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Interfaith Inform: January 11, 2022
Kaufman Interfaith Institute


Interfaith Insight
Doug Kindschi
Director, Kaufman Interfaith Institute, GVSU
Responding to fear and division with hope
Whether you call it a terrorist attack on democracy, an insurrection, or just an angry group committing acts of violence, the events last year of January 6 were not a proud day for America. Can we just forget it and move on, or must we understand it more thoroughly in order to prevent it from recurring in the future? Either way the concern for our nation’s future is shared by a majority regardless of political affiliation. 
A CBS News poll taken in the closing days of 2021 showed that more than two-thirds of Americans believed Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol was the grimmest day for our democracy in recent memory. Nearly as many felt that our democracy and the rule of law is threatened in our country. Nearly 90% reported that intimidation, threatening people, physical harm, destruction of property is never acceptable to achieve political goals. Even more alarming is that over 60% expected to see violence in the future when a presidential candidate has lost an election. In spite of our divisions, these statistics reveal much agreement in our nation, both regarding our fears and in our concerns about what is never acceptable. 
Leaders from both parties decried the violence of Jan. 6, with former presidents Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush making statements connected to the anniversary of the event.  Former Republican Vice President Cheney joined the event in the House of Representatives recognizing the toll of the Capitol attack.   He commented that the current situation is “not a leadership that resembles any of the folks I knew when I was here for 10 years,” while serving in the Bush administration.
In the political arena there will always be differences, in policy, strategy, programs, and fiscal philosophy. These differences need to be debated and resolved in a healthy democratic forum that allows for compromise. When the differences lead to polarization and personal attack, the democratic process becomes toxic. It leads to an atmosphere of distrust and even hate.  Violence can unfortunately be the result. When an opponent is seen as not just someone with different ideas, but someone who is evil, compromise is not possible.
But is this the only option before us, as individuals and as a nation?  Writing before the events of 2021, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in his book Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times, calls for a renewed emphasis on the basic need to bring people together with kindness and respect.  In one of the book’s last chapters, titled “Morality Matters,” he reminds us of the small community of Gander, population 10,000, on the island of Newfoundland, Canada. Most of us never heard of this community until the events of 9/11 brought all air flights to a halt. Thirty-eight planes carrying nearly 7,000 passengers of 97 nationalities were forced to land at the Gander International Airport.
Exhausted, shocked, and disoriented passengers had no idea where they were or what would happen to them. Yet they were met with a surprising sense of welcome.  Food was provided, and bus drivers interrupted their strike to transport them to various shelters around the town in schools, churches, and community centers. Residents invited them into their homes so they could shower and refresh. They were given linens and toiletries, as well as toys for the children. Restaurants gave them meals while the phone company provided a bank of phones for them to make calls without charge.
One author described the residents of Gander and surrounding villages as follows: “For the better part of a week … they placed their lives on hold for a group of strangers and asked for nothing in return. They affirmed the basic goodness of man at a time when it was easy to doubt such humanity existed.”  
Sacks continues by reminding us that “we need each other” and “we care about one another.” He certainly affirms the role that religion has played over the centuries in reinforcing the moral principles like loving your neighbor, caring for those in need, loving truth, and respecting all persons made in God’s image. But he also sees morality as basic to being human. He concludes, “Morality matters because we cherish relationships and believe that love, friendship, work, and even the occasional encounter of strangers, are less fragile and abrasive when conducted against a shared code of civility and mutuality.”
In a world that seems divided and fragile, we maintain hope.
The challenges of COVID and its variants will be defeated with the help of science and dedicated health professionals. Our bodies will heal.
In the divisions of tribalism, reality and truth will prevail. The soul of our nation will heal.   
Morality begins with our caring for others, and it too, will prevail. 
RELIGION AND RACISM PART 4: Christianity and Native & Indigenous People

Monday, January 24, 6:30 - 8 PM

Join the Racism Task Force in participating in the Town Hall on Religion and Racism Part 3: Christianity and Native & Indigenous People

Click here for more information and registration.

For an archive of previous articles
click here.
For more resources on interfaith dialogue and understanding, see this week's Ethics and Religion Talk column hosted on The Rapidian.