by: Claire Curran on April 25th, 2015 | No Comments »
People of faith aren’t just waking up to the climate crisis, they’re leading the way. Across the country, people are bringing the wisdom of their faith traditions to their work on climate change because they know they’re better together. They know its not just about individual faith communities lowering their carbon footprints, its about collaborating around shared values, and building the world they know is possible in practical and systematic ways. Check out these five inspiring stories and then consider how you can be Better Together.
1. Standing Up for Socially just Solar
People of faith in Minneapolis were excited about promoting solar in their faith communities, but as they started to look at the details, it became clear that community solar gardens were not going to be accessible to low income communities. A team of solar developers, contractors, faith leaders, business owners, and college students, representing diverse faith traditions came together design a community solar garden that is accessible to all.
by: Tim Brauhn on April 24th, 2015 | No Comments »
I took Interfaith Youth Core up on their challenge for Better Together Day on April 14th and reached out to others of faith or philosophical tradition to have a conversation about what they believe and what values inspire them to do good in the world. I did this because I believe that when it comes to religion, we’re too often told that our differences define us. I’m for fixing that. Join me.
I’m a Catholic. For the past nearly-decade, in my work as an interfaith leader and through my job at Islamic Networks Group, I’ve been lucky to meet a huge variety of non-Catholics. I’m talking denominations and sects and sub-sects and sub-sub-sects of faiths from all around the world, and even a few who believe that they are from another planet. Many of these interactions have been casual, unremarkable even, but on occasion, I’ve found myself challenging my own stereotypes and misperceptions about other faiths.
by: Patrick M. Johnson on April 21st, 2015 | No Comments »
Blogs and social media have made it possible for isolated and discriminated-against people of faith to safely contend with the messages they encounter within religious discourse.
When you grow up in a religious environment, it has the potential to become a large part of your identity. It should be noted here that this is not the case for all people raised within a religious household, however it has the potential to become a way to identify yourself within society, as well as to help shape and form your moral and ethical guidelines and views of the world. However, this can occasionally conflict with other aspects of your identity, particularly when one identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community.
While there are religious denominations and beliefs that are very accepting of those within the LGBTQ community — the Unitarian and Episcopalian Churches are prime examples — this is not the case with all religious beliefs. While there is sometimes an easy knee-jerk reaction to proclaim that those who identify as homosexual should just switch their beliefs to a sect that is accepting (an opinion I have seen stated in more than one discussion about this topic), that is not always desired, as the core beliefs that come along with religious convictions are not (and should not) be that easily swayed. This represents the common way this debate is usually framed (especially among non-religious individuals or among LGBTQ individuals who are religious but belong to a very accepting church, such as Unitarian), which is the question, “How can you believe in a religion that doesn’t accept or tolerate your lifestyle?” It is seen as much easier to simply find a religion that fits your life and modify your beliefs to mold to that, rather than live in a state of cognitive dissonance where you know that your life and your religious beliefs are (at least on occasion) at odds with one another.
by: Aryeh Cohen on April 20th, 2015 | 1 Comment »
We are on a journey. This period that we are now moving through, the seven weeks that start on the second day of Passover and end at Shavuot or Weeks, the next holiday in the calendrical cycle, is a journey from Egypt to Sinai. It is deeply symbolic that as the first day of Passover was waning this year, we were marking the 47th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This year that anniversary was marked amidst the outcries of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, amidst the sounds of gunshots and the cries of unarmed black and brown men killed by officers of the law, of the state.
We are on a journey—but where are we going?
We know where we are coming from. We are coming from the Egypt of the three evils, as Dr. King described them, racism, poverty, and militarism. As the Yiddish proverb goes: any place can be your Egypt, any place can be your Promised Land. Today in the United States we are facing these same interrelated issues. Poverty overwhemingly impacts communities of color. Communities of color are impoverished by mass incarceration. The United States incarcerates more people than any country in the world. Those people are then barred from the right to vote, have a harder time getting housing, or a job. As Michelle Alexander has argued, this is the new method of social control, of racist social control. A new Jim Crow in impact even if not in explicit intention. The police and incarceration regime are more and more militarized. While there are exceptions, the pictures that the whole world saw of police officers in Ferguson, MO in camouflage uniforms pointing assault weapons at unarmed civilians, is more often than not the rule.
Craig Wiesner and Derrick Kikuchi are co-founders of Reach And Teach and manage Tikkun/NSP web operations.
As we waited to check our luggage and get our boarding passes at the Charlotte NC airport we watched as couple after couple got to the counter, handed over their tickets, chatted with the agent, and then went on their way to their gates.
All seemed normal.
Then, when we stepped up to the counter, the agent looked at me and said “You, get back in line!” Pointing at my travel mate, and husband, I responded “We’re together.” She very loudly said “No. You have to come up here separately.” I responded quietly “You’ve had couple after couple come up here and check their bags and get their boarding passes.” She boomed out “You ARE NOT a couple.” “Yes, we are.” “Not in my line you’re not.” She then asked me if I wanted to travel at all that day, because if I didn’t get back in line she would make sure I didn’t fly anywhere that day.
