itself. >> host: we have talked about your different methods of communication. you are blogging quite regularly. >> guest: that is not accurate. my columns are on a blog but i don't have time for blogging. >> host: if they go to your site? >> guest: they would find my columns. there are five every week commenting on contemporary events. cultural, political, ethical, commercial, what have you. ..orange county register" a regular column every other wednesday. and i get published in many other newspapers. i also getting published on websites. and so that's what i write for and it's not really a chore. it's more like a vocation for me now. i like doing it and, you know, i'll probably keel over at the
keypad and say bye-bye, you know? >> host: speaking of that it's time for us to say bye-bye. >> guest: well, thank you for having me. i really appreciate it. it was lots of fun. >> host: thank you for spending three hours for us and to our viewers, thanks for all the questions today. >> at the interfaith center of new york city. it's a little under an hour and 15 minutes. >> let me just say this book has
a very personal sort of jump-start for me. i was a young man, as you just heard from chloe, who was shaped in very large ways by my catholic faith, but also by my experience as the son of an air force officer. i came of age in germany which was less than 100 miles from the iron curtain in the late '50s and early 1960s. and i was actually defined by a sense of the imminence of the soviet threat understanding our place in the world, our being the american forces in germany and the -- including the american dependence, us innocent kids, that we were, in effect -- i didn't know it to think of this symbolic language -- that we were, in effect, on the
altar. we were the trip wire, also, that if soviets moved into west germany, the first thing they would do would be to hit us which would immediately require the united states of america's involvement in resisting the soviet move. we were the guarantee for europe that the soviet union could not move to the west without bringing down the wrath of american nuclear power. and i, actually, had my high school chums and i, we used to joke about being sacrificial lambs and the trigger. we had a kind of wry, dark sense of humor about it. we were terrified. i didn't realize this until later, really, how nuclear dread defined us coming into our adulthood. and so it was not -- and, again, only later do i understand what i was doing. it was not surprising,
therefore, with a vivid sense of the edge of the nuclear abyss, it wasn't so surprising that as a young man my first impulse to become an air force officer like my father gave way fairly quickly to a second impulse which was to embrace the life of religion. because i thought religion was the opposite of war. and i thought god was the opposite of the human temptation to massive violence. and so i entered the seminary. and through the 1960s, like many of you having the privilege of growing up in those years -- not chloe breyer, by the way. [laughter] had the privilege and the burden of reckoning with the ways in which religion wasn't the opposite of war, religion was implicated in it. in my experience, that had to do with reckoning with the church's history in relation to the holocaust and also, in a
powerful way, reckoning with the complicity both of christian and catholic institutions and subliminal christian assumptions in american foreign policy, the implication of my religious identity with the war in vietnam. which was started by a catholic despotic inquisition-style regime in saigon. so by the time i was ordained, 969, became a priest -- 1969, became a priest, religion and violence defined, those were the brackets within which i was living my life. and it's not a surprise, i suppose, that i twine my whole -- define my whole five years as a priest because i was conscripted into it, not because i chose it, by the anti-christian movement which is when i first met jim jim more when he was one of the prophets of the anti-war movement. 1963 my priesthood was a mess. i didn't really know where i was.
and it can't be a coincidence that where i went with the feeling of being a mess was to jerusalem not knowing what to expect. and what i found, of course, was a mess. [laughter] and the first thing i learned in jerusalem was that god doesn't come to us in our purity, in our being fixed, in our being finished. that god comes to us in our being a mess. and it was that sense of jerusalem as the defining way in which the human reception of god takes place, not the only place of course, but certainly for western civilization defining. it was the place in which i actually came into a sense of myself, able to be at home in the mess of my life. to embrace it. and why? because it was somehow there that i did have an experience as religious people have had going back through the centuries of the present oneness of god.
