Subject: the proposed Islamic community center and mosque to be built near Ground Zero in lower Manhattan.
The reporting on this subject is ubiquitous — in both new media and old. Every time I read another article or opinion piece or hear another discussion on the topic — whether reasoned or inflammatory — I just keep thinking, There, but for the grace of God, go I.
I have agonized over the wisdom of writing about this. Won’t I be opening a door to criticism from all sides? But then I think, How can we offer a blog under the auspices of a religious web site devoted specifically to addressing public topics of conversation in the New York media and NOT write about this?
Granted, it would be easy — and, in some instances, appropriate — to stay silent publicly and to pray privately for the right outcome to be revealed to all parties. Make no mistake, I am continuing to pray privately, as are others of various faiths, in New York and beyond.
For me, it comes down to this: Can I offer a positive, healing contribution to this conversation? If so, I must.
And so, motivated by a desire to offer balm for the wounds — and not fuel for the fire — here I go.
I have two thoughts to share:
The Golden Rule
Every major religion has some version of this rule. (In googling it to be sure that is an accurate statement, I found it referred to on Wikipedia as “the Golden Rule, or ethic of reciprocity.” Isn’t that great?!) As a Christian, I attend to the version from Jesus’ statement in the Sermon on the Mount: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (New International Version of the Bible)
As a Christian Scientist, the Golden Rule has particular significance; it comprises the last of six “religious tenets” of our faith:
And we solemnly promise to watch, and pray for that mind to be in us which was also in Christ Jesus; to do unto others as we would have them do unto us; and to be merciful, just, and pure.
These tenets are central to our faith — everyone who joins the Christian Science church signs an application affirming that he or she subscribes to them.
So, in this discussion about property development in lower Manhattan — regardless of the ultimate decision about a building — can’t we all agree to treat one another throughout the deliberations as we would like to be treated in return? Can we make an effort to uphold our individual versions of the Golden Rule?
There, but for the grace of God….
That brings me to the second thought — and perhaps the reason I could not resist writing about this. As a Christian Scientist, I have personally experienced suspicion, distrust, and even disdain coming toward me from people who simply don’t understand what Christian Science is all about. In many instances, when I have had the opportunity to explain my religion and correct some of the misconceptions the other person may have held about it, the difficulties simply dissolved. Indeed, some of these conversations opened a door to ongoing discussions about spirituality and God — which have benefited both parties. At the very least, we can agree to disagree — from a point of view of respect which is founded in facts.
Regarding the current public debate over building options near Ground Zero: There may be much to be gained — and little to lose — by encouraging a dialogue about our differences. I dare say this would likely lead to a greater level of understanding and mutual respect. And — real estate aside for a moment — wouldn’t that be a good outcome for all concerned?