Archives For Dr. Carlos Gonzales

Some news of note to start your week.

Respecting (and Not Respecting) Native Culture: There seemed to be several stories in recent days concerning reactions to indigenous and Native cultures. Some of these stories were positive ones, like a New York Times profile of the new Denver Art Museum’s initiative to credit individual American Indian artists, instead of simply listing the tribe it was made by. However, this newfound sense of respect hasn’t carried over into all aspects of our culture, as the ongoing discussion over the wave of criticism from conservative pundits regarding a traditional Native blessing given by Dr. Carlos Gonzales at a memorial service for those killed and injured in the horrific shooting in Tuscon, Arizona shows. Last week the Indian Country Today Media Network profiled several Native voices regarding the conservative media outcry over the blessing, and today, in a follow-up report, Rob Capriccioso notes that several blogs are weaving conspiracy theories about the one pundit, Power Line’s Paul Meringoff, who did retract his insensitive comments.

Former Washington Times scribe Robert Stacy McCain played the role of an alarmist, writing in a Jan. 31 blog post, titled, “Power Line Gets Scalped: Did Indian Tribe Money Influence Akin Gump Decision?,” that he believed tribes had knocked off Mirengoff—and somehow former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was involved, too. “You may recall that Pelosi and Democrats were elected in 2006 on a promise to clean up the ‘culture of corruption’ in Washington. Exhibit A in the Democrats’ case against the GOP that year? Yeah: ‘Casino Jack’ Abramoff’s shady dealings with Indian tribes,” McCain wrote. “So in criticizing that Yaqui prayer at the Tucson memorial, Paul Mirengoff wasn’t just being politically incorrect, he was also offending a lucrative segment of Akin Gump’s lobbying clientele, whom the firm had recently hired three lawyers to service. Small wonder that Mirengoff was likely forced to choose: Quit blogging at Power Line or quit working at Akin Gump.”

What does it say about any culture, blog or otherwise, when a member can’t retract, or be wrong, without others invoking a web of intrigue to explain it? So instead of a pundit simply deciding he went over the top, embarrassing his employers in the process, and that being accepted, his apology is marked as “worthy of a political prisoner” or an example of the “slow erosion of our speech.” Free speech for some may be never having to say your sorry, but being a part of a community means that our words and actions have consequences. Behind these various conspiracy theories were actual American Indians who were hurt and offended by the attacks, distortions, and smears, that some can’t acknowledge that is troubling.

While we are on the subject of not respecting Native Americans, their religion, and their culture, we have some news in the ongoing James Arthur Ray sweat lodge deaths trial. The trial is set to begin on February 18th, but the defense team are trying to have the proceedings moved from Yavapai County (home to New Age hub of Sedona) to a court in Phoenix, saying the jury pool is too tainted and biased (an allegation locals aren’t too happy about).

“Ray’s lawyers made a similar request last summer, which was denied by Judge Warren Darrow. At the time, though, Darrow said he’d still consider the request as the case moves closer to trial. The Associated Press reports that his attorneys say jury questionnaires reveal widespread prejudice against Ray in Yavapai County.”

Ray’s lawyers are also trying to prevent cult deprogrammer/consultant Rick Ross from giving testimony for the prosecution. They  (prosecutors) want Ross to evaluate Ray’s programs, and testify on how coercive they may be. This trial, once it actually starts, should be very, very interesting.

Opening, Restoring, and Protecting Goddess Temples: Starting with a bit of good news on this topic, the Roman Forum’s Vestal temple and houses, after a lengthy restoration effort, is now open to the public.

No doubt modern followers of Vesta, and those interested in the restoration of pre-Christian temples, will be most pleased! Meanwhile, despite the economic turmoil in Greece lately, restoration efforts in Athens are being pushed forward, with many seeing it as a matter of national pride to continue the work. However, not all efforts regarding ancient temple sites are as well received as those in Greece or Italy, the Goddess Pages is calling for protests over plans to build a visitor center in the middle of a prehistoric goddess sanctuary in Nettersheim, Germany.

