Three Religious Views on Democracy, Faith and Common Ground
December 20, 2022
A new PBS Newshour/Marist national poll stated that 6 in 10 Americans have no confidence that Democrats and Republicans will work together in Congress.
83% of Americans think there is a serious threat to our democracy – an increase from 77% in July. As we move forward from this year’s midterm elections, our nation only grows more polarized. At Interfaith America, we believe that religious and ethical leaders can make a valuable contribution towards strengthening our democracy. We invited three leaders from our Vote is Sacred Thought Leaders Organizing Committee to explore the current pain points and opportunities in the aftermath of these midterms:
- Chris Crawford, Policy Advocate at Protect Democracy
- Dr. Dilara Sayeed, Founder of Illinois Civic Muslim Coalition
- Rev. Dr. Cassandra Gould, Senior Strategist at Faith in Action
Here are some compelling moments from the conversation:
Rev. Dr. Gould: One of the things that we (Faith in Action) realized through our work is that people just really want to be heard. We have been really forced into these binary constructs in the Western world, and so you know you are Democrat or you are Republican. You’re right or you’re wrong. There’s no middle ground, and I think what we are seeing, even by some of the challenges. These independent challengers who have created like runoffs in in Georgia. Based on the percentage of the vote that they took, we are seeing that this generation particularly is not adhering to these binary constructs. And so I think we have to be more imaginative than that, and we have to be more inclusive than that. And so I believe, particularly as a faith leader, that the more we are able to engage in conversations, conversations we often talk about. Oh, we want to find where the common ground is great, but we also actually have to listen here and acknowledge our differences and be able to actually appreciate the differences. We are not all the same. And so I think that particularly for people of faith during this time we have a really great opportunity to do some. To use John Powell’s language, to do some bridging, to actually allow people to have conversations with each other, to see each other right, so that we can be seen, so that we understand that everybody has something to say.
Dr. Dilara Sayeed: Our democracy was not doomed during this election, as we heard it could be. It certainly wasn’t also completely boosted because we didn’t have both sides come together for a holistic democracy. So basically, it tells us we have a lot of work to do, and I think the middle ground is where we need to amplify voices. Think of the independents and the young people that changed this election. It was the Gen. Z’s and the millennials who voted in troves because something they cared about was on the ballot, whatever that issue might have been for any of the sides that they are a part of. So we have to make sure we are amplifying and promoting the young voices, and this is exactly what interfaith America is all about, right? And then, secondly, the independent voices, and I say the young and independent together, because many times the young are pretty independent, they’re not identifying as a Democrat or Republican. They’re saying, You know what I’m going to go with finding out more about the candidates, I’m going to go with who I like, I feel good about, and or I learn more about, and who motivates me to be a better person and a better American.
Chris Crawford: I think the little piece that I want to highlight one of my big takeaways from this election was, I was humbled, and I think a lot of people in DC were humbled by this election, because I think we don’t give voters enough credit for the agency that they have. I think voters, especially the Independents, showed that our democracy is worth fighting for. Our institutions are worth fighting for. When you look at the different races statewide, and a lot of the swing States, the candidates who ran against our election system, undermining the results of the 2020 election lost. Casting doubt on our election system, they not only lost, those candidates ran well behind the rest of the Republicans, sometimes by double digits. I think there was a message sent that people actually believe in our democracy, believe in our institutions.
As we go into 2023, facing the one-year anniversary of the Jan 6th insurrection and the start of election season for 2024, there are many crosscurrents that could only further widen the divides we sit in now. More than ever, we need leaders like Crawford, Rev. Gould, and Dr. Sayeed, to continue building bridges across deep differences so that one day we may achieve all of America’s founding promises.
Jenan Mohajir is Senior Director of Special Projects at Interfaith America.
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