Men's Health magazine, noted for its scholarship in American religious studies, recently rated the top 100 "holiest cities in America." Result: Colorado Springs rated first on the list. I'm very glad to be first in something. Here's a brief excerpt:
While it's true that Colorado, at 5,980 feet above sea level, is closer to heaven than even the Mile High City, we used a different set of numbers to divine our findings. We scoured the U.S. Census and the yellow pages (Yellow.com) for places of worship per capita. Then we tallied up religious organizations (U.S. Census) and the number of volunteers who support these groups . . . Finally, we considered the amount of money donated to religious organizations . . . and spent on religious books.
1. Colorado Springs, CO
2. Greensboro, NC
3. Oklahoma City, OK4. Wichita, KS
5. Indianapolis, IN
6. Jacksonville, FL7. Portland, OR
8. Birmingham, AL9. Charlotte, NC
10. Little Rock, AR
The fact that Portland appeared at #7, even though Oregon consistently appears down towards the bottom of most professional surveys conducted by ARIS and others, immediately made me question the methodology here. And in doing so, here's a counter-survey that I found, from our own local paper (based on figures from 2000, admittedly, but still):
A quick run through the data seems to contradict the idea that El Paso County is a highly religious place. The 2000 survey found El Paso County was home to 222,490 people who claim an affiliation with some religion. That was 43 percent of the population. The rate in Denver, meanwhile, is 64 percent.
So, either we're No. 1, or we don't even hold a candle to Denver. Take your pick.
One area where we indisputably lead the nation is in the great national jihad to defund the "Nazis" at National Public Radio ("Nazis" being the term Roger Ailes of Fox News, evidencing its usual fair and balanced presentation, used to refer to NPR; Ailes is President of Fox News).
Leading the great national jihad is our local representative Douglas Lamborn, previously unknown to the public at large but known locally for protecting every piece of military spending pork, no matter how many Defense Secretaries insist that they be cut, and vowing to protect Medicare against the encroaching monstrosity of "socialized medicine" and "Obamacare" -- and etc. You get the idea. Here's a hilarious cartoon about Lamborn's jihad, from Denver's Westword.
For years Lamborn has sponsored bill to defund completely National Public Radio; the combination of the Juan Williams incident and the recent elections have given this bill a very good chance of approval next year. Our local paper the Colorado Springs Independent covers the story here.
How ironic I should come upon this story, or combination of stories, after listening to a really thoughtful and intelligent program on my local public radio station KRCC this morning featuring a panel discussion from various locals (the religion reporter at the Colorado Springs Gazette, a college chaplain, and some others) on the influence of evangelicalism in Colorado Springs. Besides the panel discussion, the program also features a reporter visiting a local mosque here in the Springs, and another report from the tough lives experienced by those who feel called to the little town of Crestone, Colorado, in an area which houses a striking diversity of religious communities from a Carmelite Monastery to various Zen Buddhist groups. Ethereal spirituality, as the piece makes clear, is a challenge when you're trying to make it through the bitter winters and swarms of spring mosquitoes in that remote corner of SW Colorado.
I was thinking about the particular recent attacks on NPR further tonight in relationship to this commentary by Guy Raz at the end of today's All Things Considered -- a short, arrestingly beautiful piece that showed NPR at its best. Here's hoping the piece goes viral.
Raz was reflecting on Roger Ailes, the Fox News executive who recently said the following:
"They are, of course, Nazis," Ailes said of NPR. "They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism. These guys don't want any other point of view."
[Yes, Ailes since issued the ritual obligatory apology. So what; it's obvious he meant what he said in the first place].
Let's leave aside the complete historical malapropism of the idiocracy here ("left wing of Nazism," etc.). What moved me was Raz's short oral essay "inspired" (or whatever the term should be) by Ailes's grotesque comments. Raz began by reflecting on his great-grandfather Abraham Reiss, who didn't make it out of Europe before the real Nazis got to him, and then further on what it meant for him to hear "Nazi" used in reference to his network.
That word, Nazi, means something. We are all free to use it as we please. It's our right, of course. But when its use is stripped of any of its real meaning, I just ask you to remember the story of Abraham Reiss.
P.S.: While you're at it, check out the piece right before Raz's essay, which is about the growing number and influence of Israeli jazz musicians in New York. I heard one of them, the fantastic bassist Omer Avital, about 10 years ago, and still smile when I think of him ferociously attacking his instrument all night at Small's, with the Jason Lindner band. One of the most astonishing nights of music I've heard in my life; and, for me, a spiritual experience. So here's to you, Omer. My local public radio station, the great and wonderful KRCC, plays your music on occasion, and I heard a tune of yours one time, quite unexpectedly, on the tiny station KZRA in Alamosa, Colorado, one of many rural public stations which have taken root thanks to indispensable public subsidies to bring one-of-a-kind programming to the hinterlands of places such as SW Colorado and NW New Mexico. Congressman Lamborn, check it out sometime, you might like it.