Saturday, December 21, 2019


Many Paths Galesburg
Bruce Weik & Peter Schwartzman

     Conventional wisdom has it that you should never talk about religion or politics in public. But our faith, one of our strongest personal assets, and today’s many political crises, both need some public discussion. What we believe, and how we carry it out, as individuals and a nation, are at this moment in our history, both in need of examination. And that is just what we did, on Dec. 12, at the Knox County Brewing Company. That night, Many Paths Galesburg recorded our fourth live podcast, with a panel of five persons from the community, who were willing to talk about their faith. Defying the odds, we had a civil, responsible, inclusive, and entertaining discussion about how our faith intersects, and interacts, with the common good—that sense of binding solidarity that draws us, all of us, together.
     With Christmas just around the corner, and Galesburg being vast majority Christian, we focused, as anticipated, on Christianity, although as we learned, many of the prominent religious faiths are represented in Galesburg as well. We also identified many who consider themselves spiritual, but not necessarily associate with any particular religion or church. These people tend to their spiritual needs by connecting with nature, visiting inspirational places, meditating, doing yoga, or, simply, gardening.
      For many Christians, their past resides in the fact that the Jewish people fled Egypt, freeing themselves from the Pharaoh and his system of scarcity (little freedom, little food, little family time). They fled to the Promised Land, and received rules by which to live together and be good neighbors. Abundance could be found through devotion to God and commitment to one another. (Walter Brueggemann, Journey to the Common Good).
     As it happened, Christ entered the picture, whose birthday Christians celebrate on Dec. 25th. He was not born into privilege, but arrived in a stable, with dirt and animals and filth. It was the commonness of this birth that is most overwhelming. He was eventually to challenge the leadership of the Jewish people and the Roman government. His existence would be conflictual and eventually lead to him being hanged on the cross for sedition. This horrific act was executed for arguing that we should be inclusive, emphasizing the common good, being a good neighbor, and preaching the apocalyptic message of total devotion to God, not man.
     In response to Christ’s actions, Christians are were moved from a place of bondage, scarcity, submission, and blind obedience, to a place of abundance, hope, freedom, the common good, and the promise of community and inclusive, caring neighborhoods. This is the promise of Christmas.
    While there are many other faiths present in Galesburg, too many to give proper attention to in such a short column, it is important to remember some things when we practice our faith. First, we need to acknowledge that other faiths exist and can coexist with yours/ours. If we are going to tackle the challenges humanity faces right now, people of different faiths are going to have to work together. The panel reminded us how important it is to seek out people of other faiths intentionally, as a way of learning from one another and as a way of harmonizing our communities. This need for the deep respect of others, without judgment, also comes from different sects of Christianity. Apparently, all too often, a minor difference in faith leads to significant schisms between peoples. This breeds hostility and disharmony and must be avoided at all cost. Lastly, traditional organizations of worship should regularly challenge their own faith by looking at their actions and ensuring that they are consistent with precepts of their faith. Sometimes this process leads to new actions. However, sometimes, the precepts of one’s faith may need to be reinterpreted so that necessary actions (such as feeding the hungry) remain part of one’s commitment to the larger community as well.
Our next podcast will be January 23, 6-8pm, at the Knox Brewery. Our topic will be celebrating Galesburg music, both from a promoter’s point of view, and the artists’. All are invited.

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