“At first we thought this must be a bad joke. Unfortunately the concealed plans are already very advanced. An architect is already dreaming about eternalizing this outrageous action and a mayor is dreaming of hordes of tourists bringing their money. This construction in the middle of this sanctuary would be an terrible crime. It’s more than about questioning the subject of reputation, prestige and profit, fact is it would destroy irretrievable evidence of our foremothers and ancestors. We’re sure the public has not yet realized that this plan exists. In the past churches were built on sanctuaries to honour goddesses in order to destroy them. Today is it to be Info Centers built to attract tourists which will destroy our remaining sanctuaries?”

You can read more about the proposed visitor “cube, ” here. The German article notes conflict “about the ‘male’ form of a cube” not being “compatible with the ‘female’ matrones.” There seems to be a Facebook campaign already underway. You can see some pictures of the Deae Matrone sanctuary, here. Thanks to Medusa Coils for tipping me off to the story.

While restoration efforts happen for ancient temples, modern Goddess worshipers, like those in the Sisterhood of Avalon, carry on in creating new traditions and fellowships. The Waterloo Record in Canada has a profile of a small Sisterhood of Avalon group, and interviews local hearth mother Tiffany Lazic.

“The sisterhood is about “gathering the tools for self-empowerment,’’ said Lazic, a holistic therapist in private practice, who meditates several times a week and journeys to Avalon in her mind twice a month. Pagan faiths, often described as earth-based religions, adhere to ritual practices and follow different mythologies including Celtic, Norse and ancient Greek traditions. [...] Lazic started the Kitchener group in July 2009 which now has 11 active members. Worldwide, there are 350 members in the group which has a seminary in the United States. For Lazic, the sisterhood seemed natural. Her parents were classic teachers and as a child she immersed herself in Greek mythology.”

What’s nice about the article is that it treats this local hearth of the Sisterhood as it would any other religious congregation. As modern Pagans start and continue to build their own temples and communal spaces, an emerging continuity could develop between the new and the old, and modern Paganism could truly restore its place in the public mind as a world religion.

A Quick Note on the HuffPo-AOL Deal: For those who keep track of new media business, you may have heard that the Huffington Post has been purchased by AOL. For some relevant commentary, see Jeff Jarvis, Newspaper Death Watch, Fishbowl LA, and PC World. I wanted to note this here for a number of reasons, first, HuffPo has Pagan bloggers, most notably Anne Hill, Grove Harris, and Donna Hennes (among others), and secondly, because this is just another sign of how the blogosphere is gaining in prominence, and becoming professionalized. Many have noted that blogging as an activity is declining among certain demographics, and while some hope this signals a return to print or more traditional forms of media, I think its simply a sign that the “faddish” nature of the technology has faded as more suitable social technologies have emerged to keep folks in contact and update your friends on your latest adventures.

In many areas, particularly religion, new media is where the future of journalism lies. Relevant and well-written content about our faiths is more vital now than it has ever been. The ability of our faiths to be heard, to inform ourselves and others effectively, will rest in our ability to navigate the changing world of Internet media. Our ability to create our own news organs, and to work within the increasingly condensing content giants, will decide for many how we are perceived. This is our chance to make sure the Pagan voice(s) ring out to the world, and I hope some of you will join me for my talks at Pantheacon later this month as I explore some potential solutions and ways forward.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

Top Story: The Awl investigates allegations that millions of dollars in United States government funding to Christian NGOs, specifically Samaritan’s Purse, is being used to directly fund aggressive and shameful missions to “evangelize to and convert the trapped, weak and suffering.”

“…our research into the hush-hush tag team efforts of the Billy Graham Evangelical Association and Samaritan’s Purse found millions of USAID dollars going to Samaritan’s Purse aid stations in Haiti. Their mission: a coordinated effort by BGEA chaplains to evangelize to and convert the trapped, weak and suffering.”

Reporter Abe Sauer notes that Franklin Graham (president of Samaritan’s Purse), son of Christian evangelist Billy Graham, is especially fixated and obsessed with eliminating Vodou in Haiti.

