Tuesday, February 08, 2011

The Department of Justice and the Interrogation of Heretics

On Friday January 15, 2010 I was interviewed at my residence by two officers from the U.S. Department of Justice about a law enforcement matter.

During the interview the questions touched on religious matters.  Why the officer thought this line of questioning had any pertinence whatsoever to law enforcement concerns remains a mystery to me.

At one point in the interview the officer asked me: "Are you looking for a spiritual connection in life?"  Why on earth would a law enforcement officer ask a question like that?

First, I don't know what a spiritual connection is.  And a connection to precisely what in the world of spirits was he referring?  Perhaps he was asking me if I wanted a spiritual connection to God.  I already feel a connection to God.  God created the universe.  I am part of the universe.  So I have that connection to the creator of the universe.  How does one achieve a spiritual connection with the Invisible, the Ineffable, the Inconceivable?  Am I looking forward to getting together with God over a beer?  I seriously doubt that's going to happen.  The chances are probably greater that President Obama will invite me to the White House for lunch on the Truman Balcony.  But I'm not holding my breath.

What concerns me about being asked by a government officer about whether I am looking for a spiritual connection is that I have a remote association to the questions asked of suspected heretics during the Spanish Inquisition or the interrogation by any religious fanatics of individuals of suspect religious allegiance.

I can recall reading an article about literature professor Stephen Greenblatt in The New York Times Magazine in March 1993.  I suppose it reveals something of my psychological concerns that 17 years later, in the year 2011, I still recall a passage from that article.  The passage reads:

"The essay Stephen Greenblatt has been working on at the moment began to take shape after he read an account of the interrogation and torture of Anne Askewe, a Protestant who had the misfortune of falling into the hands of Catholic authorities in 1545, during the last bloody years of the reign of Henry VIII. She was asked "whether a mouse eating the host received God, or no?" The point of asking this obscure question was to trap Protestants into making blasphemous declarations about the rite of communion celebrated at Catholic Mass, the nature of the Eucharist or the mystery of transubstantiation. Anne Askewe avoided what Greenblatt refers to as "the mouse trap" by saying nothing at all -- she merely smiled at her tormentors, as if to imply that it really wasn't her problem." Begley, A. "The Tempest Around Stephen Greenblatt." The New York Times Magazine at 34, March 28, 1993.

Oddly enough, I felt a lot like Anne Askewe during my job termination on October 29, 1991 by Dennis Race, Esq. at the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld.  During the termination meeting I said nothing at all -- I merely smiled at those present as if the firm's decision to fire me really wasn't my problem.

A spiritual connection?  Just what is that?  And why would the Justice Department, of all people, be interested in whether I was looking for a spiritual connection?

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