the notion of the ground of our being, that there is something essentially unquenchable in existence itself, and that became palpable somehow for me in jerusalem. i have to say in parenthesis here that my home in jerusalem was tantur, a wonderful catholic institution that has been presided over over the last decade by my old and dear friend, father michael mcgarry, who's in the audience tonight, and i want to acknowledge michael mcgarry for all he has given me about jerusalem in particular. so i left the priesthood, but i embraced my religious identity as a catholic in a new way, with a new fullness which is ironic. and it always was clear to me at some point i would return to jerusalem as a subject. i returned to jerusalem as a visitor, a pilgrim and as a student again and again, but now in this book i've returned to it
as a subject. jerusalem, today s in the eye of the storm. we're all fully aware of that. the arab revolution sweeping africa and the middle east, source of tremendous hope and expectation, also concern, worry, understanding how badly things could go. religion and violence both very vividly, the tectonic plates of not just the middle east, but in a way of the western world shifting right below our feet. at the center of it, israel, palestine. also at the center of it, a new and contemporary form of nuclear dread. not the old standoff between the soviet union and the unite, but this new -- and the unite, but this new, less clearly defined more terrifying way than ever in many which nuclear weapons are on the edge of every power strug and, in a particular way, in the
middle east. so what about it? very quickly, a tremendous source of hope by looking through the lens of the history of jerusalem at problems of the human condition. so let me just very quickly give you a quick tour through many centuries of history to make the point. out of ancient violence, sacrifice, the babylonian destruction, jerusalem invented a new vision of human interconnectedness. we know that as monotheism. a better word for that is the oneness of god. that unquenchable vitality that i myself find a place for religious believers century many and century -- century in and century out. from the ruins of roman destruction came a memory for
exiled jews and a permanent ideal for christians. jesus as a jew, nonviolent. one of the very few things we know about him for sure. a movement that then swept the mediterranean world which is itself the great mystery of who this man was. constantine revalorizing jerusalem, making it the source of unity for a widely-dispersed empire with a dark consequence, three control eyeing the diaspora of the jewish people as a christian proof n. the seventh century, within five years of mohamed's death, islamic forces drew to the gates of jerusalem and took the city nonviolently. why is that? what was it about jerusalem that drew the first sweeping movement of muslim peoples? why? like a magnet drawing the
diverse iron shavings of religious imagination from every direction to itself. in the middle ages, the early middle ages, jerusalem is the center of a locating vision of christiandom. the temple, a essential symbol which defines europe, the knights' templars. dan brown. we go all through the centuries with a kind of constant reference back to what? jerusalem. so much so that when christopher columbus makes his move to the west, it isn't the indies he's after, he's after a more, safer and more efficient route to jerusalem. we secular americans don't emphasize this agenda of columbus' but his chronicles are full of it. his wish to bring europe to
jerusalem. as the ottoman empire lost it way in opulence in the 18th, 19th centuries, the noble sanctuary in the center of jerusalem remained a touchstone of the islamic conscious and is still a defining note of the islamic conscious. and 100 some years after columbus when those puritans settled in new england or came to new england, what was it that they said they were doing? they were founding a city on a hill, jerusalem. and the settlement that they founded after that sermon when they got off that boat was -- not boston, it was salem. another word for jerusalem. when the dissenters in in salem moved on, where did they go? they crossed the border into what's now new hampshire and established their own settlement. what did they call it? salem. salem, new hampshire. less than 50 miles from salem,
massachusetts. salem, jerusalem, zion, the most common place names in the united states of america. what is this? the american ideal of the city on a hill is a measure against which, against which we still check the requirements of realism. columbus, winthrop, abraham lincoln whose last words whispered to his wife at the theater were, "i think i should like to see jerusalem." ronald reagan whose most resonant theme was the city on a hill. and always the primordial american -- memory of the holy city next year kept jewish longing alive until the narrative of enforced diaspora,
christian-enforced, could be reversed in 1968. -- 1948. yes, jerusalem is the ground zero still of conflict, but this is a litany of ways in which jerusalem has been the source of the resistance to violence. i know this history can be recounted negatively. yes, the home of apocalyptic thinking, the dreadful idea that to save the earth we must destroy it. yes, the center of a monotheism that is self-sanctifying. we're number one. our god is better than your god. destructive monotheism. yes, jerusalem against the jews which is the way the christians began to think of it. yes, crusader mayhem, 1099. yes, cults of martyrdom. yes, fundamentalism in all three traditions. these have all found homes in jerusalem. from cain and abel to the israelis and palestinians. and, yes, jerusalem shaped in some powerful way in our time by
auschwitz and also by hiroshima, the two brackets within which that ancient question of the relationship between violence and religion are asked now. that is the mess of the human condition. and what do we do with it? jerusalem is the center of a double vision. therefore, i put before you life and death. choose life. recalling the importance in this history of human choice is urgent. because if human choices have shaped this history in the past, they can still shape it in the future. so jerusalem is a city of self-sur passing. god checked abraham's knife here. religion was limited by ethics
here. the oneness of god makes every individual who participates in it sacred which is the ground of the universal declaration of human rights. and the fact that god, the god of the bible, the god of jerusalem perennially sides with victims instead of with those who victimize is the seed of democracy. that the temple is vacant, the holy of holies is vacant. this god not be represented means that no one owns this god. therefore, no going to war in the name of god. god's illusiveness, the only thing we know of god is that god is unknowable. and in jerusalem humans realized that that is knowledge. that principle is the key to
human freedom and to real religion. so choose. i don't believe that we have come all this way through the millennia, the hundredsover thousands of years -- hundreds of thousands of years of our development to bring about our own extinction. and yet that is what is before us now as a matter of choice. jerusalem, as i said at the beginning, is the eye of the storm, the eye of the storm this month. yes, israelis are right to be wary. palestinians are right to be impatient at promises unkept. the world is right to be alert to what is unfolding in this swirling mess. but jerusalem, the eye of the storm, remains the best reason for keeping an eye not on fear,
but on hope. both sides of the human condition, the mess and the glory. and we choose jerusalem. jerusalem. thank you. [applause] >> and now i'd like to thank you so much and invite up the other speakers and lisa miller who will -- as the religion editor at "newsweek" and author of the book "heaven," which is over here and available afterwards will conduct the rest of this conversation. so thank you, lisa. >> i'm going to stand up here for some quick introductions, and then i'm going to sit down,
