CITY OF GODS

October 11, 2018 at 5:00 am

From religious melting pot to the “City of Gods,” Queens is known as the birthplace of religious freedom in America. Do you know why? The answer may surprise you.

Aired on October 10, 2018. 

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>> KNOWN LOCALLY AS THE BIRTH
PLACE OF AMERICAN RELIGIOUS
FREEDOM, THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF
FLUSHING QUEENS IS NOW SO
DIVERSE THAT IT HAS BECOME A
MICROCOSM OF WORLD RELIGIONS.
ACCORDING TO CENSUS STATISTICS,
QUEENS ITSELF IS NOW THE MOST
ETHNICALLY DIVERSE COUNTY IN THE
NATION.
AND AS FAR AS RELIGIOUS
DIVERSITY IS CONCERNED IN
FLUSHING ALONE WHICH STRETCHES
NO MORE THAN 2.5 SQUARE MILES,
THEY ARE CURRENTLY NEARLY 200
DIFFERENT PLACES OF WORSHIP.
IN HIS NEW BOOK "CITY OF GODS,"
AUTHOR R. SCOTT HANSON DOCUMENTS
THE CHURCHES, SYNAGOGUES AND
MOSQUES OF THE FLUSHING SKYLINE
AND RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES THAT
CALL THIS NEW YORK ENCLAVE HOME.
PRO VESER HANSON JOINS US NOW.
PROFESSOR, WELCOME TO THE
PROGRAM.
>> THANK YOU.
>> I WONDER IF YOU CAN ELABORATE
HOW RELIGIOUSLY DIVERSE IS
FLUSHING/QUEENS.
>> THERE ARE OVER 200 RELIGIONS
DENSELY CONCENTRATE ED IN THIS
DIVERSE RESIDENTIAL DISTRICT.
THERE ARE SIX HINDU TEMPLES,
SEVERAL MOSQUES, SYNAGOGUES,
BUDDHIST TEMPLES, OVER 100
KOREAN CHURCHES ALONE, AND SOME
OF THE OLDEST OTHER CHURCHES AND
SYNAGOGUES IN THE CITY.
>> IMMIGRATION IS WHAT'S
DRIVING, IMMIGRATION AND THE
IMMIGRANTS THAT FOUND RESIDENCE
IN FLUSHING IS WHAT DRIVES THIS
RELIGIOUS PURELYISM.
LET ME ASK YOU, THE RELIGIOUS
PLURALISM THAT YOU FIND IN
FLUSHING IS IT A QUILT LIKE EACH
RELIGION IS A DISTINCT CITY NEXT
TO A DISTINCT PIECE OR A MELTING
POT WHERE IT KEEPS ITS FLAVOR
AND UNITES TO FORM A MORE TASTY
STEW?
>> SO MANY -- THE MELTING POTS
COME -- I LIKE TO THINK OF IT
MORE AS A MOSAIC OR PATCH WORK
OR SYMPHONY EVEN.
BUT IN FLUSHING, YOU DO SEE
VARIOUS ETHNIC ENCLAVES OR PARTS
THAT ARE MORE KOREAN OR CHINESE
OR INDIAN.
BUT BECAUSE IT'S NEW YORK AND
THERE IS' NOT MUCH SPACE, PEOPLE
MIX QUITE A BIT.
>> INCREASINGLY SO?
INCREASINGLY SO?
>> THEY DO.
>> SECOND GENERATION AND THIRD
GENERATION PROBABLY EVEN MORE.
>> RIGHT, THEY BUMP INTO EACH
OTHER ON THE SUBWAY, THE
ELEVATOR AND SO ON.
>> SURE.
>> AND THEY MAY NOT INTERACT A
GREAT DEAL ALWAYS, BUT AT LEAST
THEY TOLERATE AND ARE AWARE OF
EACH OTHER.
>> YOU KNOW, AS YOU WRITE THE
FAMOUS THEOLOGIAN, JESUITS
THEOLOGIAN ONCE ASKED, HOW MUCH
PLURALISM, AND WHAT KIND OF
PLURALISM CAN A PLURALIST
SOCIETY STAND?
HOW DOES THE FLUSHING EXPERIENCE
HELP ANSWER THAT QUESTION?
>> RIGHT.
MURRY WROTE AT A VERY DIFFERENT
TIME IN 1960 WHEN -- AT A TIME
THE COUNTRY WAS LARGELY
PROTESTANT CATHOLIC JEWISH,
