Interfaith work and faith-based work is powerful. In an evening of interfaith learning and inspiration for organizers and activists in San Francisco, the very meaning of the term “power” drew our attention.
We read this quote – at first without knowing its source (Martin Luther King, Jr.):
I am not interested in power for power's sake, but I'm interested in power that is moral, that is right and that is good.
In response, one participant said that he continues doing justice work even though he struggles with power’s coercive element, wondering whether power can be exercised in a consistently moral way.
Another noted how a suspicion of power had given way, through faith-rooted organizing, to an unapologetic embrace of King’s concept, to seeing the potential for people to join in powerful community to assert the validity of interdependence and communal values, and hold decision-makers accountable.
As we talked about campaigns we’ve engaged in — organizing toward an end to mass incarceration, surveillance of the American Muslim community since 9/11, deportations, and mounting inequality — a theme emerged about the ways that interfaith work depends upon being rooted in our own traditions, and strengthens our commitment to transform injustice for everyone.
COR graduate Pastor Geoffrey Nelson-Blake, currently of the San Francisco Organizing Project, said “Interfaith is so important. I feel most 7th Day Adventist when I am in an interfaith setting.”
Miriam Grant, Bend the Arc Senior Jeremiah Fellowship Coordinator, talked about being raised grounded in Jewish tradition, with the philosophy that distinctions matter. “I was raised deeply Jewish, with my parents clearly asserting that how you get to the universal is through the particular — that through being deeply grounded in your own culture and tradition you can effectively join with others.”
A leading light from the secular Jewish world, Larry Bush, shared a complementary experience: “I don’t have a responsive spirit, don’t pray. But what do I know, who am I to say ‘There is no God?’ I do seek and act in community and that is deeply spiritual. I can’t let go of the idea that humans can find interdependence, transcend our ego selves.”