Thursday, November 6, 2014

Sacred Ground

Another of our current Christian Formation series is our book study, Sacred Ground:  Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America by Eboo Patel.

One of Patel's defining points is the concept of "sacred ground".  Patel writes in his introduction:
The strangest part of the Cordoba House debate for me was the idea of sacred ground.  The people opposed to Cordoba House insisted that the blocks around Ground Zero constituted a holy area.  Those who believed Cordoba House ought to stay in Lower Manhattan liked to point to the nearby strip joint and off-track betting parlor and say that that patch of land is just like any other.  "Why can't you just move it ten or twenty blocks away?" a CNN anchor asked me on air at the height of the controversy.  But that would still be sacred ground, I thought to myself.  A hundred miles north, a thousand miles south, two thousand miles west---it's all holy. 
I believe every inch of America is sacred, from sea to shining sea.  I believe we make it holy by who we welcome and by how we relate to each other.  Call in my Muslim eyes on the American project.  "We made you different nations and tribes that you may come to know one another, " says the Qur'an.  There is no better place on earth than America to enact that vision.  It is part of the definition of our nation.... 
Pluralism is not a birthright in America; it's a responsibility.  Pluralism does not fall from the sky; it does not rise up from the ground.  People have fought for pluralism.  People have kept the promise.  America is exceptional not because there is magic in our air but because there is fierce determination in our citizens.  "The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults," Alexis de Tocqueville wrote.  Every generation has to affirm and extend the American promise."

What are the places that we consider sacred?  Why so?  What makes them sacred?  

Patel seems to be suggesting that one part of honoring sacred ground is honoring pluralism:  a land with many peoples.  How do people embrace their "responsibility" for seeing and holding things sacred; redeeming assumptions and broken relationships with people different from them?

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