Yup, there’s quotes from the Quran on an obelisk in the middle of the Creation Garden courtyard, in the Solanus Casey Center. Just a few yards away from the holy tomb of a man who lived his life for Christ.
I’m sure that all the Chaldean Catholics who fled Muslim oppression in Iraq are soooo happy to see this act of officiousness — commissioning and showing an artwork of somebody else’s religious literature — greeting them at a Catholic holy place. The Creation Garden is supposed to include symbols of all the natural creatures referenced in St. Francis’ “Canticle of the Sun.” So there is a whole array of harmless semi-decorative modern art. The Quran thing is the only offensive and blasphemous part. Nobody at the Center seems to know which verses are even quoted, which makes it even stupider.
Picture of the top of the obelisk, from the artist’s website.
There are some verses in the Quran which sort of copy Genesis, but claim that all things were created out of water instead of out of nothing. (I guess by a misinterpretation of “without form and void.”) There are others which say that people will be raised from the dead as a dead land is raised to life by rain.
If those are the quotes, they would seem okay; but of course, there are a lot of bad theological implications to the Quran which aren’t obvious to the first glance. (Here’s a webpage talking about the context of such verses.) The big one is that all the early Muslim commentators said that things being created out of “water” was a euphemism for “semen” — which goes together with a lot of pagan Middle Eastern creation myths, but is not what Jews and Christians believe at all!
Mostly, though, it’s claiming a communion of religious beliefs with people who aren’t going to feel the same way. To claim that differences don’t matter, when they actually do, is to claim that people’s thoughts and beliefs don’t matter. Having a real community means knowing what other people care about and why, even if you don’t agree.
Anyway, the stated idea is that the water quote obelisk represents both the passage of water in nature, and St. Francis being given free passage through his lands by the Sultan.
It doesn’t represent all the Franciscans who’ve been martyred by Muslims. Here’s a selection of the ones we know about:
The Franciscan Protomartyrs: Berard of Carbio and his companions, Peter, Otho, Accursius, and Adjutus. Martyred in Morocco for preaching the Gospel. They didn’t even know the language, so that is actually all they did. Contemporaries of St. Francis who were personally sent out by him. When St. Francis heard of their beheading by Morocco’s own king, he exclaimed, “At last, now I have true Friars Minor!” St. Anthony of Padua was inspired to join the Franciscans upon seeing the procession carrying home their bodies. Their feastday is January 16.
Nicholas Tavelic and Companions: Deodatus Aribert of Rodez, Peter of Narbonne and Stephen of Cuneo.. They preached the Gospel in the presence of the Qadi of Jerusalem, and were executed for their pains on November 14, 1391. Tavelic was the first canonized Croatian saint.
Blessed Francesco Zirano: Sent by the Pope to North Africa, purely to deliver ransoms for kidnapped and enslaved Christians and those held as hostages. He traveled under the guise of a merchant, but was captured and imprisoned by soldiers after a coup in one of the Muslim kingdoms. Martyred for refusing to convert to Islam, by being flayed alive on January 25, 1603. His skin was then stuffed with straw and put on display. Eventually, an enslaved cousin of his managed to get free, get his remains, and get them home for burial. Beatified on October 12, 2014.
The Servant of God Leonard Melki, Capuchin. A contemporary of Blessed Solanus Casey, martyred in 1915 by soldiers of the Ottoman Empire.
So yeah, tell me again how Muslims let Franciscans walk free and do what they like. Sure.
But yeah, it is really lucky for the idiots behind this, that Blessed Solanus Casey isn’t the smiting kind of Irish saint, or they’d be walking around with their feet turned backwards.
UPDATE: The liberal cruft that has been grafted onto the Solanus Casey Center is really ridiculous. Here’s a story from January describing it:
The center showcases the message of Casey, containing life-size statues of activists from Central America, Japan, America and Detroit, including noted figures like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador, Dorothy Day and Dr. Takashi Nagai, a victim of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. Outside in a courtyard are pieces of art depicting nature’s elements, including a ceramic pillar from a Muslim artist that has verses from the Quran, an African wind chime and a monument to Mother Earth by an American Indian artist from California.
Let’s count this out, shall we?
There’s no problem with having a statue of Blessed Oscar Romero in a Catholic building with a religious context, once he was beatified in 2015. However, it doesn’t sound like this is a new statue. That could easily have been taken as a violation of “de non cultu,” and have prevented him being beatified.
The Servant of God Dorothy Day hasn’t been beatified yet, so “de non cultu” should still be applying to her. She shouldn’t be in there. Same thing with the Servant of God Takashi Nagai. Why do they hate these folks and want to keep them from being raised to the altars?
Obviously, a statue of the Rev. Martin Luther King has to be put in a purely political context in any Catholic building. And if it’s in a political context, why is it sitting next to Bl. Solanus Casey’s tomb? Seriously, these things matter. But compared to the Quran plus phallic symbol (here’s hoping it’s accidental), MLK is hardly a problem. At least he’s Christian.
The Mother Earth metal sculpture is by a gentleman named Johnny Bear Contreras. He’s from the San Diego area. He’s apparently Catholic and Kumeyaay (Native Americans from California), and he’s done some more classically styled pieces that you can see on the Internet. Looks cool.
I have no problems with wind chimes, although I’m sure the wind off the lake can get them going pretty noisily!
The “ceramic pillar” is the work of a local Detroit artist, Dr. Hashim Al Tawil. This is what he has to say about it. Apparently the first set of tiles were broken down by the weather, which nobody took as a hint.
Anyway, Dr. Al Tawil is apparently the only person on the Internet who actually cares enough to keep visible some explanatory materials about the Garden, so I give him props for that!
He says that the pillar’s blue tiles represent the four rivers of Paradise (as found in Genesis, but also mentioned in the Quran in several places). He doesn’t say what the verses on the pillar are. He does reference a specific verse of Surah Muhammad (47:15). The preceding verses talk about how disbelievers are going to Hell, basically.
“Is the description of Paradise, which the righteous are promised, wherein are rivers of water unaltered, rivers of milk the taste of which never changes, rivers of wine delicious to those who drink, and rivers of purified honey, in which they will have from all [kinds of] fruits and forgiveness from their Lord — like [that of] those who abide eternally in the Fire and are given scalding water to drink, that will sever their intestines?”
So that wouldn’t actually be much about water as part of Creation, per se.
I would say that Al Tawil has some nice pieces, but it’s also clear that the relationship between Arabic script and art is important to his entire aesthetic. So if people can’t read his work, they are missing the whole point. This means that his work includes people who may not want it (Chaldeans) and excludes people who laid down the money to buy it (English-speaking people of Detroit, who donated the money to build the center in the first place).
And then on top of that, you have two groups whose religious beliefs are such that one being right must mean that the other is wrong. If you are quoting the Quran as right, you have to believe that Christ was never on the Cross, was not the Son of God, and that Solanus Casey was a nice guy but wasted his life. If you are quoting the Bible as right and worshipping Christ, Muhammad was dead wrong about everything and the Quran is a book of lies or delusions. No man can serve two masters.
The Creation Garden was designed by Michael Callen, of the New York design firm DCMD.
This genius guy has set out an artwork by a Kumeyaay, with the Canticle of the Sun verse written in Dakota. Yes. Well, that’s certainly multicultural… because it’s an entirely different language family! That’s like describing a Russian statue by using a verse in Japanese! These people are so busy messing with Bl. Solanus that they totally mess up everybody!!!!
Other than all that… the garden seems to be very pretty. It’s humans that end up looking stupid.