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Use our better angels to find unity, compassion rather than division, scorn

By Stephen W. Kinney
Special to the American-Statesman
The Rev. Stephen W. Kinney is the development director at iACT.

As a clergyman, I’ve been struggling with what it means to witness to my faith in God during a turbulent time that has exposed the unsteady foundations of American civilization.

Whereas my faith prevents me from taking sides in partisan ideological divides, it also forces me to ponder where and how God is happening in this world. My own faith tradition and the interfaith community that I serve keep reminding me that God is found in caring for people who are forced to live on the margins of life — the widowed, the orphaned, the homeless, the disabled, the refugee, the poor and oppressed.

I’m uncertain how to respond to all this. There is confusion, violence and compassion fatigue all around. As a country, we seem unable to partner with each other for the common good or for the sake of the other in need.

Indeed, as the gap between the haves and have-nots widens, it begins to feel like “survival of the fittest” in a zero-sum game that pits losers against winners and one tribe against another. When you win, I lose; when I win, you lose, and vice versa. It’s the worst kind of solipsism, and it cuts us off from each other in a never-ending escalation of rivalry, fear and violence.

Wisdom and faith traditions all over the world offer a more excellent way: This is the way that begins with the assumption that we are indeed our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers and that we need each other more than we could ever imagine. In a culture that idealizes the “come and take it” brand of American individualism, compassion for marginalized others often gets marginalized itself. How do we do good, together, in such a context? How do we foster social equality and justice for all, whereby there is more than enough to go around?

In this turbulent time, let us call out the better angels of our nature and rededicate ourselves to the unfinished work of building a more beautiful and equitable union. Let us open ourselves to the grace that enables us to share our gifts, rather than hoard them —true gifts are meant to be circulated and passed around to others. Let us call each other out of solipsism and into partnering with others. Let us learn to be more kind, patient, and open with one another. That, precisely, might be what it means to be a witness to God and God’s love for all.

Interfaith Action of Central Texas (iACT), the interfaith group I serve, keeps teaching me the dignity of difference and how our differences enrich rather than divide. iACT witnesses the beauty of being in community with folks who might not believe as I believe, yet who know how to work together for good.

Rev. Stephen W. Kinney, PhD, serves as Interfaith Action of Central Texas' director of development. Doing Good Together is compiled by iACT, interfaithtexas.org.

A Night Under One Sky: iACT's fall fundraiser

Featuring Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith and University of Texas professor of history, Dr. Daina Ramey Berry.

7 p.m. Oct. 19, virtually

interfaithtexas.org