and i hope we can have a conversation. i'm hoping this will be not too formal, lively, casual and in the interests of that i'm going to skip -- i was sitting over there editing all of the bios so that we could crunch up the time, and i've edited them so much that i'm just going to go through one by one and introduce very quickly who the esteemed panelists are. at the very end of the table is imam faisal abdul rauf, he's the chairman of the cordoba initiative. to his left is the reverend dr. serene jones who is the president of the faculty at the union theological seminary. next to her is james carol, the author of "jerusalem, jerusalem." and to my right is rabbi burton visotzky who is the professor of
interreligious studies at jewish theological cemetery. [laughter] seminary. and i'm going to open with a question about jerusalem. i first saw jerusalem when i was 21 years old. i was given a trip to jerusalem by my grandparents who had fled the nazis from europe and thought that israel was a really important place in the world. i myself grew up as a completely areligious secular jew and had no religious identity except for the fact that my grandparents had fled the holocaust. and my whole life i had been told, you know, you don't look jewish, you don't talk like a jewish, you're jewish? and i arrived in jerusalem and i got on the bus, and i saw busloads of people who looked exactly like me, and i thought, oh, i'm really connected to this place. i had no idea. and my experience, i think, and in james carroll's book, he
talks also about the power of going to jerusalem and what it feels like and how shattering it can be, how changing it can be, how profound it can be even for people who don't have any sense of identity as a faithful or religious person. so my question to the panel, and i'm just going to ask you to go one by one, is describe the first time you saw jerusalem, and how does that vision live with you as an american, as a citizen of the worldas a person of faith? because the other wonderful thing about jim's book is that it talks both about jerusalem as a place, an actual physical, real place that exists in the world in time, now, and also as a series of hopes and dreams and conflicts and paradoxes that exist in our minds simultaneously. so, imam faisal, do you want to start? >> you're going to start with
the oldest religion first. [laughter] well, i first went to jerusalem in 1978. my late father who was a close friend of jim morton was invited by the ashton institute to do a seminar which they had been conducting there every year, every year or every other year. and it was a delicate time because the 1977 peace talks between begin and sadat had just happened, and my father being an egyptian citizen. so i used to -- he would often invite me to substitute for him, and i was young, 30 years old, 31 years old, anxious to, you know, take risks, like you say, james. so i went to jerusalem for the first time then, and it was -- it felt like a pill african-americanage -- pilgrimage, you know? we believe that the outer invitation can be anything, but the real define intent behind anything that has happened you never know until you actually go
there. but in my soul i felt it was, it was god's invitation. it was an important trip. it was a powerful trip. i had just gone with my father to pilgrimage in mecca in 1973. finish this was just five year after that. and i felt an important part of my spiritual journey. we went to bethlehem, we went to the various religious sites, we went to the church of the holy she pull car, and to walk the streets that you know jesus walked, that you know the prophets walked was something which does something to one's self at a deep, deep internal level. and to watch, you know, how the jews pray at the wailing wall, to be able to walk up the temple of mount, to pray in the mosques, to visit the dome of the rock and pray there as well.
and for those of you who don't know the significance of jerusalem to our faith of islam, we belief that the prophet on -- we believe that the prophet on one night was taken by the archangel gabriel to jerusalem where he prayed at the everyone l mount -- at the temple mount with all of the prophets. from there he was raised to the various levels of heaven where he saw angels standing, you know, infinite rows of angels standing, worshiping god in a standing position. the next level in the powing position. the next level in the prostrating position. the next one in the seated position. and the very powerful visual which muslims have of muslims praying was what the prophet experienced. it was on that night that he was given the five-time daily prayer for his community, and the choreography of the angels were incorporated in the five-time
daily prayer that is we perform. jerusalem was then the first direction of prayer. muslims prayed towards jerusalem until a few years later when it was changed to mecca. which i've often believed was something like an act of mercy from god because it was still the same today, i think the tension between muslims and the other faith religions would have been even more intense with the competition about jerusalem. jerusalem has certainly been a very important. the rebuilding of the temple mount when jerusalem was peacefully conquered in 638, and most americans and most muslims are ununaware that the jewish committee that had been evicted by the romans in 70 a.d. were then invited right after the
conquest of jerusalem by forces to take up residence in, in the city of david of jerusalem. and when the, when the jews and the muslims and the orthodox were agent evicted in the first crusade, i believe, from jerusalem and the crusaders basically, you know, slaughtered everybody. it wasn't until saladin came back that jews and orthodox came back to jerusalem. i share this because there's a lot of misconception, and we have been in the last 30, 40 years have seen the increase of what i call an inquisitional interpretation of islam become dominant. but i want to emphasize how much this particular interpretation that we have seen, it flies in the face of both the principles and teachings of islam and the vast majority of our history. in terms of how we interact and engage with the other faith
traditions. um, so jerusalem has this power, it has this importance, and i think it's a symbolism of how, more importantly, the points that jim spoke about i think bridge the question to us modern people of god today. and that is, what, what and how will -- what lessons have we taken from the past, and how can we build a new concept of a jerusalem? this is the challenge that i believe we have today. and, to me, jerusalem is a place that will always be important. it'll be the physical symbolism of the geographical point or the contact point, if you will, between god and humankind. and it is that symbolism which is very important. and it may be important for us in an outer religious way. but god is great, as we say in
arabic. god is greater than everything. and what we learn in our spiritual path is that we have to always -- the search for god, for god's face is an eternal one. you never arrive at it. and at every point you have to, as sophie says, you have to give up the idolatry of a particular action that you have. you have to give up the idolatry of even your prayers. you have to -- you do not worship your prayers. you do not worship jerusalem. you do not worship anything. you worship god alone. and every icon and every idol that we, that comes between us and the purity of a faith in god is a form of idolatry. and this journey is an inner journey that we with take as individuals. and as a society i think it is important for us to remember
that these names that we give ourselves today of christian, of jew, of muslim were not the labels or definitions or names that the founders of those faith traditions gave to their communities. moses was among the children of israel, the israelites. the jail -- name jew did not come until later. christianity was not a name adopted by jesus christ or the immediate followers. it was given to them by the romans. and even the term muslims is not the way our prophets called themselves. god always calls the followers of the prophet, believers. it wasn't until a century later that we called ourselves muslims. so the idolatry that we have towards these identities which, actually, are relatively later than the founders should teach us that we need to go back to the oneness, the oneness of our faith traditions.
