TEXAS FAITH: How far should religious institutions go in defining the common good?

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How far should churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious institutions go in helping define the common good? I am pleased to offer the pluralistic solutions on the issue at Dallas Morning News in its weekly column.  

MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas

The idea of common good began when man figured out a way to live with his enemies or perceived enemies, and went hunting for food without worrying about the safety of his family.

What did the subsequent religious leaders do? They reconstituted precisely what the hunters and gatherers had learned. They created societies where no one had to live in discomfort, apprehension or fear of the other.
When Moses came down from Sinai with the tablets, his unstated goal was to restore trust in the society through orderly conduct. Krishna emerged to reinstate dharma (righteousness). Jesus wanted to redeem the lost souls. And Muhammad revived the message of Abraham, of one common creator and accountability for our Karma.
Buddha taught that one can achieve freedom through self-regulating. Guru Nanak saw the commonalities between Hindus and Muslims on the basis of Seva (service). And Bahaullah taught the oneness of humanity. Of course, the Native Americans had set a fine example of sharing knowledge among various tribes for the common good.
Deviously, even the tyrants had similar goals, but went about it the wrong way. Whether it was Hitler, Bin Laden or others like them, they did not grow out of their animal within them. Rather, they believed in creating a homogenous society by annihilating those with whom they differed. They did not try to establish dialogues and find solutions.
The kind of politics we choose may reflect the insecurity in us. We can pull down the religion from its pristine level of loving and caring to competing, asserting and ceaselessly confuting the other. Most of us wake up to the thought that religion is about humility and not arrogance.
It is time to consciously uplift our religions to serve the common good of humanity, as they were intended and taught by every prophet, messenger, spiritual master or the peace maker.
Religious leaders can converge on the notion of one nation under the creator, and get the politicians to see it. Together, we can work on the idea of pledging allegiance to one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all. Isn’t that what God wants?
Issues like abortion, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, gay marriage, anti-Mormonism, anti-idolatry, racism and misogyny are indeed difficult and divisive. They also have become fodder for politicians to take advantage of. If we, the religious leaders, can pave the way for the future by learning to respect the otherness of others and accept the God-given uniqueness of each one of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge.
Why should anyone stand up for you, if you are not willing to stand up for others? Some of the Texas Faith panelists have taken the lead in this original but lost idea of standing up for others. They wrote and spoke out against the negative attitudes towards the Ground Zero mosque and anti-circumcision bill in San Francisco. They stood up for Catholics for their rights about birth control, Fred Phelps demonstrations against Jews, immigrants and LGBT communities and most of the other divisive issues. That is the leadership the nation needs.
As religious leaders, we have the responsibility to keep God above us and not become gods and judge others for what they believe and how they worship. If we can learn to respect the God-given uniqueness of each one of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge, and the common good takes root.

To see the take by all the panelists, please visit Dallas Morning News at: http://religionblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2012/05/texas-faith-how-far-should-hou.html

….MikeGhouse is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. He is a professional speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, civic affairsIslamIndiaIsrael, peace and justice. Mike is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he contributes weekly to the Texas Faith Column at Dallas Morning News and regularly at Huffington post, and several other periodicals across the world. The blog www.TheGhousediary.com is updated daily. 

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