Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Things turned ugly over the weekend when vandals poured gasoline over construction vehicles doing site preparation for the Islamic center and set one vehicle on fire. Although there had been some vandalism earlier involving a sign on the site, this violation crosses the line.
In an interview on WPLN Radio today, Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen called for tolerance and “a step back.” He asked citizens “to please have great respect for anyone’s religious preferences and their rights to practice those in the United States. I think it goes right to the heart of what this country is about.” He also stated that, like a marriage quarrel, there is a line you don’t cross. The line of what is constitutionally protected, he said, is a hard one to jump back over.
People in our community are good people, but many are afraid. When you are afraid, you look for some one to blame. Things are changing. Economic conditions are trying for many. Our community has become more ethnically diverse in the last thirty years. People with beliefs that differ from our own—Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus—are now a part of the community. (In fact, a Buddhist was elected as a county commissioner in a recent election.) Up to this point, we have found ways to be inclusive and caring amidst all this change.
We need to recognize that we live in tense times, but we most find ways to resolve the tensions without vandalism or violence. We must love our neighbors as we love ourselves. This is not only the American way, it is the Christian way.