In the Focus section of today's Daily News Journal (Murfreesboro's newspaper of record) Jerry Leith wrote a letter calling me out by name, and challenging me to stand up against religiously sanctioned violence, murder, and persecution. Amen, Brother Leith! Jerry and I had a brief email exchange, and I would like to accept and expand his challenge in the following ways. Since I have no idea what will happen to this idea, I thought I would share it all with you. If anyone wants to borrow it for their own communities, please feel free to do so.
I don't have permission to reprint Mr. Leith's letter, but you can find it on line at http://www.dnj.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2011110300314
After reading Jerry's letter I suggested we expand the issue this way:
First, the examples offered in Mr. Leith are limited to Islam, but all religions have violent elements and extremists who exploit them. I suggest our call for nonviolence be expanded to clergy and laity of all faiths.
Second, he focuses on Imam Bahloul, Rev. Watson, and myself; I suggest we broaden the call to include all clergy in Rutherford County.
Third, he focuses on this-worldly violence alone, and I think it is important to do away with violence in the after-life as well. Believing that God will damn and torture nonbelievers or differently believing believers in the next life makes it easier for lovers of this God to persecute, torture, and murder them in this life.
Mr. Leith generously offered to pay 50% of the cost of an ad in the DNJ. I will pick up the other 50%. Here is the text I propose we run:
“We, the undersigned clergy of Rutherford County, agree to immediately cease all expressions of violence in our religious organizations, theologies, liturgies, sacred texts, and sermons; and urge clergy and laity of all faiths to disassociate themselves from of any organization, religious or secular, that promotes violence in the name of God or as the will of God in this world or the next.”
If this is the ad Mr. Leith has in mind, I am grateful to him and his generosity, and honored to be the first to sign it.