Sunday, May 12, 2013
Dear Ms. Jackson,
First of all, welcome to Tennessee. Like many natives, I have a Faulknerian love/hate relationship with my native state, so it always feels a little hypocritical to say, "Howdy! You're gonna love it here!" The simple truth is, you are going to love it here, at least I hope you will. It seems like a lot of transplants do and you know? That makes me feel pretty good.
Welcoming you here is one reason I wanted to write this letter-blog-post thingie. Another thing I wanted to talk to you about is Middle Tennessee religious life. Quite a few people have this notion that Middle Tennessee is a hotbed of Protestant Christian homogeneity.
Most of the population around here is one flavor or another of Protestantism: Southern Baptists, The Church of Christ, Presbyterians, Pentecostal Holiness, Methodists, Lutherans, COGIC, D of C, Episcopalians waving hi!... There's no doubt we're the majority. There are other kinds of Christians around here as well. You'll find a large number of devout Roman Catholics who attend masses in (the last time I counted) three different languages. There are Greek and Russian Orthodox communities of faith. With a little searching you can find some Coptic and Messianic congregations as well.
But, Victoria? (Yeah, I am going to be forward and call you by your first name because I'm a Victoria, too, and it's a fun name to type.) All of those people are just one piece of a bigger picture. Go to any event where there is a cross section of people from this part of the state, say a Titans game. You'll see Atheists, Agnostics, Sikhs, Jews who are extremely observant and Jews who wouldn't turn down a decent plate of BBQ, Pagans, Wiccans, Asatru, Jains, Buddhists, and yes, Muslims.
Those people are an important part of this place we call home, too. They're Tennesseans, just like you and me. They're our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers, they might be family by blood or marriage or a meaningful bond that just happens. One of the nicest things about living here is that nearly everyone is from somewhere else. What they bring with them makes Nashville a dynamic, interesting place to live.
I bring this up because I read that you want to oppose the opening of a mosque in Rutherford County. From what you've said in the past, I take it you're afraid of the people who will be using this building. Why? Like anyone else here, they want to work, raise families, and be a part of the larger community. I imagine they are too busy living their own lives to give much thought to disrupting anyone else's.
That's why I'm asking you to at least think about accepting this place for every aspect of what it is. I hope you'll open your heart and explore everything Nashville has to offer.