Fulwider 12-12-2012

My Word: We need harmony in our national house

Fulwider, Bryan(Orlando Sentinel, December 12, 2012)

By Bryan Fulwider

Recently, a crowd gathered to dedicate a new Habitat for Humanity house in Altamonte Springs. It was a first — a joint project involving Christian churches, Jewish synagogues and Muslim mosques, appropriately called Harmony House.

At the dedication, spiritual leaders from participating congregations shared blessings from their sacred texts and offered prayers. When Congressman John Mica handed the Miller family the key to their new home, he assured them that it must be the most “blessed” house in the region.

Penny Seater, executive director for Seminole-Apopka Habitat for Humanity, suggested to the congressman that if people from diverse faith traditions could work together to accomplish such a task, polarized legislators in Washington needed to follow their example. I agree.

The philosophy statement of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida provides an approach that serves as a road map for interfaith ventures. I believe it has positive potential for politics, as well. The statement begins with these words:

“The United States is a nation of great diversity. Our population represents nearly every region and religion of the world. Such differences can erect barriers, stir up prejudice and create social tension. But such differences can also endear and enrich. The Interfaith Council of Central Florida seeks to harness the positive potential.”

The statement goes on to acknowledge that we often have sharp differences in our beliefs, and that we even explain life’s ultimate realities in vastly different ways. Sometimes, not unlike the political world, our claims may be mutually exclusive — yet, we agree to disagree, respectfully, as friends.

We acknowledge that despite our disagreements, we share a significant array of core values. The key is the commitment to highlight and rally around such values that are socially, morally and spiritually important to us all. The new Harmony House is but one example, and I believe an important symbol of what needs to be done in the national house of our country.

Whether it’s religion or politics, agreeing to disagree isn’t a problem when we choose to do it respectfully, as friends, always careful to safeguard our prime goals. In politics, these goals are to ensure that this great nation is truly indivisible and that it does indeed provide liberty and justice for all.

The Rev. Bryan Fulwider is a fellow at the Winter Park Institute at Rollins College and president of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida.