Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Statement by Interfaith Leaders
As religious leaders in this great country, we have come together in our nation’s capital to denounce categorically the derision, misinformation and outright bigotry being directed against America’s Muslim community. We bear a sacred responsibility to honor America’s varied faith traditions and to promote a culture of mutual respect and the assurance of religious freedom for all. In advance of the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, we announce a new era of interfaith cooperation.
As Jews, Christians, and Muslims, we are grateful to live in this democracy whose Constitution guarantees religious liberty for all. Our freedom to worship in congregations of our own choosing, to give witness to our moral convictions in the public square, and to maintain institutions that carry out our respective missions—all of these are bedrock American freedoms that must be vigorously guarded and defended lest they be placed at peril. The United States of America has been a beacon to the world in defending the rights of religious minorities, yet it is also sadly true that at times in our history particular groups have been singled out for unjust discrimination and have been made the object of scorn and animosity by those who have either misconstrued or intentionally distorted the vision of our founders.
In recent weeks, we have become alarmed by the anti-Muslim frenzy that has been generated over the plans to build an Islamic community center and mosque at the Park 51 site near Ground Zero in New York City. We recognize that the vicinity around the former World Trade Center, where 2,752 innocent lives were cruelly murdered on 9/11, remains an open wound in our country, especially for those who lost loved ones. Persons of conscience have taken different positions on the wisdom of the location of this project, even if the legal right to build on the site appears to be unassailable. Our concern here is not to debate the Park 51 project anew, but rather to respond to the atmosphere of fear and contempt for fellow Americans of the Muslim faith that the controversy has generated.
We are profoundly distressed and deeply saddened by the incidents of violence committed against Muslims in our community, and by the desecration of Islamic houses of worship. We stand by the principle that to attack any religion in the United States is to do violence to the religious freedom of all Americans. The threatened burning of copies of the Holy Qu’ran this Saturday is a particularly egregious offense that demands the strongest possible condemnation by all who value civility in public life and seek to honor the sacred memory of those who lost their lives on September 11. As religious leaders, we are appalled by such disrespect for a sacred text that for centuries has shaped many of the great cultures of our world, and that continues to give spiritual comfort to more than a billion Muslims today.
We are committed to building a future in which religious differences no longer lead to hostility or division between communities. Rather, we believe that such diversity can serve to enrich our public discourse about the great moral challenges that face our nation and our planet. On the basis of our shared reflection, we insist that no religion should be judged on the words or actions of those who seek to pervert it through acts of violence; that politicians and members of the media are never justified in exploiting religious differences as a wedge to advance political agendas or ideologies; that bearing false witness against the neighbor—something condemned by all three of our religious traditions—is inflicting particular harm on the followers of Islam, a world religion that has lately been mischaracterized by some as a “cult.”
We call for a new day in America when speaking the truth about one another will embrace a renewed commitment to mutual learning among religions. Leaders of local congregations have a special responsibility to teach with accuracy, fairness and respect about other faith traditions. The partnerships that have developed in recent years between synagogues and churches, mosques and synagogues, and churches and mosques should provide a foundation for new forms of collaboration in interfaith education, intercongregational visitations, and service programs that redress social ills like homelessness and drug abuse. What we can accomplish together is, in very many instances, far more than we can achieve working in isolation from one another. The good results of a more extensive collaboration between religious congregations and national agencies will undoubtedly help to heal our culture, which continues to suffer from the open wound of 9/11.
We work together on the basis of deeply held and widely shared values, each supported by the sacred texts of our respective traditions. We acknowledge with gratitude the dialogues between our scholars and religious authorities that have helped us to identify a common understanding of the divine command to love one’s neighbor. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all see an intimate link between faithfulness to God and love of neighbor; a neighbor who in many instances is the stranger in our midst. We are united in our conviction that by witnessing together in celebration of human dignity and religious freedom; by working together for interfaith understanding across communities and generations; and by cooperating with each other in works of justice and mercy for the benefit of society, all of us will demonstrate our faithfulness to our deepest spiritual commitments.
We are convinced that spiritual leaders representing the various faiths in the United States have a moral responsibility to stand together and to denounce categorically derision, misinformation or outright bigotry directed against any religious group in this country. Silence is not an option. Only by taking this stand, can spiritual leaders fulfill the highest calling of our respective faiths, and thereby help to create a safer and stronger America for all of our people.
Obama has a funny middle name. I hear it's a Muslim name. That means we should be afraid of him. After all, he might be a secret terrorist. There's no way to really know for sure. In any case, there is no way Obama could be a real American. Ya gotta be a deistic Christian in order to be a real patriot.