“…in the case of Samaritan’s Purse, whose Haiti work is being heavily funded by the taxpayer-funded USAID, it could be to “take back their country from voodoo, despair, and sin,” one of the charity’s stated goals for the “Festival of Hope.” As Graham said of Haiti in his address at the Festival, “…the biggest need is the spiritual need.” (Graham and his crew are especially obsessed with the elimination of voodoo, as it comes up again and again in Purse literature. A recent personal update on work in Haiti from Franklin Graham himself reads, “Through our partnership, the three original churches have been able to establish 28 more—including one in a village that was infamous for voodoo….”) Video of the heavily promoted fundraising event has been erased from the Samaritan’s Purse website as a result of our questions to USAID.”

They note that Samaritan’s Purse, working hand-in-hand with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), is able to benefit from government funds by skirting along on paper-thin technicalities, confirmed by USAID officials, but who seem to lack the political will to do anything about it. This is a stark confirmation of several isolated reports and allegations regarding the activity of missionaries in Haiti. It’s bad enough that some Christian groups are taking advantage of the chaos in Haiti in order to win souls, but now it seems we’re paying for it as well.

No Pagan Drivers for Lowery: Former Democratic state Representative John Lowery is being taken to court by Eugene Keeler after he was allegedly fired from Premier Well Services (owned by Lowery) for being a Pagan only hours after being hired. Keeler has the backing of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and is being heard by a judge who’s dealt with Lowery before.

The EEOC case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright, which could be interesting. When Wright ruled that a winter solstice display could be put up on the state capitol grounds — along with the traditional nativity scene — Lowery led the Arkansas Legislative Council denouncement of her decision, saying, “When this is allowed to happen in high places by people in authority societies become chaotic, economies collapse and nations are taken over by other nations.”

The Arkansas Democrat Gazette interviewed Selena Fox of Lady Liberty League about the case, though the article is behind a paywall if you want to read it. It should be interesting to see what happens in this case, hopefully it will be reported more widely, and more accessibly, than it has so far.

Do Religious Symbols Count Even If You’re a Racist? The Jewish Chronicle notes that a jailed racist, convicted of inciting racial hatred in the UK, had his Thor’s hammer pendant confiscated because it had “fascist meaning and neo-Nazi overtones.” After a complaint, it seems that Michael Heaton, an Odinist, had the pendant returned. The piece closes with a quote from a CST (Community Security Trust) spokesperson that seems to imply that, in their opinion, Odinism doesn’t meet the “relevant criteria” for equal treatment as a religion.

A CST spokesman said: “Norse and Odinist symbolism features extensively in Nazi and Pagan circles. Legislation on religious rights can make questions such as this a complex matter. But you might well question if this kind of symbolism should meet the relevant criteria.”

While I personally believe that Heaton is a vile, foul, sad, criminal, his odious beliefs don’t wipe away his rights under the law. To call into question whether genuine religious symbols appropriated by racists are still valid is to glide down a slippery slope that would eventually ban all religious symbols. Also, for an organization like the CST, who are watchdogs against antisemitism, to conflate Nazism and Paganism in such a casual way is troubling, to say the least.

The Boundaries of Civil Religion: Former Wild Hunt guest contributor Lee Gilmore, author of “Theater in a Crowded Fire: Ritual and Spirituality at Burning Man”, writes an essay for the USC blog The Scoop about the recent memorial for the victims of the Tucson shooting, and reactions (or non-reaction in some cases) sparked by the opening invocation of Dr. Carlos Gonzales.

The media response–or rather the general lack thereof–was telling. Those motivated to comment publicly on the blessing were mainly conservatives troubled by its implications. For example, Brit Hume of Fox News was baffled, saying, “By the time it was over with, he had blessed the reptiles of the sea, and he had prayed to the four doors of the building, and while I’m sure that all has an honorable tradition with his people, it was most peculiar.”  TheWashington Examiner went much further and called it a “a stark statement of  pantheistic paganism” and “a blatant violation of church and state.”

