Sunday, August 15, 2010

diversity is acceptance

I'm not the only one to give sermons. my wife gave one this morning in her church in menomonie. I don't think I'm being biased when I say it was quite good because a number of people spoke with her afterward to compliment her.

because she is a xian, it was on a xian topic: "breaking the 5th commandment." what I'm most interested in talking about is the example she gave for finding common ground within divirsity: the question others have raised about the prudence of building an islamic center 2 blocks from the site of the world trade center.

putting aside for the moment the question whether non-muslims ought to be voicing an opinion about where an islamic holy building ought to go--no one polls non-xians about whether a church should be built somewhere--the solution is clearly this: the people who own the site are within their rights to build anything they want to on it. that's codified in our laws and traditions, and so long as we profess to be a republic that enshrines private property, this is how the law will be decided and how it should be decided. as new york representative jerry nadler puts it,"we do not put the Bill of Rights, we do not put...religious freedom to a vote."

on our drive home I saw a muffler shop sign the response to which encapsulates this. it read, "we vote 'no' on mosque at ground zero." it's lovely that whoever is responsible for that sign put his opinion for everyone to see, but the fact is that we don't get a vote. how someone chooses to put his property to use is not up for public debate (outside some caveats like ecological impact or the legality of the business or road congestion or sometimes the effects it might have on other businesses). none of these are at issue for the islamic cultural center and mosque. propriety is obviously an issue for some people--although I note not the people most immediately affected by the building--and they have voiced their objections and that's as it should be. but they don't have the final decision and to insist they somehow do is embarrassing.

this is how we live, surrounded by events and things and people we like and those we don't. it's a measure of our maturity and faith that we accept the latter with greater equanimity than we give the former. diversity is not about tolerance but about acceptance of those things we don't have the right to a voice in. simply put, non-muslims do not have a voice in the outcome of this debate.

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