasm. These two structures have become icons of what America stands for as a Country. As mentioned earlier by destroying these symbols that represent so much of America the extremists believed they could shake us at our very core. They believed they could demonstrate the prowess and superiority of their religion and way of life. As repeated many times in history, one government or religion destroys structures, symbols and icons of another government or religion to discredit and challenge their existence and theology. In turn the victim government or religion is so emotional about the attack or destruction that it spurs they're people to hate, challenge, discredit and destroy the attacker and its people. Thus, a vicious cycle of hate and warfare. The Christian United States of America couldn't allow another religious culture to challenge and discredit our dominate status as a world power. So we were compelled to stand up for our beliefs and retaliate. Thus, the cycle continues. In my opinion extremism breeds more extremism.

Another recent controversy is unfolding right here in Northwest AR as I write this blog. Just last week an organization of atheists called the Northwest AR Coalition of Reason felt compelled to challenge the local religious community. They appear to be defending their right to freedom of speech, and their right not to believe in God. They purchased billboard advertising space along Northbound I-540 with a sign stating the following: Are you good without God? Millions are. See the story here:,0,271831.story

I believe this group does have their right to voice their opinion. But the religious community will feel threatened and "attacked". Now time will tell how long the retaliation, coercion and counter" attack" will occur and what damage will be done. I take issue with today's religious leaders inciting their congregations with judgment and hate for others who think differently than they believe. No, they may not mean to incite hate , but by the mere drama and extremism of their Sunday sermons some of their extremist followers today take matters into their own hands to act with disdain for other human beings. I strongly disagree with trying to force or coerce others to have the same religious beliefs in blatant disregard for the others own personal heritage, religion and culture. On the other hand I do believe in teaching and educating our population and ourselves in all cultural diversities, societal differences, ethnic heritages and differing religious theologies. Through proper and well-rounded education people can then make educated decisions of tolerance and understanding to coexist peacefully. Sometimes we must agree to disagree.

1 comment:

Stephanie Lewis said...

Very thoughtful as usual. I think the Dixie Chick is Natalie Maines, though. Natalie Merchant was with 10,000 Maniacs. : )