Leaders from diverse faith traditions and volunteer advocates meeting in Atlanta found common ground in urging personal integrity and service to others as the greatest safeguard of liberty and basis for national renewal.
Gathering at the National Symposium “A Call for Awakening,” sponsored by the Coalition for American Renewal, leaders drew lessons from the nation’s history and from stories of public service by private citizens moved by humanitarian concerns.
Quoting the American Founder Dr. Benjamin Rush, GPFF-USA President emphasized the “self-evident truths that formed the glue” of American identity. “It is common sense that families are important; everyone agrees that youth need our investment,” Mr. Flynn said.
“Without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.”
—Benjamin Rush, U.S. Founding Father
GPF education director Mr. Kevin McCarthy acknowledged that consensus is much more difficult today than in the eighteenth century. He noted the French observer Alexis de Tocqueville who, visiting the United States in 1830, remarked that Americans “combine the notions of religion and liberty so intimately in their minds that it is impossible to make them conceive of one without the other.”
Mr. McCarthy said that faith leaders have a critical “prophetic” function to hold public officials as well as citizens to moral and ethical standards of conduct, and quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., asked, “Where are the prophets in place to answer this role today?”
Religion has a divine focus and a civil focus, Mr. McCarthy said. “The role of the Coalition for American Renewal is to respect the legitimate differences in approaches to the divine, but to encourage men and women of faith to work together in civil society in the belief that peace, virtuous life and human welfare are pleasing to God.”
Ms. Barbara Metzler, an expert of volunteering, nonprofits, and philanthropy, demonstrated the innate capacity of Americans to express ideals of compassion and service. She cited growing levels of charitable donations among individuals and corporations, and the recent trend of “corporate social responsibility” that has led some of the nation’s largest corporations to include community service, philanthropic giving, and regional impact concerns to bottom-line focus on profits.
Additionally, she presented moving case studies of “passionaries,” her term for passionate social entrepreneurs, such as a young teen who wanted to give excess cafeteria food to a local food bank but was denied because of school regulations. With no accommodation from the principal or school board, he persisted until state legislation was passed to enable unused food to be distributed to the needy.
“The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.”
—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Examples such as these, what Center for Neighborhood Enterprise founder Robert Woodson calls the biblical “Josephs,” represent the inherent strength and glue of American society—tangible expressions of self-evident values that need to be tended and nurtured.
The “conversation needs to be changed” from salacious entertainment and divisive political rhetoric to life choices grounded in a spiritual vision and service to others, agreed symposium speakers.
The Coalition for American Renewal, a project of the Global Peace Festival Foundation, is calling on leaders of all faiths to awaken the American spirit and character, rise above political and other divides, and build an America that lives up to its founding ideals. For more information, visit www.renewournation.org.