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Friday, November 30, 2012

United Methodist Church Panel on Politics and Religion

Politics and Religion:
A Discussion on the Role Religion Played in the Recent Presidential Election

November 29, 2012 12:00-1:30 PM
Panelists: Sam Hodges, Jeff Weiss, Derek Jeter and Mike Ghouse
URL: http://us5.campaign-archive2.com/?u=f39de1c5273648e9a4297c0e1&id=a99ed23aa9&e=5ea40fdbce

Note: due to time limitations; I am pleased to record just a few random notes from event, If I get the time, I will elaborate on each panelists take. 

A few highlights:

Jeff Weiss shared how the candidates Santorum, Bachman and Gingrich had defined themselves in sectarian terms, while Sam Hodges shared the movement of the society towards secularization, and Derek talked about the bubble Republicans lived in. My take was the trend towards pluralism, and that this election has firmly established the separation of church and state. 

Jeter spoke about the position of the evangelicals and we all discussed about the fears and phobias of each group, the fear of evangelicals to see the world move towards sinful societies, a violation of God’s covenant. He and I carried the discussion further about how the conservatives in Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and others want to hang on the covenant. I can see the safety and clarity of that position. He was open to seeing it from a pluralistic point of view as well, meaning the same scripture is viewed differently by the liberals. 

It was a great honor for me to sit between Jeff and Sam, both of whom I have come to admire for years. Jeff was a recipient of the Pluralist Award for his equal opportunity criticism of faiths while Sam is also a recipient of the award in 2011 for this drive to present another point of view. The awards are bestowed at the annual Unity Day event. www.UnitydayUSA.com
My talking points (not sequences or written in sentence format) written earlier, but not shared as written, most of the conversation was in response to each other’s comments.

We think you should plan to have a short opening statement about who you are (2-3 minutes only please   and then be ready to answer questions from the group.

I was born and raised in India and chose to be an American some two decades ago. The most attractive thing about America is freedom, the personal, social, business, religious and cultural freedom. It’s near absolute freedom except where the public safety is concerned. Freedom is the most cherished value for me, it means questioning everything, including my own belief, and why I do or don’t do things.

I was raised in a Muslim family like millions of other Muslims, and when I was a teen, I chose to be ir-religious, however, there was not a religious place I did not visit or participate, and people’s faith amazes me. I remained an Atheist for nearly thirty years and about 15 years ago I chose Islam to be my religion, let me be clear, it could have been any religion, all of them provided the same value; to find peace within and peace with what surrounds.

 I have made some outrageous statements to the orthodox folks - that my religion is not superior or inferior to any. If it is superior, it amounts to arrogance and arrogance is the mother of all evil and conflicts. Religion is about humility.

My mission is pluralism - that learning to respect the otherness of others and accept the God given or genetic uniqueness of each one of us, if we do that, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge.

Much of my work is linked to some 5 sites, and 30 blogs on each topic at
www.MikeGhouse.net  Thanks to Dallas Morning News, Huff post, Washington post, Hannity and sanity… for giving me the opportunity to express my thoughts.

I am committed to building cohesive societies, where no one has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of the other. My book will be out by Christmas and movie will be done next Christmas.

Where do we draw that fine line between church and state in the election process….for instance, if a church paid for billboards with political messages, or endorsing a specific candidate, should they lose their non-profit status?

Church is about faith, governance is about living with each other
First amendment
Non profits political orgs.. Where you don't even disclose the giver
Are we assuming all members of the church vote the same way?
Why should a pastor coerce an individual to hide his political identity to majority?
Big donors to sway? Isn't that a loss of freedom and democracy?

Where's the freedom?
Shouldn't that be an individual decision!

The purpose of nonprofit status was to give a break to smaller churches so they can attract donations… I kind of liken it to the Sherman anti-trust act which It prohibits certain business activities that reduce competition in the marketplace

How does the rise in social media change the dynamics of religion and politics? How should churches react to political messages posted on their Facebook pages by church members?

