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Dear friends of the Inter-Religious Council of Linn County,
Happy 2018 to you!
This past year we as a Board studied Eboo Patel’s Interfaith Leadership: A Primer, which I highly recommend to anyone doing interfaith work in the 21st century. One quote has stayed with me from that book: “A healthy religiously diverse democracy is a place where people who disagree on some fundamental things do so without violence and in a manner that allows them to work on other fundamental things” (page 11).
A healthy religiously diverse democracy…: I think this is our goal, since we know that many countries do not have that, and in fact, even in our own country, it’s something that we still have to work for. Many people would like us to go back to the “good ole days,” which probably meant when they didn’t have to think about diversity. That time is gone—if it ever was here—and we shouldn’t want it back anyway. As Martin Luther King Jr. says, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
… where people who disagree on some fundamental things do so without violence: It’s OK to disagree and still keep your fundamental beliefs. No one in the interfaith community is asking you give up your cherished beliefs or rituals. The United States was founded upon religious freedom and it’s one of the reasons why people still want to come here. But we have to do so without violence, and in order to do that, we have to love our neighbor. And to love someone you have to get to know them, and what’s more important to someone than their faith? So you have to know other people’s faith. So religious literacy is essential, and that is something the IRCLC will continue to work on.
… in a manner that allows them to work on other fundamental things: The world is crying out for justice, peace, and economic equality. The vulnerable seem to be getting more so, and we who are representatives of the great faiths of the world must join together to address these issues and stand up for the voiceless. Now is not a time to be quiet or passive.
With these things in mind, we ask you to join us in our mission. Let me end with a story about the folksinger Woody Guthrie. Near the end of his life, Guthrie checked himself into a hospital since he was suffering from Huntington’s Disease. The admissions nurse asked his religious affiliation as she filled out his forms. He replied “All.” The nurse replied that that would not do—he had to make a choice. Guthrie said, “It’s either all or none!”
May it be all or none for us too.
Peace for 2018,
Charles R. Crawley
President, Inter-Religious Council of Linn County