Thursday, April 18, 2013

Humanist asks: "Am I not a resident of this city?"

From a Patheos post by James Croft, a Research and Education Fellow at the Humanist Community at Harvard:
At times such as this, when a spirit of solidarity and mutual support is essential, it is critical that any publicly-sanctioned expression of grief, any public ritual to heal the psychic wounds of terror, be completely inclusive of all people. Any public response which privileges one religious view above any other, or which excludes anybody due to their beliefs, could add insult to injury, making them feel other, not part of the society which is struggling to put itself together again. [. . .] there is no excuse – no excuse whatsoever - for the divisive, exclusive, and insulting “interfaith” service which President Obama today attended alongside the dignitaries of Boston at Holy Cross Cathedral. The program is almost exclusively Christian, with nods given to Jewish and Muslim representatives. All the readings are from the Judeo-Christian tradition. There are prayers aplenty. The Processional is Praise to the Lord, Almighty
I am not one of those atheists who is allergic to religion. In fact I often find religious ceremonies moving and powerful. Often, I am happy to attend. But this is a publicly-sanctioned, widely-reported service advertised by the State as “an opportunity for the community to come together in the wake of the tragic events at the Boston Marathon”. It is being attended by the Governor and the President himself. It is the symbolic response to the attacks: the seal of the state adorns the program, and the service is called “Healing Our City”. Yet it completely excludes many Bostonians: those who are not religious, and those whose religions are not represented in the program. This is not a service I would choose to attend even given my love of ritual and ceremony, and my deep need to process what has just happened: I wouldn’t feel safe there. I wouldn’t feel respected. Nothing on that program speaks to me, makes me feel I’m wanted as part of this society. Am I not a resident of this city? Am I to be denied healing?