So, a group of local clergy walks into a community media station…it sounds like the start of a joke, but rest assured it’s not. More like, a sign of the times.
For the past seven months, I’ve been talking to people about how COVID has impacted their lives — how it’s changed their business, their operations or services, and their lives. As I’ve also mentioned many times during this course of this show, it’s not just a global pandemic we’re weathering--2020 has been a highly complex year, one where layers are being peeled back on institutionalized racism, where fear and scarcity loom large, and where divisiveness seems to be the order of the day. In short, we’re a highly stressed populace.
It was with their own awareness of all of this that a group of local clergy/faith leaders approached me and asked for some time on KDRT. Together, they have submitted a letter to local media, titled “Toward a “More Perfect Union: A Statement on the 2020 Election from the Davis Area Interfaith Religious Leaders Network.” Five members of this network joined me to talk about the intersections between faith, democracy, and their shared religious values of equality, justice, and the promotion of the sacred dignity of every person. In the face of what they are seeing among their own congregants, they felt called to speak out more widely.
The text of their letter is below, and the image is something that Anne Kjemtrup, Coordinator for Muslim DEIN, addresses during the course of the interview. She is joined by Beth Banks, Senior Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis; Seth Castleman, Rabbi, Mindful Moment Meditation; Pamela Dolan, Rector, Episcopal Church of St. Martin, and Sara Tillema, Director and Campus Minister, Cal Aggie Christian Association.
We recorded the show last week on Zoom. You can listen to the show today at noon on KDRT or anytime at KDRT.org, and we’ve edited on my segment last week with Bobby West of Davis Firefighters Local 3494, to give another shoutout to their virtual Fill the Boot effort this year. The show airs live at noon on KDRT, or anytime at kdrt.org.
Toward a “More Perfect Union”
A Statement on the 2020 Election from the Davis Area Interfaith Religious Leaders Network
Religious communities promote and protect our democracy
The religious traditions we represent are born of visions and values for human life that inspire our strong advocacy of American democracy. Over the centuries our people have offered creative insights and energies to help our nation move toward “a more perfect union.” We believe that a thriving democracy is essential to ensure that all persons are not only “created equal,” but are treated equally and welcomed to contribute to the creation of a society where “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are “unalienable rights” for everyone, without exception.
Our democracy faces many challenges
This fall, many Americans feel anxious about the future of our democracy. Our long tradition of absentee and mail-in voting has been maligned. Foreign powers are maliciously influencing the election. Voters are challenged and often intimidated at the voting booth. And we face the likelihood of an unprecedented delay in receiving the final election results. We are at a critical moment in American history. We feel many things: concern, confusion, helplessness, anger, and reactivity.
We summon our communities to involvement
As leaders and representatives of Davis-area religious communities we affirm our nation’s commitment to the separation of church and state. But we will not relinquish our role as independent and non-partisan voices, calling our nation to rise toward higher moral and political ground than we’ve known recently. Further, we draw now upon our spiritual visions and values as we summon our faith communities to full involvement in our democratic process.
What you can do now
We urge our communities to vote, pray for our nation, build bridges between us, remain calm in the face of conflict, practice non-violence, work for the common good, and demand that our political leaders, through whatever means are necessary, support and protect a fair and free election process, and ensure every vote is counted. These commitments are not partisan; they are deeply patriotic. They are integral to our common religious values of equality, justice, and the promotion of the sacred dignity of every human person.
Our network supports solidarity near and far
As we look toward and beyond November 3, 2020, we, as a religious coalition, are strengthening our network. No one knows what lies before us politically. And so, our network is working now to foster the kind of local solidarity, stability, and plans for action that will help us all contribute constructively to the democratic future of our city, state, and nation.
Fear is real but need not render us passive
We acknowledge that there are things to be afraid of. Anxieties are not unwarranted. A shift toward an authoritarian state, the meddling of foreign powers, the infringement of voter’s rights, are all of grave concern. In addition, it’s essential that each of us acknowledge the emotional and physical effects of the compounding crises we’re experiencing. Hold to your faith. Draw upon all that is good in you and in others. Care for yourself and your neighbor. Remain vigilant in doing good.
Let us rise and carry each other toward a “more perfect union”
We Americans are still shaping the democratic vision born on our soil in the latter part of the eighteenth century. It isn’t perfect. It’s still growing. It faces serious challenges today. But we believe our nation’s best days are before us. And we believe that we are all called by our common humanity to help guide our nation toward a “more perfect union”—yet unrealized—a union that requires each of us to help carry it one more step toward what it can still be.
Be strong. Be kind. Stay together. We can do hard things.
Brandon Austin, Pastor, Davis United Methodist
Beth Banks, Senior Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis
Seth Castleman, Rabbi, Mindful Moment Meditation
Pamela Dolan, Rector, Episcopal Church of St. Martin
The Rev. Casey Kloehn Dunsworth, Pastor, The Belfry Lutheran Episcopal Campus Ministry Erin Edwards, Pastor, Live On Purpose Community Church
Hamza El-Nakhal, Coordinator for Muslim DEIN
Eunbee Ham, Pastor, Davis Community Church
Anne Kjemtrup, Coordinator for Muslim DEIN
Morgan McLean, Minister for Congregational Life Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis Chris Neufeld Erdman, Pastor, Davis Community Church
Daniel Smith, Lutheran, Pastor, Church of the Incarnation
Sara Tillema, Director and Campus Minister, Cal Aggie Christian Association
Greg Wolfe, Rabbi, Congregation Bet Haverim