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Faith in Democracy The Why, What and How of Religious Social Action.

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Presentation on theme: "Faith in Democracy The Why, What and How of Religious Social Action."— Presentation transcript:

1 Faith in Democracy The Why, What and How of Religious Social Action

2 The Big Questions Why should people of faith participate in politics and policy? What aspects of public policy does our faith call us to address? How can local congregations become effectively involved in policy advocacy, and integrate it within the life of the congregation?

3 The ‘Why’ of Faith in Democracy? _____________ Why should people of faith participate in developing public policies?

4 What does our faith tell us about our role in community?

5 From Judaism: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself…What is hurtful to yourself do not to your fellow man. That is the whole of the Torah and the remainder is but commentary.” From Christianity: “A new commandment I give to you, That you love one another even as I have loved you… Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, for this is the law and the prophets.”

6 From Islam: “No one is a believer until he loves for his neighbor, and for his brother, what he loves for himself.” From Hinduism: “A man obtains a proper rule of action by looking on his neighbor as himself.” From Buddhism: “Full of love for all things in the world, practicing virtue in order to benefit others, this man alone is happy.”

7 From Taoism: “Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain; and regard your neighbor’s loss as your own loss, even as though you were in their place.” From Native American: “God is the Father, Earth the Mother. With all things and in all things, we are relatives.”

8 Who is our neighbor?

9 There are many neighbors that we never see.

10 In the United States, participating in democracy is one important way we ‘love our neighbors,’ especially those we never see.

11 American democracy is less than 250 years old. The Founding Fathers were deeply inspired by the vision of a society in which people governed themselves for the greatest good of all.

12 The history of American democracy since 1789 has been one of ever increasing inclusiveness, extending the rights and dignity of citizenship to all adults… men and women, whites and blacks, rich and poor.

13 This increasing inclusiveness was not only a political struggle - it was a moral and spiritual struggle as well. The movement to free slaves in the mid-1800’s drew on Christian teachings. The Civil Rights movement in the mid-1900’s drew much of its strength from churches.

14 We need our spiritual understanding to continue to guide us today in terms of what is acceptable inequality… and what is an ethical use of the earth’s limited resources.

15 In a democracy we all share responsibility for the public policies that structure our lives..

16 In the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus told of the Samaritan who went to help a man who had been beaten and robbed on the road to Jericho. While charity of this kind is an important way to love one’s neighbor, Martin Luther King challenged us to go beyond charity to justice -

17 “…one day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway.

18 …True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice that produces beggars needs restructuring.”

19 Biblical prophets spoke often of ‘righteousness’, meaning harmonious balance in all relationships, reflecting God’s intention that we live in peace and justice.

20 In a democratic society, ‘righteousness’ means that our public policies establish peaceful and just relationships among us all.

21 Thus, people of faith are called to play a role in developing policies that build a just and compassionate society. We cannot fully respond to Micah’s call to "do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God," without participating in the democratic process, in the shaping of the policies that structure our society.

22 The ‘What’ of Faith in Democracy _______________ What aspects of public policy in Texas are we called to address as people of faith?

23 Religious Policy Concerns Protecting Those Most Vulnerable Stewardship of Human and Natural Resources Economic and Racial Injustice Diversity Peace

24 Some Justice/Stewardship Concerns in Texas 15% of Texans make less than poverty level ($18,000 for family of four) - one of highest rates in U.S. One out of every three African American men in Texas is in the control of the criminal justice system. 23% of children under age of 6 live in poverty. 26% of Texans have no health insurance - highest % of any state in the U.S. Texas industries release more toxic chemicals than any other state. Texas leads the nation in global warming emissions. Texas has the lowest voter turnout of any state.

25 How Are We Guided in Policy Issues? Basic religious teachings Social justice teachings of denomination or other equivalent body Group study Historical experience Scientific studies Perspectives of experts on issue

26 Texas Religious Advocacy Organizations Texas Impact Baptist Christian Life Commission Texas Catholic Conference American Jewish Committee Freedom and Justice Foundation

27 Hallmarks of Religious Advocacy Collaborative but focused Rigorous Relational Pure but Practical

28 Examples of Consensus Justice Issues in Texas Gambling Healthcare Tax Fairness Air Pollution Wrongful Conviction Campaign Ethics Public School Funding Inmate Rehabilitation

29 The ‘How’ of Faith in Democracy __________ How can a congregation effectively influence public policy? How can faith advocacy be integrated within the life of the congregation ?

30 Faithful Participation in Democracy Means learn about the issues participate in the public policy debate express your faith values honor diversity of opinion work together with others in your congregation to be effective advocates

31 Options for Congregational Involvement Hold educational events for congregation Letter-writing (brunches, parties) Arrange meetings with legislators Use newsletter to inform congregation about key issues Sponsor candidate forums or other public education events

32 Suggestions for Building Effective Programs Get strong board support Create a committee on justice and advocacy Select a strong committee chair and active members Educate church members on why involvement in policy is vital expression of faith

33 Other Tips Make activities fun and social as much as possible! Keep church leaders in the loop Tie in issue education with other church activities (youth education, special holy days, etc.) Provide training in advocacy skills Build a biannual cycle of activities to match the Texas legislative cycle

34 Democracy All Year Long January, February, March Precinct how-to training Get-out-the-vote campaigns Candidate forums Issue forums Lobby events Briefings In-district events/ legislator access April, May, June Candidate forums Issue forums Recognizing and celebrating September, October, November, December Voter registration drives Precinct how-to Get-out-the-vote campaigns Candidate forums July and August Candidate forums Voter registration drives Local leadership development

35 IMAGINE… thousands of churches in Texas working together toward policies rooted in our deepest faith values of justice, peace, and love for our neighbors….

36 This is an opportunity for us to live our deepest values, guided by our faith, in a way that builds the society our prophets and spiritual leaders envisioned.

37 “Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.” Martin Luther King

38 For more information contact: Bee Moorhead Executive Director Texas Impact 512.472.3903

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