This was around 20 years ago. Humiliated and near tears, I quietly stepped away from the counter while my husband checked his bag.
Shalom and Peace! Today on Holocaust Remembrance Day I would like to share a recent experience that changed my perspective in an unexpected way. My perspective about Jews, about the Holocaust, about myself. Sounds mysterious? I didn’t mean it to be. Let me go back a couple of weeks and start again.
President Obama is correct to characterize efforts against terrorist groups as a struggle against violent extremism and not as a struggle against “Islamic” terrorism. He is correct to deny groups such as Islamic State/Islamic State in the Levant/ Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (IS/ISIL/ISIS) the imprimatur of Islam, to deny them the cover of religion.
Just as words have multiple meanings, groups, individuals, acts, and texts have multiple meanings. Meaning comes not only from what an individual or a group says it is, but meaning also come from what we agree, to what we say: “yes and amen.” When IS says it is Islamic, we can agree to that or we can say no. I say no. President Obama and other world leaders also say no. ISIS is not religious, and it is not Islamic. It is a death-dealing cult of destruction. It deserves no respect. Thus, let us call it by its Arabic name of derision: Daesh. (pronounced daEEsh or dash)
Some people argue that the reason to say “Islamic” terrorism is because to deny the so-called Islamic elements of its ideology would cause misunderstanding and miscalculation in war. It would break an important rule of warfare: “Know the enemy.” I say it is possible to know the ideological goals of Daesh while demonstrating how its ideology falls short of the goals of Islam and is not religion.
Let us consider the meaning of Islam – submission to the will of God. The Koran refers to God as the Most Gracious, Most Merciful Master of the Day of Judgment. Thus, Islam is submission to a gracious and merciful God. The concept of radical means extreme, basic, the root of the thing, so radical, extreme Islam would require an extreme, basic submission to a God of grace and mercy. Too often we use the term radical as a synonym for violent. Further, in Islam, Jesus is a revered prophet whose teachings ought to be obeyed. So Muslims, like Christians, have an obligation to love one’s enemies, to turn the other cheek, and to go the extra mile. So to refer to Daesh and other terrorist groups as Islamic is to insult Islam. To even refer to Daesh as religious is a mistake.
The movement gaining support in State Houses around this nation, as exemplified through Indiana’s new ironically named “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” permits businesses to refuse service to lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans* people, and members of all other groups they consider nonconformists to their judgments and precepts.
So what can we infer from those religions that justify such discriminatory treatment of other human beings? On what sacred tenets would a baker refuse to bake a confectionery delight; a photographer refuse to preserve joyous moments; a caterer refuse the pleasures of delectable sustenance; a florist refuse the beauties from the garden; a jeweler refuse a band connecting human souls; a realtor refuse showing shelters signifying new chapters in one’s book of time; a shop owner refuse selling the common and special objects supporting and enhancing life; a restauranteur refuse anyone a time away from the kitchen; a spiritual advisor refuse to treat one’s neighbor as oneself?
Craig Wiesner and Derrick Kikuchi at their wedding in 1990. Credit: Craig Wiesner.
Twenty-five years ago, on April 8th, Palm Sunday, my husband Derrick and I were married at the First Presbyterian Church of Palo Alto. This Sunday he and I will be Easter liturgists in that same sanctuary which has been our spiritual home for all of these years.
Today as the world remembers Christ on the cross and awaits the good news on Sunday, pundits like Mike Huckabee, decrying the outrage Indiana’s religious “freedom” law spawned, are claiming that folks like Derrick and I are trying to destroy the church. According to the Huffington Post, Huckabee said “It won’t stop until there are no more churches, until there are no more people who are spreading the Gospel [...] and I’m talking now about the unabridged, unapologetic Gospel that is really God’s truth.”
No sir. The unabridged, unapologetic Gospel of the Jewish carpenter, executed because he dared to speak out against injustice and stood up for the poor, rings loudly in thousands of churches across this country. It is a message of love, hope, redemption, and absolute acceptance, with doors flung wide open proclaiming that all are welcome, and cursed be the one who puts up a stumbling block to the children trying to reach him.
by: Manpreet Teji and Murali Balaji on April 3rd, 2015 | No Comments »
Over the past decade, South Asian Americans of all faiths have become increasingly active in social justice causes, whether it’s been combating xenophobia and anti-Black racism, fighting for LGBT rights, religious tolerance, and for comprehensive environmental justice.
Sadly, even as the community comes together on these issues, interfaith dialogue among South Asian Americans continues to be a sore spot. As Sikh and Hindu activists, respectively, we seek a way forward in discussing how our communities – which have occasionally experienced tensions among advocacy groups – can work together to solve the problems we face together. Moreover, we need to talk about how Sikhs and Hindus – who both come from inherently progressive spiritual traditions -can present a united front in championing for social change.