Everything we do is tied to what we believe about the world and our place in it. Our beliefs are part of who we are and inform how we treat others. Thus, it is helpful to discuss faith and world outlook. By sharing a variety of religious perspectives, we hope to open our hearts a little more. Each month a different person will present their unique point of view. This means that we can all disagree with some things written in this column. When this happens, know that your voice and perspective are just as important as that writer’s perspective. Every religious tradition has a variety within it. So you may read something from someone in your own religious tradition that tells a different story than you know. We are open and eager for conversation. Let us know you’d like to be part of our community conversations (interfaith cafes) and we’ll make sure you’re invited to these quarterly get-togethers with people of diverse perspectives.
The Santa Monica Area Interfaith Council is made up of people who identify with a variety of faith traditions. We meet at least once a month for education, inspiration, fellowship and action. We learn the world from each other. We are discovering that some of our long held understandings of “other” religions are wrong. The Council also represents a variety of ethnicities, cultures, ages and abilities. We are discovering that the long held understanding of how life works is not true for everyone. We hope that through this section, you will also be able to make new discoveries. We believe that broadening our own perspectives strengthens our work to help create a more equitable community.
Our mission statement
“The mission of the Interfaith Council of the Santa Monica Area is to create a collaborative environment among people of all faiths in this area, through education, community activities and interfaith dialogue, which will promote peace and justice for all, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religious affiliation or belief, or other communities, and results in a better and safer life for all .
In carrying out its mission, the Board strives to:
• Promote the eradication of violence and prejudice of all kinds;
• Be a defender of human rights;
• Demonstrate resilience, selflessness, ingenuity and creativity at all times, especially when difficult circumstances may arise;
• Defend the dignity of the human race;
• Recognize the unity of humanity;
• Promoting ‘sincerity’, ‘integrity’ and ‘love and respect for all’ as basic standards of individual conduct;
• Support children, young people and adults in the realization of their spiritual, social, intellectual and material capacities; and to see themselves as protagonists in the positive development of society.
As we honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. this month, it is important that we, as the Interfaith Council, recognize the harm that religion has caused not only by strengthening white supremacy, but by actively working against the civil rights. The evil of white Christianity in particular was exposed on January 6, 2021. As Robert P. Jones (author of White Too Long) wrote of these events:
“These horrific events had value: they exposed the ungodly amalgamation of white supremacy and American Christianity that lives among us today.” He continues, “If at any point in American history, white Christians had said a collective ‘no’ to slavery, segregation, and overt discrimination, we could have ended these practices almost overnight. on the next day. We have clearly and repeatedly failed these tests.
Religion is important. Religion is relevant. It is being used to further enforce white supremacy, not just in the 1800s, but right now, today. Today, religion and hatred are skillfully used to organize against fairness. At a time when religious minorities, people of color, people with disabilities, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and women are belittled, objectified, and killed, believers and all who believe in justice cannot stand idly by. and continue to be part of the problem. We are called to challenge the status quo and dismantle the oppressive structures that support and embolden hate and create new community-led systems of support and compassion. When we sit comfortably on the sidelines, when we don’t get involved because it’s “too controversial,” we’re not living our core values. By “being kind” and “staying away” we enable some people to live their lives in fear. We tell black and brown and gay kids that their family doesn’t matter. If we don’t participate in eradicating hate and replacing it with love, we allow people with disabilities to be bullied and excluded. We take black parents away from their children. We encourage parents to kick their LGBTQIA+ teenager out onto the street. Let’s not do that! Sitting on the sidelines isn’t really sitting on the sidelines. He actively chooses to allow people’s lives to be destroyed.
We give thanks for the safe and courageous spaces in Santa Monica where people are supported, educated and empowered. My hope is that you find such a place, know that you are loved, and answer your call to do whatever you can to help others find such a place. All people deserve to be loved and treated with respect. It is up to all of us to realize it. Listening and working with people you don’t yet understand is a first step. That’s what we hope this column will do. We hope it will provide an opportunity for heart opening and insight into understanding.
The mission of the Santa Monica Area Interfaith Council calls us to work together to find new ways to live with love. We know many of you do too. Together, we will help create a fairer world.
Rev. Janet Gollery McKeithen, President, Santa Monica Area Interfaith Council, Minister, The Church in Ocean Park