The Most Absurd, Needless Cultural Suicide in History

With a family member seriously ill and confined to different hospitals recently, I’ve sought out hospital chapels to be alone and say prayers.  Or I should say I sought out the areas formerly known as “chapels.”  Now they are known as Interfaith Centers or Spiritual Care Areas or Meditation Rooms.  There is no Christian cross hanging in any of them lest someone be offended.  There are, however, Muslim prayer rugs and signs pointing toward Mecca.

In some of these spiritual areas you can write down a prayer for your loved one and put it in a prayer wheel: a cylindrical container that has instructions to “spin it” after you put in the tiny paper containing your prayer.  Though the wheels are of Tibetan Buddhist tradition, there is no telltale Sanskrit on the outside, or anything else indicating it’s anything other than a fun way to spin your prayer from your fingertips up to God, or some Creator, or whatever force you think will have some impact on your life.

There are tiny prayer rocks you can put in your pocket; pamphlets with inspiring verses from the Psalms, the Quran, the Talmud, a little Buddhist dharma thrown in and some Native American quotes about the Great Spirit to round out your peaceful ecumenical experience.  I suppose some people might lament that there is nothing for the atheists and Satan worshipers.  In at least one spiritual area, there were pamphlets with inspirational thoughts for pagans.

As I kneeled to pray, I didn’t know which way to face.  The front of the room held a table and vase filled with artificial flowers.  That wouldn’t do – I felt as though I were praying to Keats’ Grecian urn.  I turned the other direction, but Mecca didn’t seem an appropriate way to face either.  Two choices left – one direction faced an abstract painting that looked as though it had spilled out of someone’s troubled mind just before they’d purposely leapt from a window; the other direction faced some stacked chairs. 

Finding a Post-It note and a pencil, I drew a cross and stuck it to a panel behind the fake flowers in the front of the room.  I got down on my knees and faced it.  That’s when I saw the CCTV camera.  For a brief moment I panicked realizing I had just broken the rules and put a cross on public display.  I said my prayers and left, but noticed the tiny drawing was gone first thing the next morning.

I wandered into the back halls of the spiritual room in this great, large hospital in upstate New York.  They had dozens of Christian Bibles piled next to dozens of Qurans – all ready to be given to whoever was in spiritual need.  Two new unopened boxes of Qurans had just come in and were waiting to be stacked on the shelf.  There was one book labeled as a guide to Jewish prayer.

I take my Bible everywhere, so I never really need a room or a special place to talk to God.  But I do remember those places used to exist in hospitals -- places where a Christian cross adorned the front of the room and a Bible lay open on a lectern for anyone to read.  When you walked in, a quiet reverence came over you because you believed that room to be blessed as a designated dwelling place for the presence of God.  There you could commune with a power that could bring about divine intervention.  I remember kneeling in some of those rooms, begging God to spare the life of a loved one; asking for mercy, forgiveness, or letting my tears fall onto a carpet where so many other’s had shed tears with similar pleadings.

But in these new touchy-feely, one-religion, one-world, global-peace-inspired rooms I feel…nothing.  It’s as though your mind, and even history itself, has been wiped clean of any memory of that God your parents talked about.  Then you angrily wonder what the hell happened while you were busy taking the kids to soccer practice.  If you have any sense of the gravity of what’s really happened, you feel like Charleton Heston riding up the beach and finding the Statue of Liberty broken and beleaguered in the sand: “You maniacs! You blew it up!...God damn you all to hell!”

The worst part was nobody seemed to care about little things like hospital chapels.  Our Christian chapels were replaced with generic meditation rooms containing not-so-generic Muslim prayer rugs, qiblah compasses and Buddhist prayer wheels and nobody dared peep in protest.  In fact, in many places, the moves were likely heralded as “interfaith solidarity.”

Such was the case with the sign I passed on my way home from the hospital.  With a Lutheran billboard as a backdrop proclaiming “Hallelujah Jesus Lives!” a sign below it proclaimed, “To our Muslim neighbors, Blessed Ramadan.”  I pulled into the parking lot to take a closer look.  The sign was a product of the New York State Council of Churches.  Apparently I didn’t notice them last year when they began popping up “in front of churches and synagogues, and on urban and suburban lawns across the Capital Region.”

An article in the Albany Times-Union last year waxed progressively poetic when it said the signs “were meant as a kind of metaphor, these small candles of interfaith solidarity lighted against the darkness of religious intolerance and racism.”  The article went on to say that, “They were a rebuke to anti-Islam rhetoric spouted by the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump, who called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States.”  Apparently, it didn’t start out as a New York thing; the NYS Council of Churches got the idea from a Michigan counterpart, and it also comes up under other states Council of Churches’ organizations.  On the Minnesota website, you can “request a #BlessedRamadan sign” and also memorize what to say, verbatim, when you call to “tell Congress that you oppose Trump’s rewritten order to discriminate against refugees…”

I cannot follow the logic that leads to embracing diversity by ripping down crosses in hospital chapels, while Christians simultaneously stampede to the curb in order to be the first ones to wave “Blessed Ramadan” to their passing Muslim neighbors.

Maybe it’s time for everyone to come clean about their true intentions: To discard all individual religions in the name of peace and form that one universal religion that the United Nations has been clamoring for.  The idiocy is the Vatican thinks it’s going to be able to hold a rosary in one hand and a Quran in the other; and the Lutherans think all they have to do is take pork out of their church suppers and the Muslims will be their BFFs.  Meanwhile, Muslims have no intention of capitulating, and the West mistakenly thinks it can integrate Islam into everyday life the same way it successfully absorbed Yoga, Reiki and Feng shui.

We are watching the most absurd, needless and naïve cultural suicide in history.

Susan D. Harris can be reached at