“City of Gods”


>>>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 RELIGION. ACCORDING TO CENSUS STATISTICS, QUEENS ITSELF IS NOW THE MOST EARTH ANICALLY DIVERSE COUNTY IN THE NATION. AS FAR AS RELIGIOUS DIVERSITY IS CONCERNED AND FLUSHING ALONE WHICH STRETCHES NO MAR THAN 2.5 SQUARE MILES, THERE ARE CURRENTLY MORE THAN 200 DIFFERENT PLACES OF WORSHIP. IN HIS BOOK, CITY OF GODS, THE AUTHOR DOCUMENTS THE TEMPLES, MOSQUES, CHURCHES, AND SYNAGOGUES THAT DOMINATE THE SKYLINE AND THE RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES THAT CALL THIS NEW YORK ENCLAVE HOME. PROFESSOR HANSON JOINS US NOW. WELCOME THE PROGRAM. COULD YOU ELABORATE HOW RELIGIOUS DIVERSE IS FLUSHING QUEENS?>>AS YOU NOTED, THERE ARE OVER 200 DIFFERENT PLACES OF WORSHIP IN LESS THAN 2 1/2 SQUARE MILES DENSELY CONCENTRATED IN THE DIVERSE RESIDENTIAL AND COMMERCIAL DISTRICT. AND, YOU KNOW, 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 HAVE FOUND RESIDENCE IN RELIGIOUS PLURALISM. IS IT LIKE A QUILT THAT EACH PIECE IS SITTING NEXT TO ANOTHER PIECE OR MORE LIKE A MELTING POT WHERE EACH RELIGION KEEPS ITS FLAVOR BUT UNITED STATES TO FORM A TASTY STEW.>>THERE’S SO MANY METAPHORS FOR DIVERSITY. THE MELTING POT IS COMMON. I LIKE TO THINK OF IT MORE AS A MOSAIC OR PATCHWORK OR SYMPHONY EVEN. IN FLUSHING YOU SEE VARIOUS ENCLAVES OR PARTS THAT ARE KOREAN OR CHINESE OR INDIAN. BECAUSE IT’S NEW YORK AND THERE’S NOT MUCH SPACE, PEOPLE MIX QUITE A BIT.>>INCREASINGLY SO?>>THEY DO.>>I GUESS SECOND GENERATION AND THIRD GENERATION PROBABLY EVEN MORE.>>RIGHT. THEY BUMP INTO EACH OTHER ON THE SUBWAY, THE ELEVATOR, AND SO ON.>>SURE, SURE.>>SO, THEY MAY NOT INTERACT A GREAT DEAL ALWAYS BUT AT LEAST THEY TOLERATE AND ARE AWARE OF EACH OTHER.>>YOU’RE RIGHT. THE FAMOUS THEOLOGIAN, JESUIT THEOLOGIAN JOHN MURRAY ASKED HOW MUCH PLURALISM AND WHAT KIND OF PLURALISM CAN A PLEURALIST SOCIETY STAND. HOW DOES THE FLUSHING EXPERIENCE HELP ANSWER THAT QUESTION?>>MURRAY WROTE AT A DIFFERENT TIME IN 1960 AT THE TIME THE COUNTRY WAS LARGELY PROTESTANT CATHOLIC, JEWISH, WHITE AND BLACK. HE WAS WORKING ON THE CHANGING OF CATHOLIC CHURCH VIEWED RELI RELIGIOUS PLURALISM ITSELF. HE ASKED THAT QUESTION YOU FORMULATED AT A DIFFERENT TIME AND DIFFERENT CIRCUMSTANCES BUT I THINK IT’S MORE RELEVANT TODAY IN A PLACE LIKE FLUSHING AND 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 SHOP AND WORSHIP AND SO ON, IT’S PROBABLY ONE OF THE BIGGEST ISSUES. THERE ARE SOCIAL LIMITS. NEW YORKERS LIKE THEIR PRIVACY, RIGHT? THEY MAY BE AWARE OF OTHERS, BUT THEY STILL WANT THEIR PRIVACY AND THEY MAY NOT ALWAYS INTERACT IN MEANINGFUL WAYS. THERE ARE CERTAINLY EXCEPTIONS. MANY PEOPLE ENJOY MANY PEOPLE FROM DIFFERENT RELIGIONS AND CULTURES AND SO FORTH, RIGHT? THERE ARE ALSO LIMITS OF RACE AND ETHNICITY. THERE ARE PARTS OF FLUSHING ARE SEGREGATED. THERE ARE ETHNIC ENCLAVES LIKE WE JUST SPOKE ABOUT. THERE ARE THEOLOGICAL LIMITS AS WELL. SOME PEOPLE ARE NOT INTERESTED IN SPEAKING TO A MUSLIM IF THEY ARE EVANGELICAL 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 ORAL HISTORY HAS TAUGHT US, DIVERSE PLACES, EVEN AS DIVERSE — MAYBE NOT AS DIVERSE AS FLUSHING QUEENS — BUT A GREAT DEAL OF RELIGIOUS DIVERSITY CAN TURN INTO THE OPPOSITE. HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN AND HOW DO WE AVOID IT?>>I THINK PLACES THAT ARE JUST 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 BUT 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 THAT 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 IN FLUSHING QUEENS.” IT’S A GREAT READ ESPECIALLY FOR THIS DAY AND AGE.
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THANK YOU SO MUCH PROFESSOR.

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