Dr. Stephen D. Jones, Co-pastor, First Baptist Church, Kansas City, MO, Member, Gamaliel affiliate, MORE2
One challenge of an interfaith movement is how to state our faith in ways that do not offend others of different traditions. We certainly need to remain true as to our faith. Yet, can we speak in ways that do not offend or break relationships? If we who share faith-based values of justice and equity cannot speak with each other, can we expect our society to do better?
I had a professor who issued an unforgettable challenge: “When you prepare a sermon, ask yourself, would a best friend, a Jewish rabbi, be offended by what you have to say? Of course he or she won’t agree with everything – but would they be offended?” That forever changed my preaching. Today we could add, what if an Islamic Imam or a Sikh or Hindu or Buddhist was in the sanctuary as I preached. Would my sermon be offensive? Would it break off trust and relationship? It is a thoughtful question.
We are in a polarized society and no matter the election results, we will surely leave this election polarized. But we can learn to deal with the diversity right in front of us.
Questions for Reflection
- Can we learn to practice honest ways of interacting within the interfaith movement that empower and include everyone present?
- As a society, can we learn to speak to those who vote differently than us or who yearn for a different kind of society than the one we seek?
Jesus and the Samaritan woman had an honest, even confrontational conversation. Their differing backgrounds were at first an obstacle but they learned to talk with each other in respectful, healing ways. John 4:3-9
The Common Prayer on Our Journey
Source of all being, Sacred mystery, you are the wellspring of justice. Weaver of the warp and weft of history, weave our lives into the fabric of your will. Guide us towards the Beloved Community. Forgive us when we have failed to give shape to the Beloved Community in our communities and in our lives.
All around us the ugly onslaughts of white nationalism, hate crimes, and systemic racism devastate your people, divide us, and threaten our democracy. All around us the wicked strut, and in high places are those who encourage the basest of attitudes and actions. Grant us wisdom and courage to confront these evils with the power of love and truth. Free us from timidity and equivocation. Help us to be bold in thought and action. May our lives and our faith communities model the change we hope to see in the world.
As we approach the November elections, keep us mindful that the right to vote is a sacred trust won by beatings, by imprisonments, by blood, by the relentless struggles of many who came before us. Help us to honor that legacy. May we vote our conscience and encourage others to do the same.
Heal our nation. Heal our hearts. Heal our nation. Amen.
Gamaliel National Religious Leaders’ Caucus invites you to 40 Days of Reflection on Our Journey to the Polls
Few national elections have had similar consequences as the November Election in 2020. Our nation stands in crisis and at a significant crossroad. The Gamaliel Network, an interfaith coalition of persons of faith who stand and act together for justice and equality, pledges to undergird the 40 days leading up to the election with prayer and reflection.
We urge you to use the Common Prayer below every day. On each day, we have asked a faith leader, from different traditions, to offer a reflection on the Common Prayer at this Moment of American Crossroads. We urge you to begin this prayer preparation with a day of fasting on Sept. 24,(or a similar expression of spiritual preparation), and then to engage in prayer at a time of your choosing each day, to prepare yourself, your friends and neighbors, and our nation, for this election.
The Gamaliel Religious Leaders Table has written a “Theological Statement on Hate Crimes and White Nationalism.” a faith statement on “White Nationalism.” The link to this statement is: https://gamaliel.org/our-work/religious-leaders-caucus/gnrlc-a-faithful-response-to-hate-crimes-and-white-nationalism/
Each reflection will include the leader’s personal reflection, questions for contemplation, and a suggested scriptural text from their tradition.
The Gamaliel National Religious Leaders’ Steering Committee