Religions must ‘double-down’ on doing good, being civil, CORL leaders say during visit with church
‘I think that we have to realize that going forward, especially in a very polarized America, it’s going to take partnerships and collaboration to respond to the needs of society’
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During my interview with Monsignor Kevin Sullivan a couple weeks ago, I set my phone on the table between us to record our conversation. The screen lit up a few times with notifications, and when we were done he asked to see the image on the home screen.
When I showed it to him and explained that it was a 1950s logo for the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankee fan unleashed a zinger.
“Well, you should tell me that in the beginning because I wouldn’t have spoken to you if I knew you were a Red Sox fan,” he said.
We shared a good laugh, but I was still thinking about his answer to one of the questions I asked him and several other members of the New York Commission of Religious Leaders during brief interviews before their president and vice president met with the First Presidency.
The question was how they deal with what we agreed is a growing dismissiveness and disdain for religion among some on social media.
“I think very, very clearly we have to double-down as religious groups these days in doing good and helping and also engaging in civil discourse, even when the discourse can become uncivil,” said Monsignor Sullivan, who is the executive director of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of New York. “And when some of the hurt and some of the anger is directed against us, we have the obligation to not respond in kind. That’s our critical mission, right now, to make sure that we keep our dialogue civil.”
He barely finished that thought before he began the next.
“Now, that’s not the same as not having principles. That’s not the same as not being faithful to our beliefs. But you don’t have to shout, yell, scream or be outrageous to be faithful.”
The Rev. Que English said she was grateful that the commission had added a Latter-day Saint Area Seventy to its board because the collaboration had bolstered CORL’s ability to respond to political issues regarding human trafficking, to feeding the hungry and to addressing maternal mortality rates.
She said the commission’s interfaith work is “about our adherence to our faith and being able to be in tune with God’s heart — no matter what religion — to create the pathways to justice that we need to create for our people.
“And what does that look like? It’s not rhetoric. We’re not there preaching religion. We’re serving humanity through our religions that have trust and faith in God. It’s the God of the religion that’s motivating us, more so than our religion motivating us.”
The commission’s president said the interfaith commission is a model for how to heal division.
“I think that we have to realize that going forward, especially in a very polarized America, it’s going to take partnerships and collaboration to respond to the needs of society,” said the Rev. A.R. Bernard, CEO and senior pastor of the Christian Cultural Center.
He called religion the conscience of society.
“Religion brings two very important values to society,” he said, “the life and dignity of the human person and the common good, for which we are all responsible. We are our brother’s keeper.”
Then he asked the next question.
“How do we address the marginalized, the disenfranchised, what Jesus called ‘the least of these,’ the most vulnerable in our society, without those partnerships? Houses of worship on the ground, and government and partnerships within the religious community that should transcend our theological differences, understanding that we have a moral responsibility to all of humanity.”
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