Social media had taken over religion...
Posting should be with disclosure... That it was a pr firm, no way to monitor...
I have personally crossed my own lines a few times... I was the only one, at times, and felt it was unfair to Romney...even though I was not voting for him..

How successful were religious groups during this election cycle (nationally and/or locally) …. are there any measurable statistics?

Very successful, all were driven by fear
-83% Jews, 95 Muslims, African 96, Latino 73%

The glbt was not an issue at all... The ones opposing are ones giving votes
There is a Trend towards pluralism... Separation of church and state in practice

What can we (as church communicators) do in the next four years to prepare for 2016? Will religion be more of an issue or less?

Keep state out of church
Same sex marriage, contraceptives, Sharia, question the politicians if they know the stuff to oppose or support an issue

Religion will not be an issue in 2016, the ones who bring, stand to lose, 2010 was an Anomaly...
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We have a great panel that will discuss the role religion played in this latest political cycle.
How did the various groups use religion as a positive marketing piece for a candidate? Or was it used as a negative weapon against a candidate? Did religion really play a role or was it just used to deflect attention?

Bring your questions about politics and religion and challenge our panel of experts in this arena!

Event Details
When: Thursday, November 29
Time: 12 noon to 1:30 p.m.
Where: Christ United Methodist Church, 2801 Valwood Parkway, Farmers Branch
Cost: $15 and includes lunch.
RSVP: Email or call Deb Christian, dchristian@umr.org,  214.630.6495  x147

About our Panel:

 Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker, writer, initiator, organizer and mediator committed to building cohesive societies, and offering pluralistic solutions on current issues. Mike is a frequent guest on Fox News, “The Hannity Show”, and on nationally syndicated Radio shows including Dallas TV, print and radio networks, and occasional interviews on NPR. Mike is a member of the Texas Faith Panel at The Dallas Morning News and writes about issues facing the nation every week. He writes for The Huffington Post regularly, and occasionally for Washington Post and other daily newspapers and magazines around the world. Mike has published over 1000 articles on a variety of subjects.

Derrick Jeter has dedicated his professional life to challenging honest skeptics and seekers to wrestle with the most pressing questions regarding the life of faith and the preservation of liberty. After his undergraduate work at UT and receiving a master’s degree from Dallas Theological Seminary, Derrick began a public speaking consultancy, working with business professionals and politicians. Derrick is also the author of two books published by The Jeter Press: A 911 for 9/11: Finding Answers to the Evil of September 11, 2001 and O America! A Manifesto on Liberty.

Sam Hodges, a managing editor at the United Methodist Reporter, has had a long career in newspapers, including reporting on religion for the Dallas Morning News. While at the Mobile (Ala.) Press-Register, he won a George Polk Award for a series on scarcity of dental care for poor children. He has won several other awards, and was a journalism fellow at the University of Michigan. He’s the author of a published novel and co-editor of a published book of his great-great-grandfather’s Civil War letters.

Jeffrey Weiss is a weekly columnist for Real Clear Religion, and a longtime reporter and blogger for The Dallas Morning News. He was previously general assignment reporter, and social services reporter for The Dallas Morning News, and a regular contributor to the late Politics Daily. He has also reported for The Miami Herald. Weiss was awarded second place in the Templeton Religion Reporter of the Year award, and Schachern Award for Best Religion Section by The Religion Newswriters Association, as well as a contributor to the piece that won the Wilbur Award for Best Religion Section by The Religion Communicators Council, in addition to many other nominations and honorable mentions.

We are extremely thankful to Christ UM
C in Farmers Branch for being such a gracious host to our organization, but we would love the opportunity to visit other organizations throughout the DFW area. If your organization would be interested in hosting RCC for a luncheon in 2013, please contact Andra Dunn at programs@dfw-rcc.org for more details.

Our goal for the upcoming year is to grow our organization and inspire religious communicators in the metroplex in their ministry of telling the story of their organization, engaging their audience, and shining their light even brighter in a world that is hungry for positive and uplifting messages.

Mike Ghouse

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