Muslim-Americans, Heartsong Church, Celebrate Thanksgiving Together in Memphis

In Memphis, Tennessee, Christians, Muslims and Jews are jointly commemorating Thanksgiving, behaving like real Americans and proper human beings. The Heartsong Christian church congregation and a Muslim community center in the Cordova district of Memphis, held a joint Thanksgiving celebration in Memphis on Wednesday. They asked a Jewish American to read the opening prayer.

Pastor Steve Stone explained to a local news reporter, “The Islamic Center bought the land right across the street from us, and that makes them neighbors, and Jesus teaches us to love our neighbors.”

Now that’s Christianity.

Of course, the classic Thanksgiving was also multicultural. The poor starving Christians at Plymouth Colony were taught New World farming and fishing techniques by the Wampanoag Native Americans, who worshipped Kehtannit, the Great Spirit and were not Christians. The noblest in American traditions are the multi-cultural and tolerant, and Thanksgiving should exemplify those values.

In fact, one of the things we should be giving thanks for on this day is that we live in a society where, ideally, it should make no difference if you are Christian or Muslim, Jewish or Buddhist, agnostic or Hindu. You can build your place of worship anywhere you like, within the boundaries of civic zoning laws, no matter which path you follow. The liberties of the US Constitution require no religious test before they can be enjoyed. They are universal. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that ALL men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men…” Americans are not Americans because they are white, or Christian. Everyone born here or naturalized is an American. Muslim-Americans are Americans.

Ironically, the district of Memphis where the joint event was held is known as Cordova. It was originally a farming village east of Memphis founded in 1835, which was named for Cordoba (Qurtuba) in Spain. It seems to me likely that these American pioneers knew about Cordoba through Washington Irving’s 1832 Tales of Alhambra, about Muslim Spain (he also spelled it with a “v”). Pastor Stone thus stands in a long line of Tennesseean urbane tolerance. And, Cordoba itself was the site, under the later Umayyads of a remarkably tolerant society of Jews, Christians and Muslims that is described so brilliantly by Maria Rosa Menocal in her book, Ornament of the World. It wasn’t perfect, and didn’t last, but at its best it was a damn sight better than the hell of bigotry and religious rancor fanned by the hateful in New York, Gainesville and Murfreesboro this fall. Between the two, Pastor Stone and the hateful mob, I know which one I think is the authentic American true to the ideals of the Founding Fathers.

Heartsong and the Muslim community center are feeding the homeless in this season, when it is particularly tragic to be homeless. Consider donating to their praiseworthy efforts at the Heartsong online donation site.

14 Responses

  1. Great article! Stories like this make the world a better place. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I am a Canadian man aged nearly 67, raised as a Christian, presently living in a town in central Morocco, a completely Muslim country. While I applaud what the people in that Memphis community have done, it is only part of the process toward real understanding. Next comes developing personal friendships and having shared experiences. Living in Morocco, surrounded every day as I am by Muslims, I can tell you that it’s very pleasant being here. There are many differences of course, but we have much more in common as humans.

    • Thanks David for your testimony. Indeed our culture and traditions are different from yours but when one’s makes an effort to meet with “the other” to understand the meaning of his culture and traditions it builds a kind of bridge for the comprehension of the two cultures…
      Unfortunatly, French people attitude are mostly different. They think French, eat French and see only French people frequently. They use to criticize everything as if their culture were the best of the world… until they are about to live our country, and there we realize with a great surprise they will regret Morocco….!! they didn’t even try to understand it…!!!

  3. Very well said Professor. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. You know, I’m ‘thankful’ that you take the time to write. In theory and by our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, America should be the most tolerant of nations. Just goes to show that talking the talk isn’t as easy as walking the walk.

  4. My old people lived with their cousin Muslims in Spain before the Inquisition.

    So good to hear of this genuine getogether.

    One Love, Many Ideas.

  5. That’s the kind of church my mother and father would be at home in and active in were they still living.

    One quibble, because of the ambiguity of English syntax: “…bigotry and religious rancor fanned by the hateful in New York…” could be read as an indictment of New Yorkers, so I would prefer to say, “bigotry and rancor fanned by hateful people who traveled to New York to do this.”

    Opinions on the proposed “community center cum mosque” varied among New Yorkers, but in general the “outrage” increased the further people were from the epicenter. There’s a lot of “live and let live” in NYC. Also, a lot of muslim cab drivers, small shop-keepers, halal fast-food pushcarts, college students, and fellow-passengers on subways and buses.

  6. I feel so much joy at what they are doing! As a Christian seeing other Christians putting love in action and bringing Glory to the name of the Lord!

    • I’m pretty sure, Ginnette, that the Muslims in that assembly were equally as active as the Christians in trying to love and build bridges with “the other”. After all, Jesus Christ is one of the prophets in Islam and his teachings are part of the everyday lifestyle of Muslims. God=Allah

  7. Thanks for this valuable piece. One quibble. Folks tend to conflate the Constitution with the Declaration of Independence, although only the former has the actual force of law. These words are the opening phrases of the Declaration, not the Constitution: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that ALL men [sic] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men…”

  8. I have heard quite a few accounts of Christian Churches allowing Muslims to use Church property for services or gatherings until the Muslim group obtains their own facilities.
    My question , would Muslims, according to their laws, be inclined to do something similar?

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