Saturday, September 10, 2011

Saintly Saturday: St. Nicholas

I am going to deviate from my usual fair today, because tomorrow so many of us will be remembering the tenth anniversary of one of the most tragic events in U.S. history — certainly of my lifetime. Rather than remembering a saint, today I'd like to remember a building dedicated to a saint as well as the men and women who lost their lives in its vicinity.

While many of the talks we will hear and make tomorrow will be about the Twin Towers, there were three buildings destroyed that day in New York. Standing in the shadows of the Twin Towers was a little church called St. Nicholas.

Forgive me while I do a little comparison. Gary Gygax died on March 4, 2008. I only knew Gary through his writing and the game he created with Dave Arneson. So I, like many who have found joy in playing that game in one or more of its many iterations, went back and read those words in order to hold on to what we had lost. What resulted from that memorial is what I have called a golden age in our hobby. We have gone back, rediscovered the magic of 1974, 1979, 1981, etc., made it our own and created all kinds of wonderful. In other words, every time we sit down at a table to play, we honor Gary, Dave, Dr. Holmes and all of those who labored to give us this game we love so much.

In contrast, when New York gathers to remember the tenth anniversary of 9/11, the destruction wrought by hate and the lives that hate destroyed, the very men and women who risked their lives to save people from the attack, the fire and the rubble will not be welcome (they were "honored" on the eighth). In addition, ground zero has been declared a clergy-free zone — on sacred ground where a house of worship once stood. You will excuse me if I think this an abomination.

I ask that all of us take time tomorrow to honor the dead, honor those they left behind and honor those who risk their lives on a daily basis so that we may be free and safe to play the games we play. I also ask that we consider that maybe one of the reasons that a hole still scars the city New York ten years after two planes were deliberately flown into the Twin Towers is that we have not only turned away clergy, but God Himself.


  1. Love your blog, and as a fellow Christian I appreciate your efforts to weave lessons and stories derived from Christianity into your own take on DnD. I do hope that you reconsider this post, though. The finger pointing does not reflect well on you. There were, as you know, individuals who claimed that the 9/11 attacks themselves were the result of a turning away from God. To suggest that the slow pace of rebuilding is also the result of a turning away from God, is, in my opinion, beneath you.

    As to whether clergy are permitted an active role in a commemorative event, I really don't see why this matters. Churches around the country will still be opening their doors tomorrow, and every single congregation will be permitted to express their feelings and prayers in any way they see fit.

  2. @Mel
    I apologize if you think I am finger pointing. Thank you for your kind words.

    This subject touches a nerve in me. I have seen that hole, I have seen what little remains of St. Nicholas and the fact that we are paralyzed to do anything about it boggles my mind. Personally, I do not think it beyond the pale to ask why.

    To be fair, there will be plenty of people (myself included) who will be at church tomorrow praying for the dead, for those left behind and those who protect us; however, when our media and political elite have created an atmosphere where they feel comfortable not only excluding religion from the public sphere, but have made it into a political liability, I have an obligation to challenge that notion.

    The simple fact that I cannot ask the question without someone saying that the question is beneath me or that I am pointing fingers demonstrates how toxic we have allowed religion to become.

  3. Thanks for this post. This is a touchy subject, on which just about everyone has an opinion. It's a very personal thing.

    I can't help but think that if the attacks hadn't been executed by religious extremists, religion wouldn't be the fulcrum over which the debate teeters. How do we honour the dead? What houses of worship do we allow to be rebuilt? Whose god decides the best way to move forward unafraid, while still remembering how afraid we felt?

    It's almost as if, in trying to honour everyone, we honour no one. It's a shame that our country's bickering over religion has prevented us from exercising the religious acceptance that's been our nation's hallmark for over 2 centuries. IMO, that's exactly what terrorists want--for us to undermine our own values with infighting and intolerance.

    Thanks again for the courage to talk about this openly. Peace be with you.

  4. Fair enough. As I say, I very much enjoy your blog.

  5. It's been a great mystery to me why there's been such difficulty getting St. Nicholas rebuilt. To those who committed this atrocity, the destruction of a Christian church and the failure to rebuild it is a victory. If the rebuilding of the Twin Towers is a symbol of rejecting and defying those who would destroy our way of life and our culture, then so is rebuilding St. Nicholas.

  6. I used to work in that area and remember the character of that little church very well, standing among the skyscrapers like the old man's house in "Up"; sad that more hasn't been done.

  7. I hope that the church is rebuilt some day. Seems a shame that it has been neglected. Thank you for the post.