8 Stories of Faith and Moral Courage in 2018

2018 was a year that tested limits. We saw the continued rise of ethno-nationalism across the world, including deadly white supremacist violence in our own country and at our borders, broadside attacks against immigrants and the trans community, and a tax bill that funneled money into the pockets of the richest of Americans at the expense of poor people. While there were many obstacles, there were equally numerous signs of hope. People of faith and moral courage organized, stood in solidarity and lifted up a vision for a future that looks much more beautiful than today. Here are just 8 of the examples that come to our mind.

Poor People’s Campaign Brought Spiritual Fire
Over forty days this spring, the Rev. Dr. William Barber, an Auburn Senior Fellow, brought thousands to rally in Washington DC and state capitals around the country to fight for the rights of a livable wage, health care and sane environmental policies. Their national call for moral revival picked up the baton from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 50 years earlier. Hundreds of faith leaders reminded the country what it might look like to have a moral center and a heart beating for justice.

Pastors Reading Matthew 25 at DOJ Officials
Pointing out that the United States’ immigration defied the words of Jesus, pastors took to attending events with, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other DOJ officials and standing up to read out Matthew 25, with an emphasis on when Jesus warned: “When I was a stranger, you did not welcome me.”

Progressive Electoral Candidates With Deep Faith Commitments Made A Difference
Alexandria Casio-Cortez and Stacey Abrams are just two of the many candidates who had deep spiritual commitments and religious backgrounds and who cited those influences for their work for a more just nation for all. Other highlights included two Muslim women and Native Americans winning their congressional races. Beyond these candidates, hundreds and thousands of women reclaimed their moral courage in civic and public life by running as candidates, serving as campaign managers for other women, or organizing local Get Out the Vote efforts. Overall, the midterms were an extraordinary victory for diverse representation in Washington.

People of Faith Rallied Around The Tree of Life Community With Prayer and Action
The shooting of congregants at the Tree of Life Or L’Simcha community in Pittsburgh was a horrific reminder of the scourge of anti-Semitism that continues to ravage our country. Many people of other faith traditions responded with hope, and local and national Muslim, Sikh, and Christian communities delivered their own pledges of solidarity with the Tree of Life congregations and wider Jewish community in the weeks after the shootings. In the name of Tree of Life, organizers continue to challenge the white nationalism that motivated the attacks, demanding that representatives in every state disavow white supremacy and anti-Semitism

Faith Communities Protecting Immigrants Against Deportation
Across the country, religious and spiritual communities use their buildings and moral power to resist the inhumane deportation of migrants and the tearing apart of their families. Whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or Indigenous, these communities use several tactics to apply their most dearly held traditions and beliefs to the struggle against xenophobia. In protecting religious spaces and people, they are reclaiming the mantles of religious freedom and family values.

Interfaith Activists at the Border
From religious leaders protesting the government’s policy of stripping children from their parents to faith leaders working to reunite them, religious leaders have been showing up all year on the borders of our country to take a stand for a moral and sustainable immigration policy. Unitarian Universalists, Latter-day Saints, and Jewish organizers flanked immigration activists from Mijente at the Free Our Future action in San Diego this summer. This fall, Auburn co-organized a learning intensive and public witness in El Paso with seminarians and organizers from North and Central America. Faith leaders were arrested between Tijuana and San Diego and have been lobbying Congress for policy change. People of faith are now traveling to Texas for a creative mass resistance during Christmas week outside the government’s prison for migrant children. And Faith Communities Reuniting Families, a group including Senior Fellow Rabbi Stephanie Kolin and New Sanctuary Coalition, has been bonding immigrants out of detention and connecting local congregations with recently reunited and resettling migrant families.

#MeToo Goes To Church
Accusations of sexual harassment rocked churches large and small with several prominent clergy members being called out and stepping down. LGBTQ-inclusive progressive Christians and Jews organized social media awareness campaigns to tell their own stories under the banners of #churchtoo and #shultoo. A third campaign co-led by Auburn Senior Fellow Lisa Sharon Harper, Silence is Not Spiritual, encourages Evangelical women to challenge patriarchy within their tradition, and team members recently participated in a national ecumenical conference on sexual misconduct.

Preaching To The Royals, And To A Fallen Hero
Much of the world stopped for a few hours to enjoy the spectacle of the Royal Wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. What they may not have expected, but what they got was a rousing sermon about love by the Presiding Bishop Michael Curry of the Episcopal Church who brought some Black Church into the royal house which included lines like this:

“Think and imagine, well, think and imagine a world where love is the way. Imagine our homes and families when love is the way. Imagine neighborhoods and communities where love is the way. Imagine governments and nations where love is the way. Imagine business and commerce when love is the way. Imagine this tired old world when love is the way, unselfish, sacrificial redemptive. When love is the way, then no child will go to bed hungry in this world ever again.”

The preaching was bookended by another preacher, Auburn Senior Fellow, Bishop Gene Robinson, who preached at the interment at Washington National Cathedral of the ashes of Matthew Shepard in, who was murdered for being gay in Laramie Wyoming twenty years earlier with the Bishop saying:

“Gently rest in this place, you are safe now. Matthew, welcome home.”

We pray that even more people and movements with step up in 2019 and discover a moral compass that will guide our nation towards the more just future we all deserve.

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