Glossing over the apparent hypocrisy–the biblical references in Obama’s eulogy did not seem to touch off a similar nerve–perhaps Gonzales’ invocation can be read as a vague nod to a loose, politically correct “spirituality” appealing to the so-called “liberal elite.” Yet the left wing of the blogosphere also had little to say about Gonzales’ invocation. (There was some insightful discussion from this vantage point taking place on a popular and intelligent Pagan blog called the Wildhunt.)

Gilmore notes that many American aren’t used to being taken outside “a generic and lightweight form of ceremonial deism,” as was done by Gonzales’ Native blessing. A transgression that may have sparked the absurd over-reaction is some quarters. She also touches on the “othering” of religious minorities in the United States, such as was done in this case, and that mainstream journalism has done a poor job in enlightening the public to their worldviews. The whole essay is worth a read, and you should check it out.

Seeing the Future in Russia: The AFP reports on the popularity of doing fortune telling in Russia between Christmas and Epiphany, and why that tradition endures to this day.

Psychologist Svetlana Fyodorova puts the faith in fortune-telling down to Russians’ close links to their pagan past. “Russians love fortune-telling because it frees their subconscious,” she told AFP. “As compared to Europe, in Russia Christianity is young and the traces of a pagan traditions can still be felt here,” she said.

Something that no doubt worries the Russian Orthodox Church, who are increasingly testing the waters of social control now that they are ascendant once more. With signs of a crack-down against religious minorities intensifying, those who look for signs in the wax, or throw shoes out the window, should be careful.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

Frank honesty from career politicians is a rare and refreshing thing. So let us breathe in the words of Robert Bentley, the newly elected Republican governor of Alabama.

”But if you have been adopted in God’s family like I have, and like you have if you’re a Christian and if you’re saved, and the Holy Spirit lives within you just like the Holy Spirit lives within me, then you know what that makes? It makes you and me brothers. And it makes you and me brother and sister. [...] Now I will have to say that, if we don’t have the same daddy, we’re not brothers and sisters. So anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I’m telling you, you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister, and I want to be your brother.

Did I mention he said this at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day address? Naturally Bentley’s press secretary went into damage-control mode at once, saying “he is the governor of all the people, Christians, non-Christians alike,” and his office sent out a statement reiterating that he will be governor to “all Alabamians,” but the curtain had been drawn back to reveal what we already knew about politicians like Bentley. That conservative Christian politicians tend to prefer and favor Christians, despite the secular ideal that mandates equal treatment under the law. So perhaps it is for the best that Hindus, Jews, atheists, Buddhists, Muslims, and Pagans living in Alabama are put on notice now.

There are, of course, many Christians who don’t feel as Governor Bentley does. Let us acknowledge that now. As the Hindu American Foundation pointed out, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. greatly admired and respected Mahatma Gandhi, and I doubt he would have rejected him as outside his spiritual family.

Padma Kuppa, Executive Council member of HAF, elicited Dr. King’s admiration for Mahatma Gandhi and his teachings of non-violence and civil disobedience, noting “there is an incredibly wide chasm between Dr. King who embraced Gandhi, a Hindu, as an apostle for peace, knowing that the universality of that message transcends religion or race, and Gov. Bentley, who prefers to live in an exclusionary and divisive world of people he sees as Christians or heathens.”

But for those Christians who do feel a palpable separation from non-Christians, who see us as lesser, or flawed, or not deserving the same considerations, let them at least be honest! Too often politicians with ties to extremist religious groups try to bury them deeply come election season, wearing an blandly faux-ecumenical mask to a voting public concerned more with the economy and jobs than with the state of their soul. Let us thank the transparent triumphalism of politicians like Bentley and preachers like Franklin Graham.

Mr. Gonzales blessed the “eastern door, from where we get visions and guidance,” the “southern door, where we get the energies of the family,” the “western door, where we honor the sacred ways and sacred ancestors,” and the “northern door, where we receive challenges and the strength to meet those challenges.” Rather than calling on the God of heaven who made us and created this universe, which He holds in the palm of His hand, the university professor called out to “Father Sky, where we get our masculine energy” and “Mother Earth, where we get our feminine energy.” How sad. Father Sky and Mother Earth can do nothing to comfort Capt. Mark Kelly, who had been at the bedside of his wife, Rep. Giffords, wondering if she’d ever leave her bed. [...] What a shame that the University of Arizona didn’t have enough sensitivity to suffering families and a watching nation to invoke the name of the God who is “Father to the fatherless and protector of widows.” In fact, any of the 150 chapters of Psalms picked at random would have offered more comfort than the mystical rambling delivered from the stage.