because it's not about, as i say, jesus inc., moses inc., mohamed inc.. it's about god inc. with all of these prophets in regional elements of time and space of the one god and one message. so i look forward to this center being called the interfaith center, not the interchurch center, and that we see ourselves as worshipers of one god in different languages and different choreographies, but all celebrating the diversity of the oneness of god. e pluribus iew numb not only in the american sense, but also in the spiritual sense. thank you very much, and may god bless you. [applause] >> lisa, thank you for the question. it's interesting how our traditions, i think, form the way we respond and what we see, and i am now going to represent protestantism and give you a very flat answer that's not even
very imaginative. talk about the ultimately displaced religion. that hovers above, in a sense, all image and yet in doing so affords itself all sorts of arrogances that it can't afford. i first saw jerusalem in 1983. i was in the middle of my seminary education at yale, and i was on my way to india where i was going to spend some time living in this south india with, at a seminary sponsored by the world council of churches. and i was very good friends with a rabbi at yale, rabbi lori ruttenberg who implored me on my way to india that i must stop in israel on the way and spend some time in if jerusalem. so i followed her directives, and she arranged the whole trip for me. and i was met by one of her cousins at the airport and
driven in to jerusalem. and the two things that i remember about that first moment, or i should say those first three hours, was i grew up in oklahoma, and i thought, oh, my gosh, this looks like oklahoma. [laughter] which in one way is a flat answer, but in another way the commonness of it and that it's in the desert and that it's a place where poor and outcast people live. i immediately felt home there, and in a sense, it sack ri rised my own understanding of the place from which i had come in the context of native american history and the history of displacement in this country. the second reaction was one that i had not anticipated at all. the cousin that picked me up at the airport, we immediately hit it off, and she said we have all these thing planned, we're going to go here, we're going to go there, but i have a very urgent
matter i need to take care of she says, i'm turning 21 next week, and i'm trying to decide if i should get married, and i have a proposal on the table. and there's this great fortune teller that i think we should go see. [laughter] and so here we were both of us very religious people, and yet immediately in the context of jerusalem going to participate in a religious practice that was not something that we immediately claimed as our own. in a way, i think that that represents a lot about how religion functions in the world today. it's a very unstable category. [laughter] and by the way, she did not marry him. [laughter] >> did you want to answer the question? >> well, i think i've actually had the privilege of speaking a lot already, and i'd love to defer to the rabbi. >> okay. >> it's not often that rabbis get deferred to these days. [laughter] i especially, i want to
recognize what a privilege it is for me to be here with my colleagues, all of whom i've worked with before and who i love, and what a privilege it is to be here with jim. whose books i read avidly. faisal, i still turn towards jerusalem when i pray. that has been part of jewish learning and jewish practice for as long as there has been jerusalem. but to answer your question more immediately, lisa, and with apologies to chloe who's getting beaten up just for being young -- [laughter] i first stepped foot in jerusalem in 1967. i got there one month to the day after the six-day war. i was on a team tour of jerusalem. and i think the thing that struck me the most about being in the holy city as a pilgrim was seeing the remnants that the jordanians had left behind, the barbed wire, the walls, the gates.
