American Civic Life

Running Thread: America, We Need to Talk

Group having a conversation. (Luis Alvarez/Getty)

Group having a conversation. (Luis Alvarez/Getty)

On February 7th, a cohort of interfaith leaders will embark on a new chapter of understanding as they begin Interfaith Foundations LIVE.

Through six weeks of live sessions and interactive coursework, we will create space to have the important conversations about faith, identity, and how we can use them to cooperate.  

We invite everyone to enroll, no matter their experience or sector. All participants will earn a Certificate in Interfaith Leadership along with learning valuable skills to bring interfaith dialogue and change to their communities. Last year’s participant Paulina Thurmann appreciated the space, saying, “The conversations I had here … to be in a room that’s so accepting and so gracious, to be able to offer feedback openly in a safe space, you just don’t come across that every day.”  

I believe spaces like the one we’re creating next month are especially critical given continued public conflicts over the roles of faith and our civic values.


Foundations of Interfaith Leadership LIVE

Practice the basics of interfaith leadership in real time, alongside other aspiring interfaith leaders, in six facilitated skill-building sessions.

Just recently, on January 17, the Philadelphia Flyers hit the ice to face off against the Anaheim Ducks. The Flyers emerged for warmups, but Ivan Provorov stayed behind as his teammates skated in rainbow jerseys to celebrate the team’s Pride Night. After the game, Provorov and his coach confirmed that his strong Russian Orthodox faith influenced his absence, which he interprets to conflict with the premise of a Pride night.

With newspaper front pages occupied with the conflict at Hamline University, the important nuances of the incident went undiscussed. Mainstream sport blogs criticized Provorov, and conservative media gleefully reported that the hockey player “schooled” reporters on religious freedom by refusing to give further comments. In a rush to pontificate, we have asked none of the important questions.  

Questions such as, how are drag queens’ and Colin Kaepernick’s rights to free speech intertwined with Provorov’s right to the same? How do we take each other’s traditions seriously, even when they come into conflict with our own values? In essence, how do we forge unity and mutual respect out of the most religiously diverse country in the history of the world? We’ll be listening to each other’s answers to these questions every Tuesday morning.  

With great wealth comes great responsibility, and America is home to the richest fabric of religious pluralism that the world has ever known. We have to have the tough conversations, meaningfully, proactively, and respectfully. We want as many people as possible to participate. To really, actually talk.   

Register for Foundations LIVE and read more about Paulina’s experience.  

We hope to see you soon.


Gracie Webb is a Program Assistant at Interfaith America.