I trust Barbara Nicolosi. She has an excellent eye and an innate sense of beauty, truth, and irony -- not to mention an ability to translate such into words. Thus I was intrigued and distressed to read her "travelogue" about the Holy Land, esp. her account of Jerusalem:
And I feel guilty to ask the question, but, am I allowed to not like Jerusalem? Because I really didn't like it. I was angry a lot there. And definitely a bit revolted. My Christian friends there keep telling me that the city grows on you and that you begin to love it. But that would be a big stretch for me where I'm sitting now beside the lovely, restful waters of the Sea of Galilee.
What about Jerusalem made me angry? Well, you have to be there to really understand. Because no matter how artful my language, nothing will convey to you the gross incivility, inappropriateness, and intrusiveness of what seems like a gazillion Arab mosques all projecting their whining call to "prayer" on loudspeakers every few hours. It is jolting and HORRIFIC. Like cats screaming in alleys in stereophonic sound. It's the kind of thing I'm sure they do with sound in concentration camps to break the will of the prisoners. And it made me mad.
The minarets screaming everywhere discordantly in Jerusalem are way more than Moslem acts of loving devotion to God. They are clearly provocation in a city which is already tense as the center of focus for several major religions. It is the Muslim version of "We're here and we're queer!"
Now a careful reading of that last line shows that she's not equating Islam with homosexual perversity, but a basic perversity that screams "I!" while ignoring the multitude of "thou's." It's an inability to allow others to think, esp. to think differently or to come to conclusions out of free will that may be conclusions other than those of the noisy masses.
I find it a fascinating parallel, though, with the mysogyny in Islam. The thinking that women are second class partners within marriage, that God can contradict himself in the Koran because he's, well, God, and the bare knuckles approach to law that demands that their privately revealed legal code trump all other cultural conclusions about what is fair. Dare I say that the culture reeks of masculinity gone awry, without the gentling balance of femininity? (I say this knowing the reverse is just as damaging. Only in complementarity will the balance be healthy.)
Barbaba also noted the near irrelevance of Christianity -- in the very places where the salvation of the world was won through suffering and the shedding of blood.
And why was I revolted?
Well, until you have seen the Via Dolorosa you can't understand. Christianity in Jerusalem is really mostly irrelevant from the standpoint of the Jews and Muslims who run the joint. With the notable exception of the Garden of Gethsemane, the sites where the redemption of the world was accomplished are obscured and underemphasized. The Orthodox Jews who run the city consider Jesus anathema. He is a scandal and a horror to them. So, on the main Biblical sites - like the Temple Mount or the Pool of Siloam or the various city gates mentioned in the New Testment - there is no mention of the fact that Jesus Christ walked or stood there. The place where the Son of Man shed his blood on the Via Dolorosa is completely overrun with lines of garrish shops selling every kind of kitsch. The place where Jesus carried his cross is the main shopping alley in the Old City, jammed with hawking and pushy vendors. It's fetid and dirty and beyond weird to see a dirty plaque on the wall reading "Eighth Station" in between a t-shirt stall and a smoking gyro grill.
Now we know that whether the folks selling t-shirts and snacks in that place know it or not, what happened in their midst offers them true freedom -- for every hawker of gaudy wares, for every customer as well as for the pilgrim who wanders about from station to station. That is the mystery of this faith: God is. He saves amidst the hurly-burly, in our families who seem oblivious of the price paid for their souls.
Jerusalem is an icon of the bride -- no doubt bereft without the groom and weeping over the disinterest of their own offspring. Jesus wept over her while there, He took a lash to her temple, and was rejected by her temple priests. She in turn stands as mother of many wayward children as well as the few who take the narrow road of truth. And those roads twist and turn like the alleys Barb followed, maddening and yet having once borne the God-man, sowing the seed for our very life.