A Leader Who Sees Religion Need Not Divide Us


Today’s RFL offers both an example of courageous leadership and a resource for enrichment. I’ve been following a leader named David Crumm. David’s been a journalist for thirty years, the last twenty as the religion writer for the Detroit Free Press. To me David models courage, because in his mid-50s he has left the rather staid, 20th century world of a big city newspaper, and the even more tranquil realm of religion writing – not to mention a regular paycheck – for the wild, wild west of the worldwide web. I am inspired and challenged as I see entrepreneurism spring from this unlikely place.

I am also enthused at what he’s doing at www.readthespirit.com. Religion has exploded – quite literally – into our mainstream worlds. Globally, we see religious strife in Myanmar, in Israel and Palestine, between Sunni and Shia, and the terrorism driven by extremist Islamists. Religion has become increasingly divisive – in American politics, and in religious sects themselves – where ordination of women and gay and lesbian leadership, abortion and stem cell research threaten to tear apart whole congregations.

David Crumm is disturbed by this, but he has responded with hope and wisdom. His site offers a place to learn, as he takes us from the obsession with what divides us to see and appreciate the overwhelming similarities we share. He offers interviews with Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, and Christians of all stripes and digests great books in the field, and invites us to read, pray, and participate in the dialogue. He has more than once made me say: How great to live in this time when my Catholic faith is enriched by – not threatened by – other traditions through which God has spoken in this world.

On my radio show tonight I’ll be interviewing Imam Hassan Qazwini, whom David recently featured. David’s review of Qazwini’s new book, American Crescent captures Imam Qazwini’s spirit, but I think he has also managed to give us a glimpse into his own open-minded, open-hearted optimism. Crumm writes: “Hassan Qazwini…writes not only to explain his faith to non-Muslims in an uplifting way, but also to critique American culture. And, in the end, he points out eloquently why he has such boundless optimism about Americans’ spiritual potential. He’s not talking about converting Americans. He’s talking about his pride and optimism as an American himself about our respect for cultural diversity and our desire to make faith an essential part our daily lives.” As Ramadan winds down, David Crumm points a way for us to learn and to heal division through understanding.

Perhaps it’s a book you might want to read as you

Lead with your best self,

You can listen to my interview with Imam Qazwini by going to www.Danmulhern.com and clicking on the radio icon to the bottom left. The show airs live from 6-7 PM, EST.

  • As a Catholic, and in the light of unity, not division, you may appreciate this excerpt from Pope Benedict XVI’s recent remarks at a gathering in Mariazell, Austria…
    “Certainly there are many great figures in history who have had beautiful and moving experiences of God. Yet these are still human experiences and therefore finite. Only HE (Jesus) is God and therefore only HE is the bridge that truly brings God and man together. So if we Christians call him the one universal mediator of salvation, valid for everyone and ultimately needed by everyone, this does not mean that we despise other religions nor are we arrogantly absolutizing our own ideas; on the contrary, it means that we are gripped by him who has touched our hearts and lavished gifts upon us, so that we in turn can offer gifts to others.”
    In another part of this speech he goes on to say, “We need truth. Yet admittedly, in the light of our history, we are fearful that faith in the truth might entail intolerance. If we are gripped by this fear, which is historically well grounded, then it is time to look toward Jesus as we see him in the shrine at Mariazell. We see him here in two images: as the child in his mother’s arms and above the high altar of the basilica as the cucified. These two images in the basilica tell us this: Truth prevails not through external force, but it is humble and it yields itself to man only via the inner force of its varacity.
    “Truth proves itself in love. It is never our property, never our product, just as love can never be produced but only received and handed on as a gift. We need this inner force of truth. As Christians we trust this force of truth. We are its witnesses. We must hand it on as gift in the same way as we have received it, as it has given itself to us.”

  • It is not faith or religion that tears the world apart but the extremists. They are so charismatic that they are able to convince their ‘sheep’ that it is right to be as intolerant and disrespectful as they are. We should never condemn any religion on the evidence of the extremists.

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