WASHINGTON (RNS) — Within the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attacks — the put Christian symbols and prayers were on plump expose — can faith quiet be a power of solidarity and goodness in The US?
That’s one of several questions undergirding a digital event on Thursday (Jan. 13) hosted by Vanderbilt Divinity College and that comprises two grand Episcopalians: the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, and Jon Meacham, a Pulitzer Prize-worthwhile creator who assists President Joe Biden with speechwriting and serves as canon historian at the Washington National Cathedral.
The pair sat down nearly with Religion Data Provider earlier this week to talk regarding the event, the Jan. 6 insurrection and their tips on the role of faith and politics.
This interview has been edited for readability and size.
Jon, each and every you and Bishop Curry participated in events on Capitol Hill closing week to establish the one-year anniversary of the insurrection that took put of abode there on Jan 6, 2021. Religion was a relentless at some stage in that attack, with many participants seen lifting religious and in most cases Christian symbols, singing Christian hymns and praying Christian prayers as they assaulted the seat of American democracy. As a historian, how did you contextualize that moment in American historical previous?
Meacham: Spiritual faith in the American journey has given us some of our most attention-grabbing hours and some of our worst. I instruct that is entirely unsurprising.
The name of the gospel, the dedication of the Hebrew Bible, is to like God, to like your neighbor as yourself. That’s the threshold of each and every our religious journey and our democratic one — lowercase d. If we demolish not observe each and every other as neighbors — as in opposition to adversaries — then democracy doesn’t work. And I’d argue — and right here might per chance presumably very successfully be farther than Bishop Curry would want to transfer on this — I’d argue as a consequence of this fact, moreover, faith doesn’t work.
I’m sure there’s some theological concerns there. But faith has justified enslavement. It has justified subjugation. It has justified imperialism. It has moreover inspired liberation, reform, creativity and justice. So I instruct right here is fundamentally — that design democracy and my explore of my possess faith — a human project that ought to quiet be undertaken and then in a roundabout scheme judged by the diploma to which we transfer into closer solidarity with the beliefs that come down to us in the religious custom.
On this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo, a person holds a Bible as Trump supporters bag inaugurate air the Capitol in Washington. The Christian imagery and rhetoric on explore at some stage in the Capitol insurrection are sparking renewed debate regarding the societal effects of melding Christian faith with an exclusionary breed of nationalism. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Bishop Curry, you gave a sermon on Jan. 6 closing week the put you talked about not only the presence of Christian symbols at the insurrection, but moreover your deserve to reclaim Christianity. What are you hoping to reclaim it from, and what demolish believe the work of reclaiming appears like piquant forward?
Curry: The canon and I are on identical page. The fact is we’re reclaiming what I’d suggest is legitimate faith relationship with God.
The Bible — the Unique Testament in explicit — is so sure. In John 1, it says, “You can presumably not worship the God who that you just can’t observe ought to you demolish not worship your brother or sister who that you just can observe.” In Matthew 25: “While you did it to the least of these, who are participants of my family, that you just can possess executed unto me.” There’s a readability, that worship of neighbor — not partaking with the opposite as the opposite but as my brother, ought to it’s seemingly you’ll per chance presumably — that is at the coronary heart and soul of the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. And ought to you peel abet to what Moses was getting at in the Torah, in each and every Leviticus and Deuteronomy, and what the Hebrew prophets built on — that worship of God, worship of neighbor — is seen as the core and the essence of what the religious project is about when God is at the center and after we’re not.
That’s the most succinct and lovely definition of God — I favor you to display camouflage right here is an Episcopalian quoting the Bible — John Chapter 4, verse 7: “God is worship,” interval, exclamation point, no extra debate, no extra discussion about that point. Now let’s trip and apply it. I occur to believe that’s what ought to quiet be reclaimed, which is the legitimate teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. What ought to quiet be reclaimed is the legitimate stare of the Hebrew prophets, the legitimate stare that was pointing previous self to the God, as I mentioned, who is worship. When we reclaim that, then we demolish not possess Christian symbols stale for abominate, bigotry, placing any one or any human child of God down, as a consequence of they’re a child of God.
The premise of your upcoming yelp collectively is that faith in most cases is a source of solidarity and valid for society. Where are you seeing these sources of solidarity, the circumventing of division and rancor which were so clearly on expose over the final few years in religious contexts?
Curry: They are in every community.
There are food banks and food functions and hunger advocacy functions. … There are native urban ministries, rural ministries, that strive and each and every support of us who are in need, but moreover strive and advocate for the abolition of the need for that need.
I’ve been half of coalitions which possess brought collectively Christians of more than a couple of persuasions — evangelicals, megachurch pastors, mainstream Christians comparable to Episcopalian, the Presbyterians — round concerns with trendy subject, not for self-curiosity, (like) a child tax credit so we can create poverty historical previous for any child on this country.
