ATLANTA—More than 130 faith leaders from throughout the United States gathered in Atlanta on September 20 for a national symposium, “A Call to Awakening,” inaugurating a grass-roots movement to renew national ideals and answer the grave social divisions and crisis of values that threaten America’s future.
The symposium, sponsored by the Coalition for American Renewal (CAR), a project of Global Peace Foundation (GPF), had speakers from diverse traditions who defined the challenges but also clarified the extraordinary resources for renewal that are inherent in America’s founding and historic experience.
“America’s founding documents established a model of groundbreaking importance, acknowledging the Creator as the source of our inalienable rights in the Declaration of Independence, and creating a system that recognizes the primary authority of the people in the Constitution,” wrote Global Peace Foudnation Chairman Dr. Hyun Jin Preston Moon in his written remarks read by GPF President Young Jun Kim.
“The Golden Rule appears in different language in every faith tradition. No matter what we think or what we say we believe, what we do is our real religion.”
Dr. Hyun Jin Moon’s remarks continued, that “self-evident truths” referenced in the U.S. Declaration of Independence have defined America’s unique contribution to religious freedom, economic innovation, and principles of governance. Dr. Moon included those “forgotten pilgrims” who arrived here by coercion and survived centuries of bitter oppression by faith in the Christian promise of liberty, justice and equality” in the narrative of America’s spiritual heritage. “Their faith carried them through the trials and tribulations in pursuit of that promise, in the process forming the deep and varied spiritual heritage of this nation.”
The symposium drew prominent civil rights figures, ecumenical leaders, and nationally recognized urban innovators. Rev. Robert Thompson, Chair Emeritus of the Parliament of World Religions, said that contrary to some interfaith perspectives, all religions are not the same. “The Five Pillars of Islam are not like Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths or Judaism’s Ten Commandments—but they come from the same source. As when we gaze into a prism, when we look deeply into the colors we find the unity in light. This is evident in the Golden Rule, which appears in different language in every faith tradition. No matter what we think or what we say we believe, what we do is our real religion.”
Rev. Thompson movingly quoted the Trappist monk Thomas Merton who, when visiting Louisville from his Kentucky monastary, “was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers.… Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts. If only we could see each other that way all the time, there would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed.… I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other.”
Dr. Gerald Durley, a long-time pastor of Atlanta’s historic Providence Missionary Baptist Church and civil rights leader, gave a fiery address, recalling the era when he couldn’t use the bathroom, the drinking fountain, or board a bus reserved for white people. “Do I want to renew my history?” he asked. “Then I realized that this was not America. This was a few ignorant people living in America.
“Today when I visit our community I am sad beyond imagination. America is in the intensive care unit. We are suffering a deadly disease, and honesty, truth and integrity is the chemotherapy.”
Bishop Douglass Chesson, a senior pastor in Haverhill, Massachusetts, reflected on the growing coarseness of society in which “offensive language is no longer condemned, opinions of others are rarely listened to, unborn children are sacrificed for the irresponsibility of parents, and the entertainment industry elevates immoral standards of behavior.” A Pentecostal minister, the bishop said he was attending to find common cause to address these great challenges. “There needs to be a sense of urgency in order to change,” he said.” Never forget that our mission is to change hearts and minds.”
Coalition for American Renewal Co-Chairs Dr. Robert A. Schuller and Dr. Paul Murray called this is a “defining moment” in the nation’s history when people of faith must confront the challenge of a political culture that has left a crushing financial burden on future generations; provide principled guidance to our youth in a cultural environment that is openly hostile to values of faith and family; and restore respect and dignity to institutions of faith that have been marginalized and fallen into sectarian division. “If there was ever a time in history where the voice of leaders of faith and conscious is needed in the public square, it is now.”
For more information on the Coalition for American Renewal, visit renewournation.org