WHITE AND BLACK.
HE WAS TAPPED TO WORKTIME, DIFFT
CIRCUMSTANCES.
BUT I THINK IT'S MORE RELEVANT
TODAY IN A PLACE LIKE FLUSHING
AND ALSO INCREASING RELIGIOUS
DIVERSITY IN AMERICA, TOO.
WHAT I'VE LEARNED IN STUDYING
FLUSHING FOR MANY YEARS IS THAT
ANY COMMUNITY LIKE FLUSHING AND
ELSEWHERE AROUND THE COUNTRY CAN
ACCOMMODATE AND ABSORB A
TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF RELIGIOUS
DIVERSITY AND STILL TURN OUT
OKAY.
THERE ARE GROWING PAINS.
PARKING IS AN ISSUE.
ON THE WEEKENDS YOU MIGHT
IMAGINE WHEN PEOPLE COME TO
WORSHIP AND SHOP AND SO ON, IT'S
PROBABLY ONE OF THE BIGGEST
ISSUES.
THERE ARE SOCIAL LIMITS, I SAID.
NEW YORKERS LIKE THEIR PRIVACY.
THEY MAY BE AWARE OF OTHERS, BUT
THEY STILL WANT THEIR PRIVACY
AND THEY MAY NOT ALWAYS INTERACT
IN MEANINGFUL WAYS.
NOT -- YOU KNOW, THERE ARE
CERTAINLY EXCEPTIONS.
MANY PEOPLE ENJOY MEETING PEOPLE
FROM DIFFERENT RELIGIONS AND
CULTURES AND SO FORTH, RIGHT?
THERE ARE ALSO LIMITS OF RACE
AND ETHNICITY.
THERE ARE PARTS OF FLUSHING THAT
ARE SEGREGATED.
THERE ARE ETHNIC ENCLAVES THAT
WE JUST SPOKE ABOUT.
THERE ARE THEOLOGICAL LIMITS AS
WELL.
SOME PEOPLE ARE NOT INTERESTED
IN SPEAKING TO A MUSLIM IF THEY
ARE AN EVANGELICAL
FUNDAMENTALIST CHRISTIAN.
THEY WOULD RATHER CONVERT THEM,
RIGHT?
SO THOSE ARE SOME OF THE LIMITS.
BUT THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT PEOPLE
CAN LIVE TOGETHER IN CIVIL
COEXISTENCE.
>> AS WORLD HISTORY HAS TAUGHT
US UNFORTUNATELY, DIVERSE
PLACES, EVEN AS DIVERSE -- MAYBE
NOT AS DIVERSE AS
FLUSHING/QUEENS, BUT A GREAT
DEAL OF RELIGIOUS DIVERSITY CAN
TURN INTO A -- HOW DOES THAT
HAPPEN AND HOW DO WE AVOID?
>> HOW HOW DO WE AVOID --
>> WHEN RELIGIOUS COMITY BREAKS
DOWN.
>> GOT YOU.
I THINK PLACES ARE BEGINNING TO
EXPERIENCE RAPID DEMOGRAPHIC
CHANGE ARE THE ONES THAT ARE
MOST AFRAID OF THE OTHER AND OF
RELIGIOUS DIFFERENCE AND ETHNIC
DIFFERENCE.
YOU SAW PARTS OF THE COUNTRY
THAT VOTED OVERWHELMINGLY FOR
PRESIDENT TRUMP THAT WERE
CHARACTERIZED TO SOME EXTENT BY
THAT NATURE, THIS KIND OF LOSS
OR NOSTALGIA FOR KIND OF A CIRCA
1940s, EARLY '50s WHITE
PROTESTANT AMERICA THAT IS
CHANGING.
IN FACT, PRESIDENT TRUMP HIMSELF
IS FROM QUEENS IRONICALLY.
AND WOULDN'T RECOGNIZE IT IN
SOME WAYS TODAY.
MIGHT BE AFRAID OF THAT
DIVERSITY IN SOME WAYS.
BUT THAT'S ACTUALLY WHAT MAKES
AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, DIVERSITY
AND IMMIGRATION.
>> ALL RIGHT.
WELL, PROFESSOR, YOUR BOOK IS
"CITY OF GODS," RELIGIOUS
FREEDOM, IMMIGRATION AND
PLURALISM.
FLUSHING/QUEENS, A GREAT READ
FOR THIS DAY AND AGE.
THANK YOU, PROFESSOR.

Mutual of America PSEG

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, and Judy and Josh Weston.

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