Monday, July 18, 2011

The Lutheran Church of Mahomet

Central Illinois is flat and covered with outrageously healthy corn.  Every few miles you pass a small town, and I make it a point to read the names off the water towers.  Just outside of the Champaign-Urbana metropolitan area lies the little community of Mahomet, Illinois.

Wait a minute....Mahomet.  Isn't that a variant of the name of the Prophet Mohammed?   Well, yes.  And in times when we seem hypersensitive to political correctness it struck me as a bit unusual.  I mean, heck, we have mostly expunged all references to Native Americans from our sports teams, and the dust up over Danish newspaper cartoons would seem to make the name Mahomet entirely off limits.

Of course there is a story behind it.

The town was originally called, unimaginatively, Middleton Illinois.  But in 1871 it was noted that there was another community in the state with the same name.  Somehow it was determined-was there a drawing of straws or was it by seniority?-that a new name was called for.

The local Masonic lodge was called Mahomet, in keeping with their sort of mystical theme.  They were really big on middle eastern names, I actually have a vintage fez with the name Mecca on it in rhinestones. 

So the town acquires the name of the local lodge.

This makes for a few intitially jarring juxtapositions:

Or maybe not so jarring, there are certainly many Muslims serving with distinction in our Military.

Or how about this?

Well, OK.  I can say as at least a nominal Lutheran that if the Prophet Mahomet turned up at the 11:00 service He would be made to feel welcome. 

I would hate to be the cause of any difficulty for anyone, so I should mention that I saw no use of the Mahomet name that should be cause for any distress.  There is for instance no Mahomet Bar and Grill.

My gracious, it was a dry town until 2007.

More about Mahomet, Illinois


wheels said...

My favorite fez is here".

T2 said...

Indeed, some nice fezage on display. I understand that the Shriners are actually not thrilled with people collecting them, they have some meaning beyond the curiosity value.