Slaughterhouse Jive: Jesus, Muhammad, Al Qaeda, and the World Series


The convergence of America’s pastimes — religious crackpotism, fast food, and immigration — on America’s former pastime

Future spiritual godfather of radical Muslims Sayyid Qutb (with Hitlerian mustache) poses in Greeley, Colorado, with college prexy William R. Ross in 1949.

Just wait until the World Series, which opens tonight in Boston, shifts to Denver on Saturday. That’s when Jesus and Muhammad — and Sayyid Qutb, the spiritual godfather of Al Qaeda — will join the millions of other viewers.

Colorado’s a great setting for what used to be America’s pastime. Our country’s real manias about fast food, religion, and immigration have strong roots there.

South of Denver lies Colorado Springs, headquarters of Focus on the Family’s James Dobson, the godfather of America’s religious right-wingers. (See my 1997 story “King James’s Version.”)

North of Denver is Greeley, the slaughterhouse capital for the fast-food industry. Colorado Rockies owner Charlie Monfort owes his good fortune to his daddy’s massive abattoirs in Greeley. The family’s cattle feedlots are also the stamping grounds for immigrants brought in to deal with the muck and death. (For inhumane treatment of animals, see this. For inhumane treatment of immigrants who perform this inhumane treatment of animals, see this.)

And in a weird confluence of human and animal slaughter philosophies, Greeley is the town where Sayyid Qutb lived in 1949, where he learned to hate Americans’ “immoral” behavior before he returned to the Middle East and became the most influential 20th century thinker for radical schnooks like Osama bin Laden. (See Mike Peters‘s 2002 Greeley Tribune story “Roots of Terrorism Reach to 1949 Greeley” and Daniel Brogan‘s 2003 story “Al Qaeda’s Greeley Roots” in the Denver magazine 5280.)

Not that all the strange confluences in Colorado are bad. Northern Colorado is also the home of the amazing Temple Grandin, an ingenious autistic person made famous by Oliver Sacks. Grandin, more attuned to animals than people, revolutionized cattle feedlots by at least making the treatment of cattle more humane before they’re slaughtered. Her life story is fascinating — especially the “Squeeze Machine” she invented for herself.

You can’t make this shit up — except for Charlie Monfort and his family’s cattle feedlots. As Eric Schlosser wrote in Fast Food Nation:

You can smell Greeley, Colorado, long before you can see it. The smell is hard to forget but not easy to describe, a combination of live animals, manure, and dead animals being rendered into dog food. The smell is worst during the summer months, blanketing Greeley day and night like an invisible fog. Many people who live there no longer notice the smell; it recedes into the background, present but not present, like the sound of traffic for New Yorkers. Others can’t stop thinking about the smell, even after years; it permeates everything, gives them headaches, makes them nauseous, interferes with their sleep.

The money from Greeley’s feedlots wafted down to Denver, enabling Charlie Monfort and his family to buy the Rockies and feed campaign contributions to right-wing religious wackos like Rick Santorum and Tom Tancredo.

As for the Rockies’ players themselves, Denver Westword‘s Michael Roberts pleads, “Please, Don’t Play the Jesus Card, Rockies.”

Today’s timid New York Times article reminds the nation that the Rockies are a Christian team by intelligent design: Monfort is born-again, and General Manager Dan O’Dowd is not only a dedicated Christian but purposely recruits other Christians to be his players.

Bob Nightengale (a former colleague of mine years ago at the Arizona Republic) broke that story nationally in a piece last summer for USA Today. The Times‘s Ben Shpigel begins his story today with a denial by a Jewish Rockie that the team’s Christianity is forced down his throat. Shpigel, in a typical Times skin-back, then notes:

The role of religion within the Rockies’ organization first entered the public sphere in May 2006, when an article published in USA Today described the organization as adhering to a “Christian-based code of conduct” and the clubhouse as a place where Bibles were read and men’s magazines, like Maxim or Playboy, were banned.

The article included interviews with several players and front office members, but team players and officials interviewed this week said it unfairly implied that the Rockies were intent on constructing a roster consisting in large part of players with a strong Christian faith. Asked how his own Christian faith affected his decision-making, General Manager Dan O’Dowd acknowledged it came into play, but not in a religious way. He said it guided him to find players with integrity and strong moral values, regardless of their religious preference.

Yeah, right.

In any case, I hope the Rockies slaughter the Red Sox — religious nuts like Qutb and Dobson notwithstanding.