In Graham’s world, only his God can offer comfort and hope, and an invocation from any other faith or tradition is an insult. I don’t agree with him, but at least he told us the truth about his views, and we can now know that he should never be trusted when it comes to any matter that involves non-Christians. That, like Bentley, all men may have been created equal, but some are more equal than others.

ADDENDUM: Governor Robert Bentley has issued an apology.

“What I would like to do is apologize. Should anyone who heard those words and felt disenfranchised, I want to say, ‘I’m sorry.’ If you’re not a person who can say you are sorry, you’re not a very good leader,” Bentley said. [...] Bentley today said he was speaking in the language of his faith (he’s an evangelical Christian) to other Baptists.

The apology came after a meeting with Alabama’s Jewish community. Meanwhile, the Hindu American Foundation has mounted a letter-writing campaign to ask for a retraction.

A few quick news notes and updates for you on this Tuesday.

Doctor Gonzales Speaks Regarding Native Blessing: Following the wave of criticism from conservative pundits regarding a traditional Native blessing given at a memorial service for those killed and injured in the horrific shooting in Tuscon, Arizona last week, Dr. Carlos Gonzales, the Pascua Yaqui Indian who gave the blessing, talks to CNS News to give some context.

“I was asked by the university to give a traditional Native American blessing,” Gonzales told CNSNews.com late Thursday. “This is the type of blessing that we give at memorial services to open up a ceremony. A medicine man will do a variation of it to open up a pow-wow. It’s basically a recognition of the powers of the seven directions and how they influence human beings–and how each direction has a certain characteristic; that when you pray to that direction, you ask for the inspiration that comes from that direction.”

Gonzales noted that the blessing should not be confused with religion, that is was “more of a way of appreciating spirituality,” and the Pascua Yaqui Indians have been predominately Catholic for generations now.

“I’m Yaqui and Yaquis have been Roman Catholics since 1650. We were one of the first tribes in Mexico to actually peacefully absorb Catholicism; however we have always practiced Catholicism in our own unique manner, incorporating traditional beliefs, and so I grew up as a Roman Catholic with a Yaqui variation. In reality, I’m Catholic, but the spirituality I’ve come across with traditional healers is one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen, and it’s a way of approaching people and it’s an additional way of healing that has actually helped me to be a better family doc.”

Sadly, even with this disclaimer firmly in place, many in the comments of the article expressed distaste for the Yaqui’s syncretism, with some calling the blessing “demonic.” Proving that any dialog and understanding between Western Christian and indigenous forms of religious expression has a long way to go. As for the wave of criticism towards Gonzales from various pundits, only one has recanted and apologized.  Perhaps satirist John Stewart, as always, has the final word on all this.

The Savage Fury of Savage: While some were paying close attention to the recent memorial service, others are still trying to pin Tuscon assassin Jared Lee Loughner into an easy-to-understand political left-right narrative. Conservatives and Tea Party groups have been arguing that they were incorrectly blamed by the Left for inspiring Loughner’s violence, but right-wing pundits have their own narratives of blame out in full force. This isn’t anything new in our world of divisive partisan politics, but I mention it now because one popular conservative talk-radio host, Michael Savage, who boasts an audience of 8 to 10 million listeners, making it the 3rd most listened to radio talk show in the country, has seemingly bought into the “occult” angle first brought up by the NY Daily News.

The man was an occultist, of course that didn’t make it into your local paper. Your going to start talking about banning handguns why not just ban the occult in America? Why don’t we get congressmen talking about banning Wicca in the Army? Banning the occult in America. I mean, did you see what came out today about the shooter? I’m sure you haven’t because your friends at CNN, NBC, and Fox News haven’t shown it to you. The man was a stone-hearted devil worshipper. Take a look at the thing [Gives web site information.] look at the altar in the shooter’s backyard [...] he’s not a troubled young man, he’s a devil-worshipping left-wing pot-head.”