jerusalem had been a divided city between 1948 and 1967, and i think that the reigning sentiment among all who visited jerusalem was that it should never be so again, that jerusalem should be reunited and stay reunited and that it be as it was in those heady days following the war, a place of access for all religions. the jews could come and go freely, that christians could come and go freely, that muslims could come and go freely. it hasn't exactly turned out that way, and we can visit jerusalem now and see it once again divided, this time by jewish hands. my vision of jerusalem is not that city where we all rejoiced as kids and noticed a preponderance of cats wandering the streets. that's cats. [laughter] but that jerusalem should be a
shared sacred space just as all of us share sacred ancestors who we read about and think about and look back to, who we invoke in our prayers and our memories. just as we all share one god, we should be able to share that one city. whether it's christian jerusalem wandering the churches on the mount of olives, whether it's muslim. i have had the privilege to be up on the harem al-sharif's, actually be under the temple mountain and see the excavations there and whether it's jewish jerusalem. here i can't stress enough that in hebrew we don't call it jerusalem. as you were talking about, that's salem. we can parse the end a couple of ways. one is that it is shalom, that jerusalem has that oneness that
feisal talked about. that it is a complete city, a united city. but the other way would be that it would be a city of peace. >> thank you all for these wonderful responses. um, i've written a book about heaven, and in this conversation it strikes me how similar the adjectives describing jerusalem are to the adjectives describing heaven. and i was particularly struck when serene said home. finish and when people describe heaven, they describe -- they talk about home. but, obviously, the city on the home is jerusalem, and getting our city back at the end of time is jerusalem. i was wondering if rabbi could talk a little bit about the place of jerusalem and the identity of diaspora jews
because we are never in our home. our home is ab sent. that's part of -- absent. that's part of who we are. >> i would like to talk about that. and let me start from a kind of an odd angle since it's ash wednesday today. let me start with that other city of god which was in the day rome. in the early fifth century, st. augustin of hippo reacting to the sack of the great city of rome wrote his book, "city of god." and he imagined not rome the physical place, but the heavenly rome. and in some very conscious way augustin was parallelling how jews think about jerusalem. that jerusalem even though it may not if physically be ours in any given century -- and god knows it has not been jewish for most centuries -- was always an idea. it was always something we prayed about.
indeed, even though jews control jerusalem today, we still pray about it, and we still say the same old prayer which is may god speedily rebuild with jerusalem. now, we jews amongst ourselves disagree on what that might mean. for some people it means building as fast as possible in east jerusalem. for some of us, it means building a jerusalem that can be shared among all people. but it remains a lodestone, a touchstone for all of us to look to. a man who live inside medieval spain said it so poignantly in two words. he said my heart is in the east. and i observed this poignantly in 1973 when as a rah bin call student i had a professor who was teaching us hebrew literature. but it happened to be the
semester of the yom kippur war. and he was physically in the class room, but his heart was this east. and i learned what it's like to be a jew of the diaspora, i think, from that professor. that however secure we are here in america and we are, god knows, very secure here in america, there is this yearning for a homeland where you can walk the streets as you had the experience. and everybody's like us, and the language is the language we all share in common even if you may not know hebrew all that well. and that the calendar, the rhythms of the day are the rhythms of the judeo even as we -- of the jewish day even as we watch the christian pilgrims walk the streets. so there is this dislocation. we're here, and god knows new york is one of the great jewish cities in all of jewish history. but still we yearn for
jerusalem. >> does anybody want b to add anything? >> i'd love to add a word elaborating, buttal showing how this -- but also showing how this has impacted not just the jewish imagination, but the imagination of the west. let me quickly tell you a story. so it's the summer of 1916. the british are absolutely devastated by the losses they're taking on the western front. on the first today of the battle of the sum, between 55 and 60,000 british soldiers fell. that was july 1st. the battle went on until november. there were a million british casualties in that battle, in that one battle. it was the most savage battle -- that day was the most savage day, probably, in british military history. what was the response? the poet laureate of great britain commissioned a distinguished composer to set to
music a poem. his purpose was to address the despair and fear of the british people. it was an obscure poem written in 1808 by blake. it's actually the preface to a longer poem about milton. my old friend matt gatch is here, and he probably could tell me the title. but the section of ha poem set -- that poem set to music is what we know as the hymn, "jerusalem." the poet laureate chose that set of verses because it's invoking of jerusalem as the purpose for british sacrifice to enable the lord to walk here in england again. speaks to the power of this fantasy. it was made even more palpable a year later, the war continued to go devastatingly, and lloyd
george took one of his most important commanders away from the western front and said to him, i want you to lead a special expedition. the purpose of which is to bring a christmas present to the british people. jerusalem. which is how lord allenby was dispatched with an expeditionary force landing in this egypt, moving up into palestine and taking jerusalem -- i think it was december 17th. in time to present jerusalem as a present to the british people. and when allenby took jerusalem, the press in britain was full of, finally, richard the lionheart is avenged. and, of course, that was the beginning of the british double game playing as british imperial methods always did, playing two local peoples against one another as a way of maintaining their power, a double game that continues today. the point being jerusalem
defining something essential to the british imagination. so we're, you know, obvious why jews should feel at home in jerusalem. it's obvious why muslims who have defined their religion around the dome of the rock and as the second most important religious symbol in the, in the tradition. but the west, the rest of us, it's an inch below the surface of our lives too. that's the point. and it's an inch away from mass violence. it's always mass violence that generates this imagination going back to the roman destruction of the jewish city. you know, the romans' ancient historians tell us -- we don't know the exact number, but more than a million jews were killed by the romans between 70 and 135. going all the way back to the
devastations of the babylonians. so mass violence and the imagination tied to jerusalem. it's a human mystery. >> i'm going to jump off of of that, if that's okay. because there's great stuff in your book about the connection between a yearning for jerusalem and an identification with jerusalem and nationalism. and it's happened here in this country, and it's happened, it's happening in israel right now. and i'm wondering, serene, if you have any thoughts about, you know, when john went through and talked about a city on the hill, he was paraphrasing jesus, but he was talking about jerusalem, and he was talking about america. and how, how is our identity as americans shaped by jerusalem for good and for ill? >> well, again, i was struck in listening to these responses how much in the protestant imagination and hints in that
sort of founding protestant story about what america is as a religious sensibility that has no home. it hoverses over history. in fact, begins to then take jerusalem into a space that can be turned into any fantasy that serves the political interests of the moment, and it gets attached to jesus so that justifies it as well. um, i think that right now in the united states in terms of the fantasies of jerusalem, yes, this notion of jerusalem as heaven. but we have to always remember that when it's configured that way in the protestant imagination and particularly in the evangelical imagination, the flip side is hell. and so it becomes the occasion for telling a national story in which you can again and again find those who are in heaven or
will be and those who are going to be in hell. and as a nationalist moment, it sets the whole game going. i think what we see in these hearings, now, that are taking place with respect to islam that that same sensibility of being able to divide the world into the heaven that is jerusalem and all that is not. >> uh-huh. anybody want to add anything to that? >> oh, sure. [laughter] i think there are a number of themes that were mentioned, i just wanted to mention bullet pointses and say that these bullets or these dots seem to form a picture. of the idea of america as the new jerusalem -- salem, massachusetts, salem, you know, new hampshire, the shining city on the hill -- the idea of america as a structurally multicultural society, an eye that, you know -- an eyed i'd that we are in our diversity, and where does that oneness lie.
