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Within and among faith communities, divisions
indicate the need for ongoing conversations

The either-or mindset, win-lose dynamic and yes-or-no decisions that mark an election season will soon wind down, but the conversations that make for a democracy and solutions to the pressing issues of our time will continue.

Perhaps because we are not a battleground state, perhaps because of media I choose or perhaps because technology lets media tailor messages to my tastes, I have not been overwhelmed by negative ads and hate that I know are there.  Even in the final presidential debate each candidate voiced what they imagined to be the center.

Despite the intense divisions in the faith community and beyond on Referendum 74 about marriage equality for same sex couples, both sides were calling for people to love their neighbors as themselves and to love those with whom they disagree.

Discussions surrounding related issues on churches’ and faiths’ stances on homosexuality—membership, ordination, blessing ceremonies and marriage—have long divided the faith community.  The divisions are within the faith communities, as well as between and among them.

After intensive study and discussion, national and world denominations and faiths have developed a myriad of documents and resolutions.  National stances are online, compiled by at least two websites. 

Decisions by regional bodies and local congregations vary, depending on the governance style of their church or faith.

Unlike most other media, The Fig Tree does not endorse stands on issues or candidates.  We also do not publish political ads.  We circulate across many divisions in the faith community.  We do seek to educate by reporting on ministries and programs related to common ground among the faiths.

Father John Hightower, SJ, director of Gonzaga University campus ministries, opened the recent Take Action Against Hate Banquet of the Institute for Hate Studies at Gonzaga saying, “We need to see the dignity of the divine in the person sitting across from us.”  He added that even though there are two stories of creation, both say that all people are created in God’s image.

“If we are to act against hate, we must take to heart that we are to see the dignity of each person, and we are to love them, because we are loved.  We must not be silent to allow hate to raise voices,” Father John said.

Naomi Tutu, a human rights activist from South Africa, speaking at the YWCA’s Women of Achievement Luncheon in October, said in her work to eliminate racism she challenges the idea of being “color blind,” pretending not to see differences.  She said, “differences are opportunities to expand what we know of the world.”  She called for moving to a place where people celebrate differences.

“We are called to be courageous and step into places of discomfort and be willing to chat about what we know about ‘the other’ and ourselves,” Naomi said.  “We need to walk with courage and sensitivity into looking at our privilege and others’ oppression.”

Listening beyond the divisiveness over Referendum 74, The Fig Tree heard thoughtful comments coming from across the spectrum in the faith community. 

So we are sharing online some of the voices, expressing the call to love and to carry on the conversation in the spirit of love.  Online we are able to go beyond sound-bite summaries by pointing people to full statements, sermons and videos.  We can add to them.

So the yes-no decisions made on ballots will not end the issues or the discussion of them.  By giving access to resources to understand the faith concepts behind the varying viewpoints, we hope to help the faith community carry on the conversation in a spirit of love.

Mary Stamp - editor