I began today with a panel discussion on "Fulfilling the Dream: Interfaith Leadership in Progressive Movement Building," organized by Common Cause.
Present were Jennifer Butler, of Faith in Public Life/Faithful America, moderator; Rabbi David Saperstein, of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; Dr. Sayyid Syeed, of the Islamic Society of North America; Rev. Lennox Yearwood, of the Hiphop Caucus; and Rev./Congressman Bob Edgar,of Common Cause. An Episopalian bishop was also present; she did not wish to be named.
The first subject concerned how the concept of faith, among Progressives, seems to be intricately bound up with right-wing extremists like Jimmy Swaggart or Jim Bakker. [note: why not coin a term like "theophobia," along the lines of "Islamophobia," to put a name on this condition? Creedophobia"?]
We have to be received as real-live Progressives, who believe in the separation of church and state but nonetheless, as a group, whose concerns must be included among those of the many others expressed by the large variety of interests that form subsets of this branch of the Democratic Party.
Consider the concepts of 1) ego disarmament, coined by the National Council of Churches, which entails that words and deeds come into existence without necessary association with a given author or performer [in the sense of "doer"]; 2) Godcidence, coincidences we tie with God rather than happenstance--we can end lethal poverty; 3) Read books that represent all faiths; then join together communities, shedding the "far right" image.
Said Rabbi Saperstein, there are 300 thousand houses of worship in the United States, which makes them the most common form of organization, even ahead of the public school system. Emulating Saul Alinsky, we must organize a religious community with a progressive agenda. The resulting moral narrative will become more authentic.
Referring to his organization Shoulder to Shoulder, Imam Sayyyid Syed said that the religious community was falling apart until recently. There was no reason for that pastor in Florida to burn a copy of the Qur'an--many Muslims have it memorized.
But it is considered filled with statements of violence; then the controversy over the mosque planned in a neighborhood near ground zero detracted more from the Muslim narrative outside of their group. But Islam is a religion of compassion, peace, and mercy, he said. He shared with us a book he gave out those interested [me among them], My Mercy Encompasses All, which contains passages from the Qur'an relevant to these most important human virtues.
Islam reasserted itself, working closely with the Council of Churches, Catholics, and Jews.
Rev. Yearwood said that despite the bad image of the concept of "hiphop," he has a masters and Ph.D. degree in ministry and knows both Hebrew and Arabic. People of faith thus have a phobia among themselves, but atheist and agnostics have joined his huge group of 700 thousand youth of faith across the nation, " a 21st century civil and human rights organization."
He referred us to his site
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