Catalyst March Issue 1999
Manhattan’s Riverside Church is so politically correct, so utterly pop-religious, that non-church goers like it better than those who attend regularly. Moreover, it fits in beautifully with the culture of New York’s upper west side: this is the area that once elected Bella Abzug to the congress and is known as the only district in the nation where one could not get elected if he were caught saying the Pledge of Allegiance. No wonder Stokely Carmichael was honored there.
Stokely, a.k.a. Kwame Ture, was the black activist who popularized the term “black power” in the 1960s; he was also the honorary prime minister of the Black Panther Party. He died last November and was the subject of a quasi-political rally at Riverside Church in January. What made the memorial service so interesting was who was leading it—Louis Farrakhan.
Farrakhan is known for many things, and among them is his virulent anti-Semitism, to say nothing of his anti-Catholicism. Stokely’s record on this score is similarly tarnished, making it rather puzzling why a church that is known for its “progressive” leanings would host such an event. Just as startling was the sight of respected civil rights leaders like John Lewis embracing Minister Farrakhan.
But Farrakhan’s bigotry, and Riverside’s dishonesty, is nothing when compared to the silence of our elites. Why didn’t the New York Times sound off on this? Why didn’t the Anti-Defamation League? We can just imagine what would have happened if Cardinal O’Connor had welcomed Farrakhan to St. Patrick’s for his memorial bash. Just goes to show that anti-Semitism can be tolerated even by those professed against, just so long as its origins aren’t Catholic.