What can it mean to say that the Bible is 'America's book'?
Just what has the U.S. Supreme Court wrought?

Constructing foundations to rescue the American experiment

If the United States is to survive this stressful period of political, cultural, social, racial, religious and economic divide, it will need stronger, more cohesive institutions that can give us tools to implement the aspirational values expressed -- but never fully achieved or lived out -- in our founding documents.

We-need-to-buildSo this weekend I want to point you (and me) to a new book I haven't had a chance yet to read but that sounds like exactly the kind of map forward we need. It's written by a man I've come to know and respect for his ability to articulate the necessity of drawing on our religious traditions to find inspiration to listen to our better angels.

He's Eboo Patel, president and founder of Interfaith America, the new name given to the Chicago-based organization he founded in 2002, the Interfaith Youth Core. Eboo has been in Kansas City several times to speak in various venues. He also wrote an endorsement blurb for my latest book, Love, Loss and Endurance: A 9/11 Story of Resilience and Hope in an Age of Anxiety.

Eboo's new book is called We Need to Build: Field Notes for Diverse Democracy.

This Yahoo News article about Eboo's new book says this: "The path forward, according to Patel, is to recognize the power of religious faith, acknowledge that faith can be a force for good but also sometimes for ill, and build a culture that respects all faiths and solicits contributions from adherents of each." (Eboo is a Muslim.)

In that article, Eboo describes how interfaith connections increasingly are part of the American experience:

“Interfaith work happens in the United States all the time. Most people consider it positive. They just don't consider it interfaith work. When your grandfather is going through a triple-bypass surgery at a hospital started by Jesuits, with a physician team that is Muslim and Jewish, and the anesthesiologist is Hindu, and the person sanitizing the room is a Jehovah’s Witness, and the person who runs the hospital is a secular humanist who grew up Buddhist, that's interfaith work.”

He then adds: “Every single one of those people, their faith is involved in that procedure, because they're all literally all whispering the prayers of their faith or the hope of their humanist philosophy as they walk in.”

In many ways, something similar is happening in American families when it comes to internationalizing the connections they have. For instance, in the extended families of my three sisters and me, you now will find people of Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino and African-American descent, in addition, of course, to those of us of European origin.

For a long time, Eboo Patel has been telling people they simply need to tell each other their personal stories and to find how they connect. Those stories include faith commitments people make.

So let's get his new book and see if it can help guide us through this fraught era in our country, when many people seem to see religious, racial and ethnic diversity more a threat than a strength.

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More than two years ago, the Vatican made available to scholars many of its archived files describing how Pope Pius XII responded to pleas for help from Jews when Adolf Hitler's murderous Nazis were in power and were murdering some six million Jews. Now most of those files are being put online for anyone to read. Good. Precious little good can come of hiding history. And it's long past time that these and related files were made public.

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P.S.: The political, social, religious, racial and economic implications of the new U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade will be many and profound. I plan to get to some of them over the coming weeks. But for now, let's take a deep breath, actually read the decision and think about the most constructive path forward.

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ANOTHER P.S.: My latest Flatland column -- about a museum exhibit that shows the damage that the unfair and racist practice of redlining did to our metro area -- now is online here.


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