Second Temple-Church Conversation,
A question arises from the following statements: Religious faith is often personal, yet never private for religious faith while often personal is always public! Religious faith is concerned to promote good citizenship.
Question: On what authority, does religious faith address the concerns of the civic space?
In 2017 we will face the unpredictability of wide-ranging political change both at home and abroad. The question posed here and the statements upon which it rests will form the broad background to the second Temple-Church Conversation jointly hosted by St Martin’s Episcopal Church and Temple Beth-El to be held on Tuesday, January 24th at 7pm, Temple Beth-El.
As members of both Church and Temple, where do we locate the source of our authority to speak within the wider civic arena? What is our qualification to offer a constructive vision to address the alarming decline in civic literacy that has resulted in a loss of the concept of virtuous service to the common good as the foundation for our democratic traditions? How do we defend democracy in the midst of a sharp turn towards a political authoritarianism marked by contempt for truth-telling and personal accountability in political life?
Many in the secular society question the validity of the faith perspective, challenging our right to speak at all beyond the boundaries of our communities of faith and practice. In a secular space that no longer accepts the existence of the spiritual dimension in human affairs, our confusion about whether our faith is private or public results in our lapsing into silence. In our engagement with wider society, this silence or muting of our faith voice has only strengthened a tendency among progressively minded Christians and Jews to define ourselves as secular humanists – good people doing what good people do. Yet, to define ourselves in this way is to downplay our allegiance to God who is active in human history and human social affairs; God is a very public god.
Jews and Christians are joint participants in the unfolding story of a god named YaHWeH who heard the cry of a people in order to free them from bondage. We are constituted by this core historical experience out of which, YaHWeH-God invites us to live together according to a covenant, i.e. a set of mutual promises that has profound implications for our social, economic, and political lives. As we confront the issues of our own day this story offers profound implications for the way we see the world. It is here we must relocate the source of our authority and energy for engagement with others in the pluralities of our shared civic space.