There, but for the grace of God, go I

I’m wading into rough waters here, so please bear with me. (And perhaps throw me a life raft, if it looks as if I need one?)

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?

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4 Responses to There, but for the grace of God, go I

  1. Nancy Perry says:

    Thank you for this brave post. It sounds like an invitation for conversation too… I have written and erased and more deeply written, and come back to my original thought. If I was beaten up in NYC and a family member of the person who assaulted me offered to stand nearby and watch over me as I recovered, I hope that I would have the graciousness and wisdom and gratitude to realize that I was better protected than before on many fronts. It makes me think of the parable of the good samaritan… who is the samaritan? I have been bigoted and had prejudice against me, both sides feel awful. I remember growing up my mother all but slamming the door in the faces of Jehovah Witnesses, and being cold and distant for some minutes afterwards. As an adult I felt fear as they approached, the only thing that dissipated that was to offer them a glass of water when they came to my door. A woman Jehovah Witness and I became what I would call friends, not always easy talks, but a genuine caring and respect for each other. I think my house became a haven of sorts for her while being out in the world on her rounds. After 9-11 this country had a lot of trouble reaching forward to build bridges. Perhaps those we might have built bridges with decided to build them to us, if we couldn’t to them. Are we a city who can reach back and say “yes… we will connect this bridge and make it solid.”? New York always seemed that kind of place to me.

  2. Pamela Cook, C.S. says:

    Thank you for contributing to the conversation, Nancy — and for sharing your personal experience, from the heart.

  3. As the Head Librarian at the Tri-State Reading Room, a block away from the site, I have certainly been thinking deeply about how to respond in a healing way. My daughter is married to a Muslim, and is raising her children in that faith, so I have an interesting perspective and history of prayer. (I had prayed for the words to the song I would write for her wedding, and they came in the image of a rainbow, “you can’t take apart a rainbow, no matter how you try”. Later, at the rainy moment she was to marry, an outdoor wedding under a tent on a friend’s lawn, sunlight shone, and a double rainbow appeared. They were married under a rainbow. God doesn’t see one person colored by one faith, an another by another. We are all the children of light, as the Bible says.)
    Last night our Wednesday service readings were about loving our enemies, doing good to them, praying for them, blessing them. Mrs. Eddy says that loving your enemies means you have no enemies. (See Mary Baker Eddy’s AMAZING essay, “Love your enemies”, on page 8 of Miscelleneous Writings). At the end of the service all I could see was God washing everyone in the city with unconditional love. I pray for so many blessings of good, grace, and peace on all the good hearts of New Yorkers, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. I pray for Christian to bless Muslim, and Muslim to bless Christian, knowing omnipotent God is the source of all love.

    • Pamela Cook says:

      Diane – Thank you for posting your comment and for sharing that beautiful image of the rainbow — each color contributing to the overarching display!

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