First of all, welcome to all the folks who may have heard about us for the first time via Verona Press. Hope you enjoy your visit here, and that you join us on Thursday, 8/28 at Gray’s. All the meetup details are here, and you can use that site to RSVP and let us know you’re coming. If you are new, feel free to get an idea of why we exist by visiting our introductory post.
OK, the August topic. Last Saturday night there was a televised Civil Forum on the presidency held at a California megachurch. Senators Obama and McCain were asked questions about their faith and beliefs, and how those beliefs would impact their policy decisions. It was an interesting discussion indeed, and you can check out the videos here.
Saddleback Pastor Rick Warren asked the questions, and in his introductory remarks, he said,
We [Saddleback Church] believe in the separation of church and state, but we do not believe in the separation of faith and politics. Faith is just a worldview, and everybody has some kind of worldview and it’s important to know what [a person’s worldview is].
So… what do you think about that? More specifically–
- Is separation of church and state important? Why or why not?
- What’s the difference between separation of church and state and the separation of faith and politics? Is Warren right that one is good and the other bad? Or are they the same thing?
- If faith is worldview and everyone has a worldview, and our worldviews are so drastically different, how do we have a civil forum about the things that are important to us in, say, a presidential election? Was the Saddleback forum helpful at all, or hurtful for our public discourse?
Part of me gets a little scared bringing politics into Gray’s–yes, newcomers, this is the first time we’ve touched on anything political. And this is not only a conversation about politics–it’s one about politics and religion, at the same time, of all things. But I think we can rise to the challenge of civil conversation, even on this topic. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Gray’s is about the big questions and how they impact real life. So, I’m more interested in talking about church/state, faith/politics than I am about the candidates of this election or the individual issues discussed during the forum. We’ll need to bring in the the specifics of the forum as we talk about whether the forum enhances or hinders national discussion in a pluralistic society. Beyond the big questions of church/state, faith/politics, and what kinds of forums enhance the national conversation in a pluralistic society, there are so many divisive issues that we could talk about related to the election, the candidate’s views, the specific topics discussed in the forums… and those topics can drag the conversation down. We’re going to have to be very disciplined to stay on topic. The official “big questions” for this week will be challenging enough. So let’s make an extra effort to stay on topic.
If you want to read some interesting perspectives on this topic, check out the site where I ripped off this month’s question. There’s some good stuff in there. Unlike Gray’s, though, it’s not exactly a conversation. It’s a bunch of people talking. For the purposes of discussion, if you read some of those posts, I hope you don’t walk away with your predjudices hardened and your ears a little more closed than they were before (an effect that website sometimes has on me). Rather, I hope the posts open your ears to the very different perspectives out there on the topic, so you’re ready to challenge and be challenged by the folks around the table at Gray’s.
See you there!