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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

where would Jesus park?

It is disheartening for someone like me. I try my best to show that Christianity can be a modern and enlightened religion. I try to show that Christians do not put themselves above the rest of society. I also try to show that Christians are as deserving of respect as any other group. Then I read about things like this.
I don’t usually go to church. I do, however, live within a few hundred yards of two churches. One of them has a parking lot that is much too small for the number of worshipers and the other has no parking lot at all. For either of them to expand parking is beyond the question – just the price of real estate in Jersey City makes it a non-option. What this means is that Sunday mornings around here sometimes resemble a parking lot – especially when you consider the municipal park across the street has an ice skating rink, a swimming pool, and a couple of little league baseball parks.
Sharing parking is just one fact of life in the big city. In general, residential areas are not metered, although some places have special resident parking stickers that they pay extra for to guarantee they can park their cars. Building cities around economic hubs ensures that a dearth of parking will exist at the exact times when people will try and use them. If I can’t find parking on my street, I have to use the metered spots around the corner. I don’t even get a break for being a resident.
I don’t know who Fernando Ferrer is, but he’s making a stupid argument. Parking meters are simply a means of making sure that everyone has equal access to sparse parking. They are not a form of taxation and the churches are not being singled out. He is simply trying to make political hay by being divisive. He deserves all the scorn that can possibly be heaped upon him for doing so. It would be one thing to push for a parking meter free Sunday for everyone. Claiming people in church have a more legitimate claim to parking than everyone else is simply infantile. (I, for one, wonder how the parking cop is supposed to know if a certain car belongs to someone inside a church or not.)
I personally think that Raving Atheist is probably taking some license with the quotes from the politicians in his blog. Mayor Bloomberg has, like every other politician, been extraordinarily nice to people who go to church. I honestly can imagine him telling someone to shove a vote up her ass, but perhaps AR was hearing off the record remarks. If so, they probably should have remained off the record. It is also possible that he simply means to write sarcastically and attributes his own feelings to others. Whether they were actually made by the politicians or if the meaning of their words was extrapolated to a more volatile prose is really irrelevant to me.
What is important to me is the way it reveals how some people view the community of faith. What is going to be surprising to some is that I am somewhat supportive of this view. At least, I understand what he is complaining about. We actually have a common cause in exposing people who are trying to use their religion as an excuse for preferential treatment. I have no problem denouncing someone who claims they are being discriminated against simply because they are being treated like everyone else.
Reading the news stories that AR links to, it seems like the Mayor is already doing more than he has to do. He offered to put in two-hour meters around the church so church-goers can pay their parking and not worry about having to run out and feed the meter. I think the churches in question may actually be missing an opportunity to show how a community of faith can work to everyone’s good. They should open a parking-meter ministry and take turns dropping quarters into parking meters for people otherwise occupied. I’m sure there are a few people who would appreciate it.
Of course, if you are really looking for solutions rather than problems, the church could raise money to pay for car-pooling. This would help alleviate the parking problem and still get everyone to church. Perhaps a church van would be helpful for this. Honestly, there are about a dozen ways to solve the problem I can come up with off the top of my head. None of them entail standing up and demanding special treatment from the government.
Jesus taught, “render unto Caesar that who Caesar provides”. In this case, Caesar is named “Bloomberg”. If you want to use the streets he is responsible for maintaining, you better follow his rules.

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