Obama wants to help poor and working-class people. That means he's a hard-core socialist. Maybe even a communist. I got an e-mail that says he wants to steal from the rich and give it to the poor. Who does he think he is? Robin Hood? This is an outrage. Ya gotta be a free market fundamentalist in order to be a real patriot.
Thus, it stands to reason that Obama is an anti-American Muslim communist. Just look at him. He's not one of us.
Does this rhetoric seem extreme? Or maybe even puerile? Well, this is the kind of rhetoric that is going around about Obama. In fact, Newt Gingrich just said Obama has a "Kenyan, anti-colonial" worldview. The sad thing is that Gingrich isn't trying to have a dialogue about Kenyan philosophy or colonial politics. Gingrich is only using these terms to attempt to "otherize" Obama. It's all a part of the fear-mongering agenda that seeks to make Obama look unlike "real" Americans. They try to paint him as radically liberal, radically socialist, radically African, radically Kenyan, radically anti-colonial, radically Muslim, radically pluralistic, radically compassionate etc. In each case Obama is made out to look radically bad. And, in the end, the goal is to make Obama look radically un-American.
Such extreme, polemic rhetoric has to stop. It's destroying public discourse, sowing national discord, and creating political gridlock. Plus, it's heartless defamation of character against other human beings. We need to speak out as proud Americans and demand an end to such harmful rhetoric.
We don't always have to agree. In fact, disagreement can help us gain deeper understanding. But harmful rhetoric only poisons the process. In the words of Obama, "We can disagree without being disagreeable." Or at least disagree without destroying one another.
We're all Americans. We're all sharing one nation - and one world. We're all working for a decent life for ourselves and our families. Let's treat each other in ways that recognize these facts. We're all in this together. Let's continue to work toward building "a more perfect nation." And let's do it as partners instead of adversaries. We're all Americans. Including Obama. Including Gingrich. Including me. Including you.
Monday, September 6, 2010
A clergy union could help hold churches and bishops accountable while also serving as a buffer of protection for clergy. Accountability and protection are important. There's a reason that clergy have to go through psychological evaluations, submit background checks, and pass fitness exams before they can serve a congregation. It's for the protection of the people they will serve. There's also a reason that clergy have reviews of their ministry done by churches and bishops. It's for accountability of the clergy's performance. All of these things that clergy have to do may look like they are being treated more like an employee of a corporation than a clergyperson serving a church. But it all has a purpose. In the end, it's about fostering effective ministry, healthy relationships, and ethical standards. But all of this is focused on the clergy side of things. I want to explore the other "side."
A clergy union could help churches and bishops have the appropriate equivalent to all the standards and tests that clergy have to pass. These, too, would be focused on accountability and protection. Clergy unions could hold churches and bishops accountable for their performance while providing a buffer of protection for clergy. The union could ensure that clergy receive a just compensation package, appropriate benefits, a fair amount of time off (Sabbath), equal rights for all people, etc. The union could also help process reports of abuse, harassment, defamation of character, etc. There are many ways that a clergy union could be beneficial. This may seem more like a business model than a church model to some people. But if the end goal is fostering effective ministry, healthy relationships, and ethical standards, then a clergy union would be an important aspect of the ministry of the Church.
Perhaps a clergy union could help us embody the way of life that Jesus called "abundant life" (John 10:10) and the "Kingdom of God" (Matthew 6:33). Abundant life would help all people in the church be more joyful in their living and serving together. And seeking the Kingdom of God would mean living according to God's values of love, justice, and mutuality. If a clergy union could help do any of these things, maybe we should start one on this very Labor Day.
And maybe not. What are your thoughts?
If you're interested in more info, here's a news report on the clergy union in Canada:
Sunday, September 5, 2010
Everyone has enough time for what they truly want to do. It's all about stewardship of our limited amount of time. We need to budget our limited amount of time on the things that really matter to us. That way, we can look back on our lives and be glad that we did the things that we did. And we can stop running around like crazed zombies.
I am a husband, grad student, dog owner, and home owner who works two jobs. I have done the whole "look-how-busy-I-am" thing. It looks silly. So I resolve to resist the cultural urge to do that. I also resolve to calm down and live a more balanced life. And I invite you to join me. It will be good for our physical, mental, and spiritual health. It's time to stop being so busy!
If you want to read more, click here to read about the sacredness of each moment or click here to read about living a balanced life.
Let's be less busy and more happy!