Wednesday, November 02, 2011

I wrote two weeks ago that I wished the presidential candidates would address the serious issues before our nation and world. Thank you for the reader response to that column, some of which asked that I write more. Below is more, some of it borrowed from a keynote speech I gave.

Politics is not primarily about campaigns or candidates or even elections. Politics is about the water you drink and the air you breathe and making sure both are clean. Politics is about children not going to bed hungry. Politics is about all of us having access to the health care we need. Politics is about people being at war or at peace.

Politics is about distributing economic goods and defining what property rights are. Politics is about determining what a crime is and how it will be punished. Politics affects the degree to which we can speak or write or even worship. Politics defines who will be accepted as members of a community and who will be placed in the margins. Politics even seriously influences how you raise your children by determining the circumstances of family life and, don't forget, establishing much of the subject matter of their education.

So, then, the question "should religion have a role in politics" is the wrong question. It does. Religion matters. A better question is how should religion and politics interact or relate? Religion has long been important to people who are concerned about politics, and politics have been important to the people who are most concerned about religion.

Let me say it another way. Those who are serious about politics must also take religion seriously and those who are the most deeply religious must pay attention to politics.

Throughout history, and perhaps never more so in this country than in the last 25 years, many different avenues have emerged for religious people to become active in politics. For example, some have portrayed their struggle for political power as the very essence of religious life.

At the other extreme, some religious folk have conceived politics as a summary of all the evil against which the righteousness of God stands. Both of these perspectives, while they differ sharply in the details, take politics seriously. So then, how should religion and politics interact?

If religious values are to influence the public sphere, they ought to make our political discourse more honest, more civil, and more spiritually sensitive especially to those without the voice and power to be fairly represented.

Recently, the increased visibility of partisan religion in politics has often made our political discourse even more polarized and even less sensitive to the poor and the dispossessed. You see, what is at stake here is not just politics; it's deeper than that.

In a way, it's deeper even than faith itself. At stake here is the very meaning of our life together.

I challenge, even reject, any political litmus test that distorts the independent moral conscience that faith can bring to politics.

I challenge those who want to undermine the integrity of any religious conviction that does not conform to some narrow ideological agenda. I am deeply concerned about the distortion of prophetic religious faith when wealth and power are extolled rather than held accountable and when more comfort is brought to those on top of society than to those at the bottom.

At the West Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, we are seeking to bring all of this and more to the table. It is the table where some families, at least, still gather together for a meal. It is the table that cements social and spiritual connections. It is the table of gathered loved ones that sometimes marks a reunion or a holiday celebration. It is the table where we have conversations sometimes light and lively and sometimes difficult, even uncomfortable.

When we come to this table, we see each other's faces, and we remind ourselves of the ties that bind us together regardless of our race, our religion, and our economic or social status. At this table, we rededicate ourselves to who and what we are meant to be. At this table, we have an opportunity to be thankful. At this table, new political visions can be born. At this table, we can see the possibilities for poor as well as rich that can bring us together.

Anyone can come to this table and if there are not enough chairs we will get some more. If there is not enough room, we will make the table larger. Even the shape of this table will change as we discover who we are and who we are becoming.
All of us, you and I, can find a place at this table. At this table, we will have some honest discussions and maybe even debates. At this table, we will share our resources - resources of time, energy, finances and connections.

Who knows, at this table, we may even laugh together or shed a tear. We will write letters, we will organize visits, and we'll study issues and do credible research. We will educate others and try, oh we'll try, to mobilize. We will advocate with and on behalf of those underrepresented. Some of us may support forums, town meetings. Some of us may march or do a demonstration.

You see, at this table we will remind each other and apply the lessons of David and Isaiah, of Jeremiah and Nehemiah, of the councils and teachers, of Jesus and his followers. The lessons of Gandhi and George Fox, of Rosa Parks and Saul Alinsky, of Martin Luther King Jr. and Oscar Romero, of Hussein Nasar and Martin Buber.

These are lessons that will teach us that new politics depend on all of us and on each of us. Each of us is like an individual trickle of water, which, when they come together, turn into streams and then merge and become rivers. And with enough energy and force these rivers can become mighty rivers, so mighty that they could have the power to shape or reshape the very landscape around them.

Today, our public landscape could use some new shaping. So let's create a new table. All of us, a whole bunch of little trickles, let's form together into streams that become a mighty river.

Let us join our voices with the prophet Amos and say let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fostering cooperation

My most recent column about interfaith cooperation, religious awareness and diversity. Comments are invited!

