Rev. Janet Vincent, rector of St. Columba's, Washington, D.C., this week told PBS Newshour's Jeffrey Brown that the Christian-Muslim religious tension in this country is all about 9/11, it's not going away, and not building the proposed mosque isn't going to help.
[I]t all goes back to 9/11. I was interested to hear [the president] say today that we're in a time of anxiety. But I think the anxiety has never left us since 9/11. There are deep, deep wounds, psychic and spiritual, as well as the physical wounds. And they haven't gone away.
How do we deal with [not having an outlet for our anxiety]? I think we do need to deal with it politically and pastorally. Our leaders need to stand up and say who we are. In this time of anxiety, our highest -- when we are fearful, when we are afraid for our lives, for our safety, for our children, our highest values go out the window, the things we hold on to. But we say we are Americans. We say we love liberty. We say that we love equality. We say we love freedom. Then, we have to stand up and show examples of that.
I think we must let them build. I think we must deal with the anxiety of it. We are a culture that is afraid of conflict and anxiety. We need to deal with it. We need to allow that mosque to be built. You know, the comments before about different groups, Catholics and other groups who were persecuted in our country, Islam is now being persecuted. And we need to stand up for them, as we would stand up for groups who have come before them.
Vincent's remarks about anxiety will hit home for many: how can we manage it? Memorial services, many seem to think - services honoring folks like firefighters, whom The Very Rev. Loren Fox of Palm Bay, Florida's Church of Our Savior honored with some well-chosen words about death:
Death does not have the last say," Fox told the 250-plus in attendance. "Absolutely death breaks our hearts, but it does not have the final say. We don't need to fight back with the bitterness of our enemy. Our joy deflates the person who wants to ridicule us and tear us down.
"As horrible as 9-11 was, death does not have the last word."
In and amongst the memorializing, some thought that just doing business as usual can mean something special when it happens on a special day. Even so, and especially with the events of the last week, this year's memorial services were often felt to be taking a stand against anti-Islamic sentiment, in particular, reading the Qu'ran in public worship spaces that aren't specifically Islamic:
Instead of burning the Muslim holy book, area pastors will head to the First Church in Barre, Universalist, to read it.
“We felt like it was a wonderful opportunity for people to get together and learn about the Quran rather than making judgments without information about what the teachings really are,” said the Rev. M’Ellen Kennedy, who preaches at Unitarian Universalist churches in Washington and Strafford.
Or, again, at All Saints Episcopal Church in East Lansing, Michigan:
"It was like a light went on," said Rev. Kit Carlso... "People can hear what's in the book and text can be honored by people of a different culture."
The text Carlson is referring to is the Qur'an, the holy book of the islamic faith. For two hours Saturday night, Carlson's church opened its doors for a multi-faith congregation from around Lansing. The capacity crowd came to hear readings straight from the Qu'ran In both English and Arabic and unabbridged.
"Tonight we want to stand in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters in a sense of not only solidarity but education," said Rev. Sarah Midzalkowski of Canterbury MSU. "Most americans have no idea what the tenets of islam are."
UPDATE: In a wonderful example of slowing down to really take account of this situation, The New York Times reminded us yesterday of a Muslim prayer facility located in 2 World Trade Center, the south tower.
It's a quick but effective read.
He staggered out to the gathering place at Broadway and Vesey. From that corner, he watched the south tower collapse, to be followed soon by the north one. Somewhere in the smoking, burning mountain of rubble lay whatever remained of the prayer room, and also of some of the Muslims who had used it.
Given the vitriolic opposition now to the proposal to build a Muslim community center two blocks from ground zero, one might say something else has been destroyed: the realization that Muslim people and the Muslim religion were part of the life of the World Trade Center.
Opponents of the Park51 project say the presence of a Muslim center dishonors the victims of the Islamic extremists who flew two jets into the towers. Yet not only were Muslims peacefully worshiping in the twin towers long before the attacks, but even after the 1993 bombing of one tower by a Muslim radical, Ramzi Yousef, their religious observance generated no opposition.