cover image City of Gods: Religious Freedom, Immigration, and Pluralism in Flushing, Queens

City of Gods: Religious Freedom, Immigration, and Pluralism in Flushing, Queens

R. Scott Hanson. Fordham, $35 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-8232-7160-3

In 1657, the people of Flushing, now a neighborhood of Queens, N.Y., drafted the Flushing Remonstrance, a plea for religious liberty and diversity, in the face of an attempt by New York governor Peter Stuyvesant to persecute anyone who was not a member of the Dutch Reformed Church. From colonial times, Flushing, which its residents often call "the birthplace of religious freedom," has teemed with religious diversity fostered by immigrants who bring their own religious traditions and fervently practice them. Hanson's intimate portrait of lived religion in this New York City neighborhood is at once tedious and inspiring. Hanson offers a detailed history of Flushing from its earliest colonial days, discussing its growth into a "community of churches" in the 19th century and its dramatic expansion in the 20th century beyond the "Protestant-Catholic-Jew" model into a bustling religiously diverse community where Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, and Buddhists live side by side in relative religious harmony. Hanson points out that the relative absence of religious conflict in Flushing illustrates the promise of such a religiously pluralistic community, though spatial and theological limits challenge the quest for unity. He urges interaction and cooperation that lead to tolerance, ecumenism, and inclusivism, rather than conflict, intolerance, proselytism, and nativism. The prose is flat, but readers will still enjoy this glimpse at the lived religions of a particular community, which deserves a place alongside Robert Orsi's The Madonna of 115th Street. (July)