Philanthropists and politicians: Religion is not a problem to solve, it’s a partnership opportunity

Caption: Photo by Claudio Schwarz/Unsplash/Creative Commons

By Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement |
May 10, 2021

Read the article at its source.

Earlier this week, Michael Wear released a provocative op-ed, calling on philanthropists and politicians to see the “hidden infrastructure” faith and religious institutions provide to the health and overall well-being of our communities and democracy. He asserts, “It is certainly within the rights of philanthropic and political institutions to ‘not do religion,’ but such an approach undermines any meaningful, holistic commitment to community or place-based humanitarian efforts in much of this country.”

One of the groundings that informed this call to philanthropists and politicians is Michael’s leadership as an advisor and analyst to PACE’s Faith In/And Democracy initiative. He has observed, firsthand, the work, power, and potential of faith to strengthen democracy, particularly at a critical moment for our communities and country. To Michael — and all of us engaged in Faith In/And Democracy — the infrastructure faith organizations and leaders provide is not so hidden.

For example, as we reflect back, the 2019–2020 grantees of the initiative were operating in an election and political climate that stirred up tremendous religious resentment and conflict. Despite that, our grantees were working to strengthen democracy and build bridges of faith between disparate communities, such as:

  • Neighborly Faith, an evangelical organization which promotes interfaith engagement and civic pluralism, reached hundreds of thousands of people with training and resources.
  • Two grantees, the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy and The Wisconsin Council of Churches/Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice ran voter engagement campaigns which worked with congregations across their states to support voter education and protection efforts.
  • Minnesota’s ISAIAH, a partner organization with Faith in Minnesota, was also involved in voter engagement efforts. Additionally, because of the trust-based relationships ISAIAH has built with congregations and diverse faith communities across the state, ISAIAH was also able to be responsive in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, and empower community members to advocate for justice and meaningful change grounded in their faith.
  • In addition to voter education and protection work, Faith in Indiana worked with religious congregations to dampen racial polarization and promote cross-racial political action. Through their efforts, 170 Indiana clergy received training as well as thousands of individual Indianans.

We wanted to share Michael’s piece with our community, both as a way to connect the work of the Faith In/And Democracy initiative to a broader conversation and to amplify an important call to consider.

Read Michael’s piece.

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