heaven is a space where we feel a seven of intimacy with god rather than a sense of disconnection with god. and how my own, in my own case, my own journey to my own identity was fraught with pain. i was born in kuwait of egyptian parents. when i was 18 months old, my dad was sent to england. at 6 after a few months back in egypt, he was sent to malaysia. i was always foreign, always felt myself alien. now i came to america at the age of 17 not knowing who i was. i feel like humpty dumpty. i didn't know if i was arab, egyptian and now american. and that propelled me on my own journey, my own self-search for my own identity. i came here during the vietnam war, civil rights movement, a very, very difficult time. but i also observed my journey that everything that was measurable about me changed every few years. physically, i looked different every couple of years.
my thoughts, my ambitions of what i wanted to do shifted every couple of years. even my emotions, the young girl i thought i would die if she didn't grace me with her smile. after two years later, i thought what was i even thinking about? so i couldn't even trust my emotions. and yet i had this inner convictions that in spite of all these changes i was still i, the same person, the same feisal. which made me realize there is a self within, this locus of my spirit, my life force, my identity, my egoand my will power. that was my own identity. and i felt most at home in new york. after coming to new york, i would go back to egypt. i would be alien wherever i was, but there's something about america and i think something about the hope that we have here in new york, as you mentioned, burt, of new york city being like, you know, in certain sense maybe not the jerusalem of history, but there's something about what we are creating here
in the american experiment which is, has the character of what god wants us to be. the fact that we're a nation under god. the fact that on our currently in god we trust. the fact that we really are trying to go beyond -- and if you look at our declaration of independence, the use of, you know, rights dowed by the -- endowed by the creator with certain unalienable rights. we have, actually, a society that has taken the societal structures or ethics of our respective faith traditions and expressed them in a, in a supra or beyond parochial language to create a society of god, a god hi society. and i think that -- godly society. and having been brought up like you, jim, in an area of secularism where religion was, you know, a crutch for the weak,
you know, et, and -- and etc., to now seeing a resurgence of religion, i think, again, there's something here. it's incoherent in my life. i can't express it, perhaps, eloquently. i'm grasping at it. but i think there's something very important about the fact that if, in fact, jerusalem becomes and we succeed in making jerusalem a prosperous city open to all faiths and truly international city, that we will have done an important step in the healing of humankind today, and healing meaning also in the sense not only healing of past divisions and injuries, but also in creating a sense of wholeness, a sense of oneness in spite of our diversity. and when you speak about israel going through it own identity changes, i mean, my israeli friends tell me the israel of today is very different than the israel of 1950, of 1960, of 1990. it has been undergoing rapid changes in what it means to be,
you know, an israeli. and we see this happening with the revolutions in the arab world today and how the principles of what america stands for, of multiculturalism, i mean, to me as an egyptian the picture of a muslim holding up the coaround and next to him -- koran and next to him a christian holding up the coptic cross protecting each other against, you know, the secret police and trying to overthrough the mubarak regime is the kind of pluriism and the kind -- pluralism and the kind of society that i pray we will actually be able to build. >> we, we should stop this conversation pretty soon and take questions from the audience. you all have card, and if you want to pass them to the center, write down your questions, volunteers will come around and take them. um, one of the things that's striking about jim's week is
that -- jim's book is that the story of jerusalem, bible stories, the story of god has been interpreted for ill as a story of sacrifice and violence and war and territoriality and all kinds of terrible things. and what jim does in his book is show you, show you a very generous interpretation of all of those issues. and i commend it to you. is there anything you want to say about violence and -- because violence is the theme that is the spine of your book, i think. >> well, it is. and i, what i would like to add to all that's been said is that it behooves us to be wary of the negative impact of this heavenly philosophizing about jerusalem across the world, across civilization. the negative impact of that on the actual people who live in the real city. talk about violence, the
violence that threatens and defines tension between israelis and palestinians is bad enough without carrying the weight of our fevered imaginations about it. so the watch word, the the word of caution here is that we also need to back off and let the israelis and palestinians have their place and work out their tension with each other without putting on them as christians have certainly done for most of 2,000 years, putting on them the fate of the cosmos, right? and defining the -- the fate of jerusalem is the fate of the cosmos. well, i get what you mean, but it's also where real-life human beings live, and they're trying to make a life and trying to shop and have babies and raise families and get jobs and pray and find a way to live with each
other in an incredibly difficult situation. so the rest of us having -- much as i love the discussion -- all of us, in a way, speaking out of our traditions, claiming our relationship to this place also owe it to the people who actually live there to leave it to them. >> do we have questions? >> okay. what is the message of jerusalem, the city, and "jerusalem, jerusalem," the book for someone who is an atheist and is not searching for faith? >> well, atheists are one real
