On Neighbors

“To love our neighbor as ourselves is such a truth for regulating human society, that by that alone one might determine all the cases in social morality”. John Locke (1632-1704) British philosopher and physician

Does anyone remember the theme song from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood? “It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood, A beautiful day for a neighbor, Would you be mine? Could you be mine?” I am 40 years old and I still find myself being able to hum that tune I learned as child. Anyone born prior to 2003 would remember Mr. Rogers, the nice man on PBS who wore comfy sweaters and taught us how to be good, kind, compassionate neighbors. So, who is my neighbor?

When a man asked Jesus in the Bible this same question, the He shared the story of the Good Samaritan. This was a story about how a man put the needs of a wounded stranger above that of his own when he certainly did not have to. This man had the right to walk by and continue on his personal business while a stranger suffered. Yet, he did not do this. He chose instead compassion over convenience, care over cost, and service over selfishness.

Having lived in Phoenix for over 15 years, where every house is surrounded by a 6 foot cement fence, and every stranger looked on with suspicion, I must admit that my husband and I did not know true neighborliness until we moved to Iowa. In our first winter here, the water pipe burst in our yard on a late Friday afternoon, and after the city shut off the water, we were told that they could not get it fixed until Monday. And not only that, since it was on our side of the line, we would be responsible for the cost. Three days with no water!  So, imagine our surprise when a couple hours later two of our neighbors showed up with a back hoe and shovels in the -20F degree weather to help us fix it. After a third neighbor offered to let us raid his garage for the needed pipe fittings (the hardware stores were already closed) my husband and these two men were able to get our water back on by 11 pm. I remember my husband musing about this event in amazement, wondering if he would have been willing to dig in the freezing cold mud in the dark for hours to help someone he barely knew. We were both humbled; these three men showed us exactly what Jesus was talking about.

Having experienced what true neighborliness is, I find myself profoundly dismayed by one group’s insensitive decision to build a 13-story Mosque Megaplex over a site near Ground Zero in New York, on which plane debris and human remains fell. Their leaders’ claim it is to heal hurts, yet their actions are opening up wounds that have not yet healed. They claim it is to create a bridge of understanding, yet they choose to name the place “Cordoba House”, after the city in Spain where 8th century invading Muslims tore down a Christian church and built a huge mosque in its place as a symbol of their conquest. They claim that their intentions are all good, yet instead of showing compassionate understanding towards their still grieving neighbors, they accuse them of racism when they cry out in protest and pain. How will blaming the victim ever bring healing? What kind of person does this kind of thing?

As a Patriot, I will vigorously defend someone’s right to religious freedom, even if I do not agree with their religion. However, the U.S Constitution is not a suicide pact. Just because you have the right to do something doesn’t mean that it’s the right thing to do. Just like yelling “Fire” in crowded theater is considered dangerously outside the boundaries of free speech, claiming religious freedom to build a mosque over land were Americans were killed by those who subscribed to your religion is provocatively “in-your-face”. The Japanese would never dream of building a Shinto shrine near Pearl Harbor, just as the Germans would never build a cultural center near Auschwitz. They humbly respect and remember that these sites are hallowed ground, where horrible things took place. Keep in mind that these same mosque leaders have neither denounced those that committed the atrocious acts of 9/11 (they actually blamed America), nor condemned those that continue to kill in the name of their god and their religion.

Words mean nothing; only actions matter. Since there is no evidence whatsoever of any act of neighborliness from this group, the only conclusion I can draw is this: the site chosen was intentional. The name chosen was intentional. The continued vilification of the families of the victims of 9/11 is intentional so as to distract from the truth of the matter.  And that truth is that their claim to desire a healing of hurts is a lie, otherwise they would be focusing on how to best minister to their neighbors instead of pushing their own divisive agenda to the exact opposite effect. This has nothing to do with religious freedom: this is just more politics as usual, with a thin coat of religious veneer. In my mind, political Islam is no different than any other political belief that sees a unified America as a threat to their power base. These men are no different than the current spineless political leaders who ignore the will of the people on a regular basis, and who therefore care not how their support of such a construction is so insulting to Americans. Compassion, neighborliness, freedom, and liberty are always seen as a threat by those that would seek to control the lives of others.

These particular Muslim leaders are not being neighborly. They are not being compassionate. They are being political. They are being divisive. They are acting like bullies; disrespectful of the dead and cruel to all Americans still grieving this loss. Men who cloak such irreverent, hurtful behavior in the U.S Constitution are men without honor.

“Of neighborhoods, benevolence is the most beautiful. How can the man be considered wise who, when he had the choice, does not settle in benevolence?” Confucius (551 BC – 479 BC), Chinese philosopher


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One Response to On Neighbors

  1. Marti says:

    Great article…

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