You can listen to the whole excerpt if you want, but lower the volume, and be prepared for a weird pot-Hashshashin-assassin narrative, and the usual “Obama is a Marxist” stuff. I usually ignore talk radio, but when someone with an 8-10 million person strong megaphone starts talking about banning Wicca or the occult in the United States, even rhetorically, it can have a dramatic effect on the lives of modern Pagans. Because, and Savage may not know this, but people really did try to ban Wiccans from the Army. It isn’t mere inflated rhetoric, this stuff really happened to us. The players, largely unrepentant. Savage, of course, is free to fling his various conspiracy theories and partisan bromides wherever he pleases, but dragging Wicca and “the occult” into the narrative to shove Loughner into a “left” narrative is playing with fire.

The Troubling Persistence of “Occult Crime” Experts: As if on cue, what with terms like “occult” and “New Age” being thrown around in the Tuscon shooting case, our old friend, “international expert on occult crime” Dom Rimer rises to the surface once more.

More than 100 people — mostly police officers from across Hampton Roads and central Virginia — turned out for Rimer’s seminar Saturday about how occults can impact teenagers. The presentation, sponsored by the Newport News Police Department, also helped educate officers about the influences that satanic, gothic, and vampire groups can have on teens. “Occult crime happens all over the world and it’s growing,” said Rimer.”

So you have a presentation sponsored by a local police department, filled with police officers, listening to drivel like “in the world of gaming, there is evil,” or decapitated animals are telltale evidence of people who practice a faith known as Santeria,” or “teenagers who like techno-rock music may sometimes be confused with teens fully into the “goth” look and music.” Seriously.  It would all be hilarious if people very much like Rimer weren’t directly responsible for fueling moral panics that got innocent people thrown in jail, and got several more, to this day, harassed by law enforcement and government officials. Indeed, Rimer has no shame in the possible harm his profession may be doing. He sees himself as a man on a mission.

“I teach parents the warning signs. If that is fear, yes I teach fear … I teach law enforcement about the rituals. If that is fear, yes I teach fear … I will continue to teach, consult, and investigate Ritual Crime as long as those crimes are committed. I provide that service to local, state, and federal agencies across the United States and Canada.”

Oh, and if you think Rimer, or someone very much like him, would never get consulted in Arizona, think again.

“Near Tucson, Arizon, a young man who has embraced the worship of Satan, commits a grave robbery. Conducts a ritual with the stolen skull. Then enlists the aid of his teenage followers. they place the skull at the local high school as a threat against the School Resource Officer. I will testify in that case. I have taught at a state law enforcement conference for Arizona. If that is fear, yes I teach fear. I will continue to teach, consult, and investigate Ritual Crime as long as those crimes are committed.”

Self-proclaimed “experts” in “occult crime” are dangerous. They peddle fear and misinformation. They inflate problems, and classify things in manners that support their view of the world. That they continue to have influence over local police forces is troubling, to say the least.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

Yesterday, a memorial service was held in Tucson, Arizona for those killed and injured in the horrific shooting this past Saturday. While President Obama’s speech was almost universally praised for its heartfelt honoring of those involved, and “elevating the political debate,” other aspects of the evening were not received as warmly. Most notably, there’s been a wave of criticism regarding the opening invocation by Dr. Carlos Gonzales, a Pascua Yaqui Indian and associate professor at the University of Arizona, College of Medicine.

Some critiques of Gonzales’ traditional blessing were mostly puzzled and relatively mild, like Fox News anchor Brit Hume, who described the invocation as “peculiar,” and setting a strange tone for the rest of the memorial.

