Sunday, 8 May 2005

Faith Partners

Those of us with unorthodox theologies err terribly if we disregard voices as being not worthy of consideration, simply because they emanate from within religious frameworks that we do not personally accept. The more I read, the more I realize that anyone who speaks from a deep moral center is deserving of a wide audience. Whether that person argues against all abortion or for important exceptions to its abolition; whether that person argues against all war of for important exceptions to anti-militarism; whether that person finds their strength in the life and teachings of Jesus, or in the Eightfold Noble Path of Gautama, this agnostic is certain that a genuine and deep religious conviction gives many adherents of various faiths very real strength and power in their ability to stand for their convictions.

Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourner's Magazine, writes plainly in his new book, God's Politics, about the self-defeating squeamish reluctance of so many on the Left to use moral language, or worse to wrongly ennoble the evil actions of, for instance, the Iraqi insurgents, even as he excoriates those on the Right for applying selective morality to the politics of the day in conformance with the desires of those who have most successfully politicized religion to the benefit of America's Republican Party. From the introduction of this book subtitled "Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It", Wallis writes:
The ways in which both parties' visions are morally and politically incomplete must now be taken up by people of faith. That can best be done by reaching into both the conservative Christian communities who voted for George Bush and more liberal Christian communities who voted for John Kerry.

It's time to spark a public conversation in this country over what the "moral values" in politics should be--and how broadly and deeply they should be defined. Religion doesn't fall neatly into Right and Left categories. If there were ever candidates running with a strong set of personal moral values and a commitment to social justice and peace, they could build many bridges to the other side. Personal and social responsibility are both at the heart of religion, and the two together could make a very powerful and compelling political vision for the future of our bitterly divided nation.
After reading a few chapters of Wallis' book, I stumbled across this interesting project by the folks at Faith Forward to gather many voices of faith who offer a counterpoint to the mainstream impression that those who are concerned with "moral values" are predominately Republican voters.

But what compelled me to take a break from other activities and post anything today, was discovering this powerful message from a minister from my own community. The Reverend Doctor Dee Eisenhauer writes:
I stand for peace in part because I know that to do harm is harmful to the one who wounds and kills others. I learned this from my Dad, a gentle, thoughtful man who has been in his lifetime a farmer, lumberjack, sawmill operator, teacher, builder, and school bus driver. His first adult job was as an air force warrior in the Vietnam war, an excellent navigator who flew numerous bombing missions. When asked these days what he did in the war, he answers simply, “I was a mass murderer.” No human being should be put in that position. It’s inhuman.
and later this:
I feel strongly about these convictions of mine, as I’m sure you feel strongly about your ideas and your work for peace. I think it’s important that we be strong and articulate about what we believe and why. But I also want to say a word about being peaceful people as we seek peace. I think we need to look, act, and sound peaceful as we pour our heart-felt efforts into creating peace. We have to guard against allowing a heated and strident political atmosphere to determine how we express ourselves both within the many branches of the peace movement and as we turn toward the public or to those we perceive as opponents.

... Humility will help us cool our jets a little even as we seek to create peace. Here is a teaching I have found helpful for many years: I am right about 80% of what I believe and wrong about 20%; the trouble is, I don’t know which is the 80 and which is the 20. Some reserve even about our best ideas is appropriate. It’s not that there is no “right” and “wrong”—a huge liberal mistake—but in our speech we seek always to persuade and not pulverize, realizing we may be in error.

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