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Finding a Way Forward: A Public Conversation on Our Politics and Our Religions

“The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state.” —Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Following a tumultuous election season, capped by the January 6 insurrection (laden with much religious imagery) at the U.S. Capitol, ICJS hosted a post-Inauguration program to address how the divisions of the past can be used to craft a more inclusive future. A panel of speakers including former ICJS Fellows and program participants Scott Adams, Tracie Guy-Decker, Josh Headley, Pat Shannon Jones, and Terrell Williams anchored the program by sharing how each of their religious traditions inspires their civic action.

In her opening remarks, ICJS Executive Director Heather Miller Rubens framed the importance of this discussion, saying, “Democratic foundations make religious pluralism possible, so any attack on our democracy is a threat to our interreligious community. And, in turn, the safeguarding of our democracy protects a shared interreligious future.”

Panelists spoke of social responsibility; B’tzelem elohim (literally “in God’s image”); repentance; truth, virtue, and justice; religious symbolism; and the need to come to terms with the past for the sake of the future. Across the board, panelists shared how reliance on religious tradition, scriptural understandings, and ethical imperatives inspired them to act in ways meant to create a better world.

“At its core, if we fundamentally internalize and embrace the idea that each of us reflects the divine, then our productivity is not our worth; our wealth is not our worth; none of the things that we put status on in society are actually our worth. Our worth is fundamentally just the fact that we exist as human beings created in the image of the divine,“ said ICJS Justice Leader alumna Tracie Guy-Decker. “As a recovering perfectionist, I struggle with this. I struggle with that idea that I have inherent worth.”

Following the panelists, participants had the opportunity to engage one another in more intimate discussions around the ways in which religious and ethical convictions continue to inform civic actions.