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Interfaith Don't Talk Politics
Joyce Coop posted this comment during our show on religion and politics: In Yamhill County, we have a group (the Community Compassion Brown Baggers) of over 80 different agencies, churches and other organizations who work together to assist the less fortunate. We meet every Monday to share ideas (plan events, fundraising efforts, brainstorming solutions), encouragement and resources (TP, diapers, school supplies, clothing, blankets, emergency winter shelter, etc).
We work very well together when we keep the focus on unity – that which unites, rather than that which divides us. For this reason, we do not discuss theology or politics at our meetings.
You can read her full comment here. It was next up when we ran out of time. So I asked Kevin Palau to respond to several questions Joyce's post raised. He emailed his answers.
How much do you work with religious groups outside your evangelical Christian faith?
We have worked with other religious groups and traditions when it comes to serving the community. That’s an issue of working for the ‘common good’ which by its definition is about what unites rather than what divides us. I would say that by far the majority of our efforts have gone toward trying to build greater unity within the Christian community. Some may be surprised to learn that uniting 400+ Evangelical churches around service is a massive chore in and of itself, given the broad diversity (urban & suburban, house churches & megachurches, Pentecostal & Baptist) within this part of the community. We want to get our own house in order, so to speak… to be able to model that Christians are able to find broad common ground together.
Is your faith ever set aside, at least in immediate interactions, in your pursuit of good works?
In one sense I would say no, my faith (& that of many followers of Christ) is what informs and motivates my ‘good works’ and therefore it would be impossible to set it aside. If what’s being asked is “can you avoid directly ‘pushing’ your faith on others, or making people uncomfortable” , then I’d say absolutely yes. There is a time and a place to simply serve and be silent, and there are other times when it’s appropriate to answer questions or dialogue with people of other faiths or no faith. The churches we’re working alongside have genuinely served with no strings attached, take no government money for their service (Season of Service projects, I mean), and intend to continue doing so for the long haul.
How do interfaith efforts affect the way you talk (or not) with people about your own religion?
Interfaith efforts are wonderful ways to build greater understanding, and to be able to talk about our faith and other faith perspectives more respectfully. We’re often talking at and around each other without even taking the time to listen and understand the other person’s perspective. We live in a proudly pluralistic and progressive city and it’s vital that those of us who claim to follow Christ live out our faith in practical ways, without needing to be ashamed of what makes the Christian faith distinct. Many churches are actively looking for ways to intersect with people that are very different, and to be known for what we are for rather than just what we’re against.