Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Secular Jihadists and the blow-up castle

Summer in Moscow means fun-filled and beautiful days for everyone. For the second year in a row, Trinity Festival is coming to our town. On Aug. 1, the Moscow Chamber of Commerce sent out this announcement:

“Second Trinity Festival Held in Moscow
Credenda/Agenda magazine is sponsoring its second Trinity Festival on August 7–9. . . . Tuesday, August 8: the festival will be moving downtown. Third through Fifth Streets will be closed from 5–10 and all local community folks, as well as festival attendees, are invited to come buy dinner from downtown vendors, enjoy the Wine Garden provided by Camas Winery, and have a fun evening of musical entertainment in Friendship Square. La Bella Vita will be selling Chicago-Style Hot Dogs, as well as snocones [sic] and cotton candy. The huge blow-up castle will make its appearance again for the youngsters. . .”

In case you do not know, Credenda/Agenda is the magazine published through Moscow’s Christ Church affiliate Canon Press. The festival also is linked with the church and its associated enterprises. It is inviting of the magazine and church to welcome “all local community folks” downtown to partake in this event and provide a bounce house or “huge blow-up castle” for anyone’s chldren. It would be a shame if such a significant event right in downtown on a beautiful August evening excluded the general public.

It is funny though that the announcement does not mention the theme of the overall event — “Secular Jihad in America: The War on the Constitution.” Well, now, that makes me stop and question the intent of the announced offer, and the real theme of the event. In fact, the idea that I am a jihadist because I believe in a secular government makes me feel quite uneasy about joining the whole event. Being somehow equated with a terrorist participating in an attack on our country’s foundation makes me think I might just choke on that Chicago-style hot dog provided by La Bella Vita. (Of course as a liberal, secular, vegetarian I probably couldn’t eat a Chicago-style hot dog if I tried.)

These two incongruous ideas: that my family and I are invited to this event and that they are calling me a jihadist are difficult for me to reconcile. Am I really welcome? Should I attend with the hopes that this olive branch to the community at-large is real?

I do want this community to work to heal some of its wounds created by our ongoing conflict between Christ Church leaders, outspoken progressives, historians and others who take issue with teachings and writings of Christ Church, Credenda/Agenda and Canon Press. Sometimes, I find common ground between myself and others in the community who belong to Christ Church.

Really, I long to maintain hope that somehow we can all live together without regular conflict in Moscow. But, the idea that Credenda/Agenda is holding an entire conference centered on the theme that people who believe in the separation of church and state (secularists) are the same as people who kill thousands jihadists makes my head ache and my hopes falter. Snow cones and being called a jihadist just don’t go together in my brain. I can’t help but wonder what the banners downtown will say? “Welcome community terrorists to our fun family event.” “Please remove shoes and explosives before entering the bounce house.” “Please don’t blow up the blow-up castle.”

By the time my Town Crier is published, this event will have passed. For now, I would like “all local community folks” to understand the connection between the event downtown and the theme of the Trinity Festival conference. Next year, let’s hope Credenda/Agenda and the leaders of Trinity Festival will think a little harder about their festival title and theme. Until then, I’ll try to keep a little flicker of hope alive.

Julia Parker

Julia Parker lives in Moscow and is a nurse at Gritman Medical Center, a mother and a former academic. Town Crier II is a weekly series of columns contributed by 13 local writers. The Town Crier columns run on Wednesday.