Sharp About Your Prayers

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Children of the Stock of Abraham

January 21st, 2011 · 3 Comments · Faith and the City

This Sunday, our church is engaging in an interfaith conversation with a mosque and a synagogue about the fascinating Three Faiths exhibit at the New York Public Library (an exhibit sponsored, in part, by the Coexist Foundation).

As I have been preparing for my part in this conversation between the three Abrahamic faiths, I came across a letter written by George Washington, in his first term as President of the United States, to the Jewish community in Newport, Rhode Island.  I find the document to be eloquent (what marvelous letter-writers those early Americans were) and surprisingly relevant to today.

I would love to hear your reactions…

To the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island

[Newport, R.I., 18 August 1790]


While I receive, with much satisfaction, your Address replete with expressions of affection and esteem; I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you, that I shall always retain a grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced in my visit to Newport, from all classes of Citizens.

The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet, from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security. If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good Government, to become a great and a happy people.

The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my Administration, and fervent wishes for my felicity. May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.

George Washington

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3 Comments so far ↓

  • Laura FissingerNo Gravatar

    The letter from George Washington seems to reach across the years and speak directly to me. It fills me with hope about our power, in God, to change the public discourse of early 2011. I pray that this letter travels with the speed of modern media across this country.

  • Leesander

    LOVE the letter. Thanks for sharing.

    Washington’s comment about tolerance certainly resonates (“It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights.”).

    I’ve seen a similar sentiment expressed in a more modern setting (the Rose is Rose comic strip) as: “Tolerance is important. You never know when you’re the one being tolerated.”


    • SBJNo Gravatar

      Golly, I think I may resemble that last remark. As one who is tolerated… by family, friends, parishioners and God… your thoughts strike me as both insightful and funny!