Certainly the mood in that auditorium suggested that the sense of mournfulness that you might have expected and sobriety you might have expected was not to be found tonight. And of course, I think, the whole thing is attributable in part to the remarkable opening blessing that was delivered by, what was his name, Carlos Gonzales, who by the time it was over with, he had blessed the reptiles of the sea, and he had prayed to the four doors of the building, and while I’m sure that all has an honorable tradition with his people, with it was most peculiar.

However, pundits like Michelle Malkin and Power Line’s Paul Meringoff were far more harsh. Using adjectives like “babbles,” “rambling,” and “ugly.”

Native American gives rambling speech while holding a feather. His remarks are frequently interrupted by whoops and cheers. He gives a shout-out to his son serving in Afghanistan. Brags about his ethnic Mexican background. Babbles about two-legged and four-legged creatures and the feminine energy that comes from Mother Earth. Mercy.”Michelle Malkin

As for the “ugly,” I’m afraid I must cite the opening “prayer” by Native American Carlos Gonzales. It was apparently was some sort of Yaqui Indian tribal thing, with lots of references to “the creator” but no mention of God. [...] In any event, the invocation could have used more God, less Mexico, and less Carlos Gonzales.”Paul Meringoff

Mark Tapscott at the Washtington Examiner went even further than Malkin and Meringoff, calling the invocation a “stark statement of pantheistic paganism,” that was “a blatant violation of separation of church and state” that sent “a message of exclusion to the many.” Sadly, this mean-spirited and ignorant commentary didn’t stop with a few big names.

“In fact, a whole weird vibe was set at the very beginning of the memorial with pseudo-Native American medicine man Carlos Gonzales. He began the off kilter scene with his pseudo-blessing of rocks and trees, northern doors, and — well, whatever he was blessing, anyway. His self-referential promotion was also quite off-putting.”

Cathy Lynn Grossman at USA Today wonders if you were “annoyed” or in “agreement” with the blessing given by Gonzales, while pointing out the rationale for his inclusion in the program.

“Gonzales was a fitting choice for several reasons, says Patty Talahongva, who is Hopi and past president of the Native American Journalists Association. The tribal reservation is in the district of gravely injured U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. And he’s a symbol of Arizona’s diversity — part of the university president Robert Shelton’s ongoing campaign to bring all streams of thought, culture and tradition into the campuses. (Hence the title “Together we thrive” on the funeral programs).”

Talahongva expands on this in an essay for Youth Radio.

“So tonight it comes down to words from an aboriginal man, from a race of people who have consistently helped this nation in times of strife. Arizona is home to the Navajo and Hopi Code Talkers who are credited with creating codes in their traditional languages which were never broken by the enemy during World War II. They helped save countless American lives. Quite often the words and voice of the American Indian/Alaska Native is lost in America, their indigenous homeland, but tonight the country will hear from a man who clearly represents America and her rich diversity… Words matter. Words can sometimes save lives. And when words are spoken in prayer, in a positive way, they can surely do more good than harm.”

What’s troubling about this wave of criticism towards Dr. Carlos Gonzales is that it shows how little tolerance there is in some corners for any expression of religion that isn’t Christian or some flavor of ceremonial deism. Even during a memorial that many felt was uniting and uplifting, the wave of scare quotes, snide remarks, and insults against indigenous religions couldn’t be held back. This is the same impulse that led to the disruption of Rajan Zed’s Senante invocation, the ignorance and arrogance that only comes from almost total religious and cultural power and privilege. These hectoring voices darkly reinforce the attitudes that continually place Arizona’s recreation over the sacred land of its indigenous peoples. They are a sour note in what was, on the whole, a moment where our country, in all its diversity, came together.

ADDENDUM: Power Line’s Paul Meringoff has issued an apology:

“In a post last night, I criticized the use of a Yaqui prayer as the invocation to the memorial service in Tucson. In doing so, I failed to give the prayer the respect it deserves. Although I did not intend this as a slight to the religion or to the Yaqui tribe, it can clearly be interpreted as one. For this, I sincerely apologize to my readers, to the Yaqui tribe, to all tribal leaders and Indian people, and, specifically, to Carlos Gonzales who delivered the prayer. I regret my poor choice of words, and I have removed the post.”

It seems that being disrespectful can be bad for business.