Faith Council Begins Its Work

I spent Monday evening and Tuesday with about fifty faith and secular NGO leaders in the ornate Indian Treaty Room … Continued

I spent Monday evening and Tuesday with about fifty faith and secular NGO leaders in the ornate Indian Treaty Room of the Eisehnhower Executive Office Building, getting briefed by administration officials on how we can work together to reduce poverty, strengthen families, make America (and the world) greener, and advance interfaith cooperation. All starting now.

It was exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. There was a palpable sense that we live at a time of both profound possibility and also very real peril. Just about everybody who spoke underscored two things: we need an all-hands-on-deck approach, and there is no time to waste.

My friend Van Jones, who joined the administration recently to focus on the green economy, captured it best when he said that activists have to move from thinking like David and throwing stones at the guy in charge to acting like Noah and building arks that can get save us from drowning. He recounted with a laugh his own days “cussing out the mayor” and then pointed out that something revolutionary just happened – the guy in charge actually wants to work with and learn from citizens’ groups.

While we were preparing to meet, Obama was giving a speech to the Turkish Parliament on his respect for that nation’s internal diversity, its ability to hold together both its religiosity and its secular institutions. Asli Aydintasbas wrote about that speech in The New York Times, “In our eternal identity crisis, we Turks have lately been thinking only in opposites – that you are either secular or religious, Kurd or Turk, European or Middle Eastern. It took a young foreign leader on his first visit here to remind us that we are all of those things, and much more.”

In that way, Turkey is like America – a nation that, as the political philosopher Michael Walzer writes, has the challenge of both embracing its differences and maintaining a common life.

Looking around the Indian Treaty Room at the range of people – priests and rabbis, Muslims and Hindus, conservatives and progressives – asking “What can I do at this time of crisis?” made me feel like President Obama had managed to accomplish that same feat in his own country.

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  • schmitt_fam

    My gosh, another deification of President Obama. So what was stopping you from “Rolling up your sleeves” before? The only change now is that your political position is bolstered and you were unwilling to help unless someone with your particular world view was in the White House. To say that everything is changed 3 months into a Presidency is ludicrous. People need to grow up and learn to help regardless of the government. The key is people caring not depending upon any government to answer all your needs.

  • alltheroadrunnin

    Interesting, but it doesn’t sound like there were any Republicans in the “Eisenhower Executive Office Building” — the Indian Treaty Room, at the meeting. Probably no American Indians, either.This Patel fella is a real shill, isn’t he?And, SCHMIDT_FAM, Thank you for your fine work. But no, CCNL has no life, without us. That is rather evident. I am in faint hope that your words are the last said, on CCNL.

  • ASTORIA

    Hey Lib, what’s shakin’?

  • INGOODFAITH

    Dear EBOO & CO.; Please say Goodbye to Ye PLURALiTY of Religions & so Instead look into SINGULARIZiNG Them as ONE, EK, UNO, 1.. OUR/innate G-D SYSTEM , not god(s) competing for a Name for so Many man-made/God(sssss) system(s)! No more Competition Factor! ——————– ——

  • Scully127

    Out of curiosity, was every single religious group in America represented? From what I have read in press releases, my own Orthodox Christian religion does not have a member, but I am not sure if that is the case. Are there are other religious groups left out? If the government is to facilitate dialogue among faith-based organizations, it would be important to be as inclusive as possible.

  • RetCombatVet

    I wonder how many in this discussion understand how criminal it is for our government to be supporting the so-called people of faith?

  • Arif2

    Which reminds me, will Turkey recognize its genocide? Obama on the campaign trail talked of a Genocide now he’s mum about it. Nancy Pel came out fighting but quickly fell silent after she was shut down. When people refuse to accept their own mistakes we cannot go forward. Keep religions out. Lets get Turkey to face up to their past genocide.

  • Maryann261

    What a piece of propaganda by Eboo Patel. Islam is still the same. It is imcompatible with the West. Retcombatvet, you are absolutely right . The government should not be supporting religions at all. The separation of church and state needs to be asbsolute. There is no successful country in which religion and the government mix.

  • coloradodog

    And were there any Baptists on the “Faith Council” If so, what did the “Faith Council” think of their silence over the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church.

  • coloradodog

    CCNL go soak your head in some holy water. We are sick of you cut and paste nonsense. My God grant you a gay child or grandchild to open you cold closed Catholic heart.

  • greystuul

    Mary Ann,

  • iamweaver

    Alltheroadrunnin (and Schmitt_fam), a simple perusal of the list of members of the “faith council” shows a pretty balances list of folks from both sides of the political spectrum, and from a number of faith communities AND secular NGOs. Just as the OP mentioned.There is a big change in the underlying philosophy, it seems, from the last to the present administration when it comes to juggling faith-based initiatives and the wall of separation. This administration seems interested in limiting its involvement to offering a “neutral ground” in which faiths can work together. It seems to be a reasonable use of governmental power, one with a decided lack of government preference for a particular faith (or no faith), but one that empowers concerned citizens to work together.