Below you will find the words I've written to be delivered at the Save Troy Rally at the Troy Community Center on October 20th.
I come here tonight both as a local pastor who is concerned about unsettling trends in the community and as a relatively new Troy resident and homeowner. Unlike many of the people speaking tonight, I’ve not lived her for many years. I’ve lived in this community with my wife and son for less than 18 months. Because my son was in college when we moved here, we haven’t taken advantage of the community’s renowned schools or parks and recreation programs, but I know that they are a reason why people move into this town. In fact, I’ve not made use of many of the resources that the community has to offer, but I know by word of mouth that they are a great treasure. I was also told about Troy’s diversity. All of these factors make not just for a livable community, but a desirable one.
But, all of this is now threatened with being dismantled. The very "amenities" that give value to my newly purchased home are being threatened, unless we decide to stop taking what we have for granted and move in a new direction. I’ve not been here long, but from what I’ve seen it’s time for new leadership, leadership that will not be afraid to broach the topic of tax increases, leadership that will explain to the people what is at stake.
But politics isn’t the reason I’m here tonight. Others can speak to that topic. I’m here to lift up the principle of the common good. In the Christian tradition, we speak hold up two great commandments – love of God and love of neighbor. But this commandment to love one’s neighbor is not unique to my tradition. In fact, these commandments are deeply rooted in the Jewish tradition. And, something like this command to love one’s neighbor as we love ourselves can be found in most every religious tradition.
Muhammad said in one of the Hadiths these words:
"Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for
And from Hinduism comes this word:
"This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to
The point of these and other sayings is that we must be concerned about the welfare of the other. We are, in other words, called to be our brother’s or our sister's keeper.
It was out of a concern for the common good of this community that a group of clergy wrote a letter to the city council expressing concern about the possibility that much of what make this a livable city would be dismantled. I then wrote a followup opinion piece that was published in the Oakland Press, and which is why I’ve probably been asked to speak tonight. Although I can’t speak for all the religious leaders in the community, and I enter into this conversation with great caution, I believe that it is important that someone like me remind us that we are in this together, that when one suffers, we all suffer, and when one rejoices, we all rejoice.
Over the next few weeks and months we will be tempted to put up walls, maybe even become bitter. Neighbor will be divided against neighbor. My hope and my prayer is that this will not happen. We can agree to disagree, but I also believe that it’s time for the leadership of this community to bring us together and commit ourselves to the common good – of all Troy’s residents, young and old; old timers and new comers. We will fall short of our ideals, but let us remember to "love our neighbor, as we love ourselves."