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Rev. Dr. Katharine Rhodes Henderson

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FaithSource: Highlighting Rational Values Voices In Media

Posted: 07/02/2012 10:35 am

Some of the greatest thinkers and orators of all time charged into history armed with powerful words and strong faith. From Maimonides to Thomas Aquinas to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the faithful have spoken truths that continue to resonate to this day. Sadly, far too many of today's voices of faith are being drowned out to the detriment of our entire nation. To this we say, "Enough."

It's time for the majority to be heard. It's time to speak in the public square about the faith that can unite us, instead of the fear that divides us. During such a critical time in our country's history - when serious discussion of women's reproductive health devolves into vicious personal attacks, when an American president's stated religion is publicly questioned, and a religious group is targeted for police surveillance, the need to inject reasoned religious voices into the conversation is long overdue.

Where are today's rational values voices? They're all around us but too often, are not heard in mainstream media. So I am joined today by a diverse group of faith leaders, or leaders who have a strong connection to their core faith values. Whether Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, or Buddhists, we have come together and are ready, willing and able to engage in the media about complex, contemporary issues important to all of us - race, immigration, the environment, health care, economic justice, religious freedom, the separation of church and state, gender equality, and LGBT equality - through the lens of faith. This is a great opportunity to help people understand the depth and breadth of our religious nation and to reinforce the idea that faith can be a powerful tool for good. We believe our religiously diverse citizenship is more than ready to actively support a more diverse representation of religion in the media.

Among us you'll find Sister Simone Campbell, a nun who dedicates herself to social and economic justice. When Representative Ryan suggested his budget reflected Catholic teachings, Sister Campbell criticized "continuing misuse of Catholic teaching to defend a budget plan that decimates food programs for struggling families, radically weakens protections for the elderly and sick, and gives more tax breaks to the wealthiest few."

And Joanna Brooks, a feminist Mormon, will be marching alongside churchgoing Mormons in their Sunday best, in support of marriage equality. In fact, from Salt Lake City to the Twin Cities to Washington, DC, Mormons are gathering in 12 cities in support of civil equality under the law and to increase understanding of LGBTQ issues within their community.

We may not expect a nun to speak out about a federal budget or a Mormon to support gay marriage. But people of faith have throughout our country's history been on the forefront of change, showing us that what was once unexpected becomes the norm. Blacks and whites, ministers, priests and rabbis, once made a radical sight as they locked arms during the civil rights movement. There's monumental value in diverse voices of faith speaking out together at often-unexpected times in our nation's history.

While we are leaders, we are also parents, and teachers, sons and daughters, employers and employees, and we share the same concerns as the vast majority of Americans: we worry about our jobs, our children, paying for college and making sure our air and water stay clean. We rely on our religious values to help us get our house in order and to be better parents, neighbors and friends. In times of trouble, our faith helps pull us through.

Make no mistake - we do not agree on everything, but we possess core positive humanistic goals. Together, we want to lend more voices to the critical debates of our time - each a battle between divergent values systems at a time when Americans are thirsting for a wider range of voices to be heard. When balancing the federal budget, wouldn't it be compelling to view it as a moral document? When discussing the elimination of the Environmental Protection Agency, why not allow a person of faith to explain why God's creation cannot be destroyed for corporate gain?

And frankly, we're tired of having that faith sullied by voices espousing intolerance in the name of God. When they judge, they desecrate what it means to be faithful in America. It's dismaying when the vocal minority sends the message "If you aren't me, you don't count" as if the Golden Rule was to love some of our neighbors, not all. If there is one thing this seminary president knows, and I am a child of the South who has lived through my share of civil rights battles: We are all God's children.

Sadly, today it seems the very word "religion" has become a fault line, with people lining up to take sides. Instead of a beautiful vehicle for the message that God is love, religion is becoming a political tool of intolerance. None of us will be afraid to call it like it is, whether it's racism, bigotry, sexism, homophobia, or economic injustice.

Nearly 3,000 years ago the prophet Isaiah said we must learn to do good, seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. Those of us committed to our faith struggle daily to put those words into action in whatever ways we can. With this call for more reasonable, continued discourse we again echo Isaiah: We will not be silent, we will not be still.

The Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson, President, Auburn Seminary (Christian, Presbyterian Church USA); Wajahat Ali, attorney, journalist, and playwright, The Domestic Crusaders (Muslim); Joanna Brooks, author, progressive Mormon journalist and blogger , senior correspondent, Religion Dispatches, and professor of American Literature at San Diego State University (Christian, Mormon); Rabbi Sharon Brous, Founding Rabbi of IKAR, a spiritual community dedicated to reanimating Jewish life through soulful religious practice rooted in a deep commitment to social justice; Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director, Network, the Catholic social justice lobby; (Christian, Catholic); Bishop Minerva Carcaño, United Methodist Bishop of the Desert Southwest Conference (Christian, United Methodist Church); Majora Carter, President, The Majora Carter Group, MacArthur Award-winning environmental advocate (Spiritual); Shane Claiborne, Founding Partner, The Simple Way; contributor, member, Red Letter Christians (Christian, Evangelical); The Rev. Michael Ellick, Minister, Judson Memorial Church, and co-founder, Occupy Faith (Christian, United Church of Christ); Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn), first Muslim to be elected to Congress (Muslim); The Rev. Dr. Welton Gaddy, President, Interfaith Alliance (Christian, Baptist); The Rev. Dr. Serene Jones, President, Union Theological Seminary (Christian, Christian Church: Disciples of Christ, United Church of Christ); Van Jones, Co-Founder, Rebuild the Dream, (Christian, African Methodist Episcopal); Valarie Kaur, Director, Groundswell, the social action initiative of Auburn Seminary and filmmaker of the award-winning Divided We Fall (Sikh); The Rev. Jacqueline Lewis, Ph.D., Senior Minister, Middle Collegiate Church (Christian, Presbyterian Church USA); Bill McKibben, Founder and Executive Director, 350.org; (Christian, United Methodist Church); Ruth Messinger, President and Executive Director of American Jewish World Service (Jewish); The Rev. Otis Moss III, Pastor, Trinity United Church of Christ, (Christian, Progressive National Baptist Convention and the United Church of Christ); Eboo Patel, Founder and President, Interfaith Youth Core (Muslim); Bishop Gene Robinson, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire and subject of the Sundance Award-winning documentary Love Free or Die (Christian, Episcopal); Dr. Cornel West, Professor of Philosophy and Christian Practices, Union Theological Seminary and Professor Emeritus, Princeton University (Baptist); Chely Wright, first openly gay country singer and subject of the award-winning documentary Chely Wright: Wish Me Away (Christian).

These leaders and more have joined together as FaithSource, an initiative of Auburn Seminary. Auburn equips bold and resilient leaders--religious and secular, women and men, adults and teens--with the tools and resources they need for our complex, multifaith world. We provide them with education, research, support, and media savvy, so that they can bridge religious divides, build community, pursue justice, and heal the world.

 
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