•   Interfaith Dialogue

WASHINGTON POST: Obama task force: Consult religious groups more on foreign policy

Screen shot 2010-03-08 at 12.50.26 PM Among the major recommendations of the task force on inter-religious cooperation is to involve religious communities more in the making of American foreign policy. According to Dalia Mogahed, an advisory board member who is on that task force and also runs Gallup's Center for Muslim Studies, that means both religious leaders abroad and domestic ones. This theme was also sounded earlier in the week by a group of mostly faith leaders called the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, the idea being that U.S. foreign policy is governed without enough understanding of religion.

I asked Joel Hunter, an evangelical mega-church pastor from Florida who also sat on the group, what's new about this philosophy (of pushing for more interfaith work)? How will the average American notice anything different from the pro-interfaith vibe that's been lauded and talked about by religious and political leaders for years and years?

Hunter said the difference is that, for decades, "interfaith" was viewed as a liberal idea, largely consisting of (in the minds of skeptics) sitting around talking about your faith and papering over the profound differences between competing truth claims.

Today's interfaith, Hunter said, doesn't seek those interactions, but rather finding shared goals dissimilar faith communities can collaborate on, such as decreasing poverty or boosting health care. More socially conservative types - Hunter was nominated in 2006 to be head of the Christian Coalition, though he wound up stepping down - can and do embrace this vision, he said.

"I don't want to get into a lot of homogeneity," he said Friday.

Among the most significant recommendations of the task force focused on economic recovery, according to National Council of Churches President Peg Chemberlin, who sat on that group, is its urging of the White House to redefine the guidelines used to measure poverty. The current measure, she said, is too reliant on the cost of food, which Chemberlin said has become less accurate.


  •  Back to Articles