Published on 9/21/10 at Dallas Morning news
In these hard times, religious groups in America are joining other nonprofits in answering the much greater need for charitable assistance. But was Coffin right that people of faith tend to favor charity work over justice work, because the latter leads to conflict? Should churches, synagogues and mosques rely less on their parent religious organizations for policy pronouncements and demand that local clergy preach on, say, whether Dallas should raise property taxes to keep parks and libraries open, or whether Texas should have gone after the potential millions for public education through federal Race to the Top funds?
Charity or justice. Which should be foremost in the minds of religious folk as they live out their faith?
And here’s what I heard back:
MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas:
Charity or justice reminds me of the chicken or egg example.
Charity comes alive in response to social and economic injustices that happen in a given society. If the societies operate on the principles of justice in every aspect of life, then charity may remain a dormant element. However, there is something beyond all this that operates within all of us.
I have learned about the “grace” aspect of Christianity from the Rev. George Mason of Dallas’ Wilshire Baptist Church. He explained that our actions alone will not bring peace of mind (or a place in heaven). There is an inexplicable element of grace from God that operates beyond visibility. I have gradually absorbed that thought and have also learned to relate it with Prophet Muhammad’s advice to his associates not to be judgmental about others. He said only God knows and sees the goodness of a person in its entirety, beyond what is apparent to the society. The invisible grace also overwhelms the laws of Karma.
As an American, charity remains foremost in my mind, as justice is the bottom line of our society and ultimately triumphs. However, in other nations justice may be foremost – for the absence of it.
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MikeGhouse is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. He is a professional speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, civic affairs, Islam, India, Israel, peace and justice. Mike is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he contributes weekly to the Texas Faith Column at Dallas Morning News and regularly at Huffington post, and several other periodicals across the world. The blog www.TheGhousediary.com is updated daily.