chance of being saved from religion. [laughter] so it's important for me to know that in the ancient roman worlds j everything ws -- jews and christians were both regarded as atheists because they failed to bow to the conventional gods. atheism has been a profound form of attention to the other, what we might call to the tran seven cant -- transcend end. so we shouldn't be too ready to see it as the polar opposite of faith. my own sense is we live in a time when traditional structures of religious imagination have been turned upside down. i don't think it's coincidental that dietrich von offer speaking as a christian, writing as a christian was one of the first to call into question our traditional christian categories and when they're adequate anymore, that and they did it from a nazi prison awaiting his execution is, also, to the point.
can we affirm our connection to jesus without religion, is how i remember his question. religionless christianity. and there was a time in the 1960s and '70s when religious institutions themselves took up in a very direct way the question of the limits of religious categories. the so-called death of god movement which was trivialized in the media. no offense, lisa. [laughter] >> i never trivialize anything. >> turning you into the media. trivialized in the media. it depend on what you mean by atheism and what's the value being affirmed? there can be any hi limb, but there can be a profound humanism in atheism as well.
>> um, here's another question. do you see a contradiction in an ideal of the west exist anything the east? -- existing in the east? maybe imam feisal could start with this one. >> the idealism of -- >> jerusalem is a western ideal, and yet it exists in the east. it's an eastern place. >> well, i wouldn't use the word west and east unless you defined it a little bit further. if you mean by west, you know, a christian and jewish understanding of jerusalem versus a muslim understanding, if that's what is meant by west and east, then i can understand that question. but, certainly, the importance of jerusalem is there primarily for the abrahamic faith religions. i doubt that jerusalem's of much cig any capps to the buddhist or hindu religions of the orient. but what i'd like -- i'd like to comment on the issue of atheism. i remember being part of a
delegation to iran, and we met a very lovely ayatollah who was underhouse arrest. and he said to us concern and i've never -- and i've never forgotten this -- he said, if someone does what he or she truly bereaves in acorps -- believes in accordance to their conscious, they are a muslim, meaning subject to god. i'm not sure how much atheists deserve rejection of the aspects of religious practice which we all have problems with. i mean, i have had problems when i went to jerusalem or to mecca the same as you had when you first went to jerusalem and describe in this your book. by the way, a lovely book. i vice president read every page -- i haven't read every page, but i've read many chapters of it, and i strongly recommend the book, "jerusalem,
jerusalem." one of the things you talk is we all seek god, and i remember looking to experience god on that journey as well. and there was this priest who says you not going to find god in those places, you're going to find it here under this trap door or something like that in one of your chapters. the notion of where do we find god, i think that is the journey that everybody is looking for. i mean, those of us remember the beatles' song, george harrison, "i really want to see you, lord." i think that describes the eternal pull, the eternal terrible instinct that -- eternal insint that every human being wants, wants to see the creator, wants to know the creator. and to the extent that jerusalem or any pilgrimage site is that it tends to open up the possibility that we may see god there. but one of the things that we have learned and i have learned is best expressed where it is i went to the mecca looking for
god. i couldn't find him there. i went to jerusalem, i couldn't find him there. i went to all these original spots, i couldn't find him there. finally, i looks into my own heart, and there i found god. i think the atheist is an agnostic who is searching for the ground of all being, what our hindu friends call absolute being, absolutely consciousness, absolute love. and i think that's the, that's my response to the atheistic impulse. be. ..
>> i think in the context of atheism, there's no assurance that even atheists will not fall prey to the very dynamics that you describe as being so destructive. there's no protection from that even in the absence of god, it can still be reproduced. >> right. well said. >> i have two questions here that are sort of interfaith questions, and i'm going to ask them together. they seem to be implicit at least in this question, and it's a rejection of the phrase jew jew-christian nation, what is our tradition. many people have called for the adoption of the expression of the jew dayic islamic
tradition. is it possible to say that? are we all from the same position? that's the first question. the second question that's connected is can one develop a multifaith worship experience focusing on jerusalem as the city of peace? can we think of a ritual we all do together that has jerusalem at the center? these same to be versions of the same question, so i thought i'd throw it out there. >> i'll take a stapp at the first part of the question which is it possible to have a jewish christian islamic tradition? no. [laughter] it's too clunky. we need to brand it better. [laughter] i cannot help but observe this
country has gone on our ark of interreligious dialoguing. we used to just talk about the protestant ethic in the country and the united states was a christian country, and then we learned after world war ii to talk about it as judi ochristian and my teacher was consistent that we were jews and protestants together. one thing he did was to insist that catholics and protestants learn to speak with one another, so we became judio-christian, and now we're on the christian islamic, abrahamic if you will which i suppose gives men the advantage here, otherwise we have hagar-sarahic or something like that.
