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Fundamentals of faith.

Faith doesn't come easily to me. I don't understand it, I have a hard time talking about it and I am puzzled by and sometimes envious of those for whom it comes more naturally. I'm somewhat at a loss about how to connect the relevance of faith to the "issues" we are supposed to deal with in these pages.

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But let me try. White religious conservatives--those who helped elect Bush based on their opposition to gay marriage and abortion, the "values voters" who rally around God, country and creationism--are the story of the day, the most sought-after sector of the electorate. Perhaps they most epitomize the zeitgeist of fear we are living under.

As people try to profit from that fear, religious consumerism is saturating public life, in everything from evangelical made-for-TV movies to religious self-help displays at Barnes and Nobles. And when it comes to governance and public policy, former Christian Coalition director and Bush strategist Ralph Reed happily proclaimed post-election that "the American people have always viewed politics through a prism of faith."

Should we hold the line in the midst of theological meltdown, try to secularize the conversation? Or should we leap into this holier-than-thou fray with our own definitions of morals, values and gods? How do we define who we are and what we're about?

To sum things up perhaps too tidily, the religious narrative appears to cast Christianity as individual salvation wrapped up in conservative intolerance, Islam as the enemy and all other Eastern religions as inspiration for hip accessories, fashion and entertainment trends.

In this issue, we hope to complicate that picture. Some of the stories look at the problems of political religion--the Christian Right movement's growth among communities of color; Hindutva and its transnational ties between India and the U.S.; and the Episcopal Church's internal struggle with homophobia and racism. Other stories delve into the very personal as well as political meanings that people find in religion, whether it is the post-Sept. 11 context for young Arab women embracing Islam or the cultural connections that motivate a conservative rabbi to recruit Latino Jews and immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean to find healing in Santeria.

Of course we need to go on exposing the destruction of secular democracy. I'm not saying that we should counter religious absolutism with our "weird spirituality," as one Southern Baptist pundit put it. Understanding the value of faith in life--that profound mystery, even if it's corrupted by televangelists and exploited by Karl Rove--is worth the effort for insight that gives our movement heart. Such is the spirit behind the final piece of our cover story, in which five activists share stories of struggle and faith.

"The evidence of things not seen, the substance of things hoped for."

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Author:Nguyen, Tram
Publication:Colorlines Magazine
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2005
Words:518
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