That’s occurring regularly, on occasion in soundless ways that don’t create media tales, necessarily, but they’re occurring regularly. They might per chance presumably name it mission work. They might per chance presumably name it outreach. Some might per chance presumably name it justice. But it’s occurring regularly. It’s staunch in churches, it’s staunch in synagogues, it’s staunch in mosques.
Spiritual of us in actuality are making a difference in the landscape of our fact. It goes unnoticed extra in most cases than not, as a consequence of it’s commonplace. It’s what they demolish.
Meacham: I take hope from every little thing the bishop mentioned, from what Edmund Burke known as “the runt platoons of of us.”
My model for Christian stare, biblical stare in the public area, is John Robert Lewis. He suggested me for years that he was on that bridge in Selma as a consequence of the Bible. That’s not as a consequence of he was a Democratic congressman — the partisan mark doesn’t apply right here. It was regarding the use of religious stare, religiously inspired stare, to know the promises of a doc — the Declaration of Independence — which is right away secular and theocentric.
We’ve lived in power with religious imagery, religious faith, for the explanation that starting up, and I in actuality believe that as a consequence of it’s a long way an ambient power in the lifetime of the nation, as a consequence of it’s an ambient power in the lives of so many of its voters, that we don’t possess any more than a couple of but to study out to manage and marshal that feeling. To extra fully realize the promise of that declaration. You can presumably not legislate faith out of the public square; neither ought to quiet it be exalted.
Supporters of President Donald Trump build up a trip inaugurate air the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Photo by Favor McNamee/Getty Photos)
There are of us who advocate for an even brighter line between faith and politics — something closer to the intention stale in France — as a consequence of faith is merely too unfavorable of a power. But you’re arguing that not only ought to quiet one not strive and plan that brighter line, one arguably couldn’t, yes?
Meacham: Fully. My presumably overly facile design of placing it — but I instruct it — is we must separate church and stammer, but we can’t and arguably ought to quiet not separate religiously inspired principles from our political lifestyles. I instruct church and stammer and faith and politics are four varied things.
Meacham: It goes to what motivates a citizen. It’s powerful less complicated to listen to a sermon from a sinner than a saint, which is a valid ingredient given the relative share of the two in the inhabitants. What’s the person’s incentive? To correct merely order “demolish the fitting ingredient as a consequence of it’s the fitting ingredient” is … I don’t observe that as in particular effective. So that you just’re making an strive and incentivize it. And faith, I instruct, creates an incentive that ought to you are doing the fitting ingredient, you are in accord with a custom that, at its easiest, is regarding the opposite and never yourself.
Bishop Curry, RNS has lined your participation in protests, and it can per chance presumably per chance seem you support a the same space. But how demolish you envision navigating that intersection of faith and politics or the separation of church and stammer?
Curry: The professor is suitable. I at closing grew to change into ordained as a consequence of … On the time I didn’t use the language of a design of name, but that was what was occurring. But, I was moreover headed in direction of a trajectory of the likelihood of laws school and going into authorities service. Now, I can dispute you the the same Michael Curry was going to transfer either design. Section of that reason at the abet of going into public service is I was raised by folks who in most cases mentioned that half of your job as a Christian, as an individual of faith, as our child — ought to you might must strip all that away. As like my daddy stale to train, “The Lord didn’t build you right here correct to delight in oxygen. You might per chance per chance presumably very successfully be in actuality right here to contribute, to create a difference. Now you pick how you’re going to demolish that.” And daddy stale to train, “I don’t care what world of endeavor you enter into, but how you demolish it.”
So if Michael Curry had change into a politician, the inducement for doing it was going to be this faith that was in me, that was given to me. I occurred to change into a preacher, a clergyperson. (But) it’s the the same motivation, the flexibility. It’s the explanation I arise in the morning.
But when faith seeks to dictate itself as the model in society, that wall of separation must exist — so all of us can possess freedom of religious expression, so none dominates the opposite. What did (Meacham) order? There are four of them, and these four are very varied. All of them possess their put of abode. Church and stammer ought to quiet be separated. But faith, in the person, can’t be. It’s not doable.
Meacham: It’s like making an strive to separate economic pursuits — you correct can’t. So moderately than pretending a design or the opposite that we can, and thereby developing frustration, I order correct roam thru the front door and correct order, “Survey, we’re all sophisticated creatures. We come to the public area, we step out of our homes, we carry, as the bishop was announcing, our family background, we carry our partisan inclinations, we carry our geographic inclinations and diverse us carry a sure religious inclination.”
The duty of citizenship is finding the moral steadiness, but finding the moral share for every and every of these components in how we enlighten ourselves publicly.