[laughter] if we are generally monotheiest, if we share a notion there's one god, then what divides us is only the ways in which we approach that god. we share o lot as our god. we have our own triable worship if you will. that comes to the second part of the question. can we find some uniform way to worship? i'm not sure of the value. i mean, yes, it's nice on thanksgiving, but i think that each of us does need our birth tradition as a means of recognizing god, and as a means of connecting with our own ancestry. that said, as we worship, we should learn to shape our prayers in a way they are not often shape to not exclude the other. >> i'd like to offer another thought about american religion, and i think this question
addresses the issue at the surface level and it's by far the less important level. the religious character of america took on a new form in the 20th century shaped by the character of nuclear weapons. after 1945 # when we erected the structure of nuclear deterrence as holding back the threat of the soviet union, a demonic atheist stalin movement. let's not be unclear about that, to be resisted for sure, nevertheless, we tragically fell into a way of thinking about our relationship to being itself that was lifted right out of the book of the apocalypse interpreted in its most fundamental way, dividing the world in a fashion between radical good and radical evil. it's only that division that
would enable us to have as a slogan, and people remember this as a crack pot slogan, but it wasn't crack pot. better dead than red. because the american military strategy presumed the destruction of civilization as preferable to any kind of mitigated compromised negotiated halfway solution with our soviet enemy. i grew up in a world that took for granted the coming nuclear war, and in those days, it wasn't, god forbid, the loss of downtown manhattan. it was the -- it was nuclear winter. it was given the earth over to the insects who would do fine, thank you. that was what we defined ourselves by, and that's profoundly religious. it's apock lippic. it's saving the earth by destroying it, and that is our
religion to this day. we have yet to dismantle this system or this way of thinking which is the only reason that 800 billion to a trillion dollars can go uncriticized, unquestioned as our defense digit every year even in the era of budget cuts. it's the only reasons we still have thousands and thousands of nuclear weapons. when we have a president determined to shrink the arsenal, he finds it politically impossible to do it. that's our religion, not jewish, christian, muslim. our religion is nuclear weapons. >> i was just going to expand that a little bit and say also given what you just described, the monothee monotheism are all prone to the successes of that fallout literally from a monothee monotheism view.
how we describe the united states today religiously, it is such -- it is so complex and diverse i don't know what it means to describe christianity anymore, and that there are times at which i feel closer to some enam than in my home state of oklahoma. [laughter] how that plays itself out -- in terms of the rich chew, i'm -- ritual, i'm more and more thinking it's not as much in the carefully constructed conscious rituals that our future lies, but it's -- [no audio]
there's a book about good religion and bad religion. there's bad islam and good islam, good christianity, bad christianity. good religious people, bad religious people. from god's point of view from my readings, there's only heaven and hell. only those who receive god's approval and disapproval. there are good americans and bad americans. there is an american ethic which represents the highest of american values, and there is those fears that represent the worst of american's fears, and fdr taught us that we have nothing to fear but fear itself. fear is the thing we need to eliminate from our vocabulary of action and replace it with love which is jesus taught us to represent. he taught us to love, taught us to love our neighbors, your
enemies rather than fear them is the transformative action that remits the high -- represents the highest possible instinct of the most perfected human being. this is the ethic that presents the highest dollars of our faith traditions. there's something i wrote about in my book which can be described as a common ethic to jews, christians, and muslims who may recall to make it more come briesed, the abrahamic ethic. these faith traditions introduced the idea not only of the oneness of god, but the oneness of humanity, before there was an egypt in rome or far orient, people believed in a different class of society. they believed the emperor in japan, the leader in egypt were semidefine, children of god, and people were classified into classes of human beings from the wealth to the untouchables, and
each had their own notion of that. i think what the abrahamic ethic, what our faith religions taught is that god is one. we're all descend daunts of adam of eve and love each other as brothers and sisters. america established that. the american form of democracy, our form of democracy actually changed the oriental societies, and i grew up as a young kid in malaysia remembers people would not be touched by an untouchable. with the increase of democracy in india, china, and japan, we see hinduism maintaining its existential world view, but the notion of human beings being broken up by democracy today, and that to me is one of the contributions, if you will, of the common ethic of that we abrahamic faith religions have. i agree with bert that it is
god's intention, our scriptures speak that god acceptability -- sent to every community someone to love and teach in their own language. it's god's intent to be worshiped in different languages, so it's -- if you want to choose to speak english, french, german, make love in french or english, i mean, this is your option, and we should celebrate that variety and learn. i have learned a lot about --