In our first virtual community, we welcomed faith leaders and the media to join us for a conversation about faith and the national election.
Father Peter moderated the discussion and welcomed the panelists:
• Tiziana Dearing, host of Radio Boston on WBUR
• J. Bryan Hehir, the Parker Gilbert Montgomery Professor of the Practice of Religion and Public Life at the Harvard Kennedy School
• Dr. Jonathan Sarna, the Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History and Director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis University
• Reverend Dr. Debora Jackson, Director of Operations at All Girls Allowed, a faith-based, non-profit organization that is committed to restoring life, value, and dignity to women by providing resources that promote healing and wholeness
The evening began with a presentation by the Pew Research Center, which looked at how people from different faith traditions tend to vote and what their vote meant to them as an expression of their values. The discussion then turned to the panelists who covered a myriad of topics, from single-issue voting to the impacts of systemic racism. Each panelist discussed the beliefs of their own faith tradition and its approach to politics. Commonalities included working towards a more just world by supporting societies and social contracts that prioritize the common good of all.
When asked about single-issue voting, Father Hehir remarked that the moral vision of Catholicism is based on the dignity of the human person, how a society protects human rights, and promotes human dignity. He made the point that the model to be followed is not to focus on one issue, but to consider multiple issues and how they related to each other.
Much of the discussion focused on the concept of the common good, making the point that all faith traditions encourage a just society in which the needs of all are met and prioritized. This idea is applied to voting and politics when voters chose to support policies and candidates whose positions are not self-serving.
Dr. Jackson said: “Our challenge is to be able to help people see through the eyes and lens of their brothers and sisters so that we have a just and equitable society. We give up something for the benefit of others.”
Father Peter made the point that we are living in a time of moral crisis, pointing to systemic racism, social unrest, the climate crisis, and the coronavirus pandemic as examples. Dearing addressed the solution as a return to a society that accepts and encourages love as a way to find commonality. Discussing systemic racism, Dr. Jackson and Ms. Dearing both encouraged people to be find courage in discomfort and vulnerability, to see through one another’s eyes, and to learn about our country’s racial history without seeking affirmation from others.
“This is a moment, if you are white, to sit with discomfort as you examine the history of race in this country,” said Dearing.
The evening ended with a discussion about how to live faith in action.
“Live faith in action by voting,” said Dr. Sarna. “It is a time to act. If we want to live our faith in action, we will turn out. It is our right, it is our obligation, it is the way we put our faith to work.”
You can watch the full discussion online here.