Friday, October 07, 2011

Nobel Peace Prize

Nobel Peace Prize Goes to 3 Activists for Women’s Rights and Democracy
October 7, 2011

Three women who have pursued a nonviolent path to advance women’s rights and democracy in Africa and Asia shared the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced this morning. The winners are Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia and Africa’s first democratically elected female president; Leymah Gbowee, who organized and mobilized women across ethnic and religious lines to bring an end to civil war in Liberia; and Tawakkul Karman, a leading activist for women’s rights, democracy, and peace in strife-torn Yemen. They will receive the prize, worth about $1.5-million this year, at a ceremony in December.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Sep 11, ten years later

10 years after 9/11, reflect and remember
by Nathan Day Wilson

Sept. 11, 2001, is personal.

That day, I was supposed to be in Washington, D.C., at a place not far from the Pentagon.

Instead, due to change in my itinerary, I was in a meeting in Charleston, W.Va. During a break in the meeting, my brother called. He was nearly breathless when he asked if I was in D.C. and if I knew what was happening. Since my answer was "no" to both, he fussed at me for the time he and my parents worried and then told me to find a TV immediately!

While watching replays of the first plane crashing into the World Trade Center, the 12 gathered around our conference table suspected that this was not -- as one TV commentator insisted -- simply pilot error; however, it wasn't until the second plane crashed that one person in our group uttered the word "terrorism."

That very moment -- the moment I heard that word and tried to process what it meant -- still sends chills up my back.

I received many calls that day from family, from friends, from colleagues, from the media. One call was from a religious leader asking me to help write a response to the terrorism. I said yes because of my respect for this person, but at that moment I was still in so much shock that I had a hard time imagining what we would say.

After (long) conference calls and reviewing multiple drafts over the next 48 hours, we had a statement to circulate. We titled the statement "Deny Them Their Victory: A Religious Response to Terrorism."

The excerpts below are as relevant today as they were 10 years ago:

"We, American religious leaders, share the broken hearts of our fellow citizens. The worst terrorist attack in American history that assaulted New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania has been felt in every American community. Each life lost was of unique and sacred value in the eyes of God, and the connections Americans feel to those lives run very deep. In the face of such a cruel catastrophe, it is a time to look to God and to each other for the strength we need and the response we will make. We must dig deep to the roots of our faith for sustenance, solace and wisdom.

"First, we must find a word of consolation for the untold pain and suffering of our people. Our congregations will offer their practical and pastoral resources to bind up the wounds of the nation. We can become safe places to weep and secure places to begin rebuilding our shattered lives and communities. Our houses of worship should become public arenas for common prayer, community discussion, eventual healing and forgiveness.

"Second, we offer a word of sober restraint as our nation discerns what its response will be. We share the deep anger toward those who so callously and massively destroy innocent lives, no matter what the grievances or injustices invoked. In the name of God, we too demand that those responsible for these utterly evil acts be found and brought to justice. Those culpable must not escape accountability. But we must not, out of anger and vengeance, indiscriminately retaliate in ways that bring on even more loss of innocent life. We pray that President Bush and members of Congress will seek the wisdom of God as they decide upon the appropriate response.

"Third, we face deep and profound questions of what this attack on America will do to us as a nation. The terrorists have offered us a stark view of the world they would create, where the remedy to every human grievance and injustice is a resort to the random and cowardly violence of revenge -- even against the most innocent. Having taken thousands of our lives, attacked our national symbols, forced our political leaders to flee their chambers of governance, disrupted our work and families, and struck fear into the hearts of our children, the terrorists must feel victorious.

"But we can deny them their victory by refusing to submit to a world created in their image. Terrorism inflicts not only death and destruction but also emotional oppression to further its aims. We must not allow this terror to drive us away from being the people God has called us to be. We assert the vision of community, tolerance, compassion, justice, and the sacredness of human life, which lies at the heart of all our religious traditions. America must be a safe place for all our citizens in all their diversity. It is especially important that our citizens who share national origins, ethnicity or religion with whoever attacked us are, themselves, protected among us."

We concluded the statement this way: "Let us make the right choices in this crisis -- to pray, act, and unite against the bitter fruits of division, hatred and violence. Let us rededicate ourselves to global peace, human dignity, and the eradication of the injustice that breeds rage and vengeance."

Ten years later, how well are we doing? Have we denied the terrorists their victory? Have we advanced global peace and human dignity?

Sept. 11, 2001, was a day of terrible tragedy. It was also day that we witnessed terrific acts of courage, compassion and commitment to a better future. Strangers became neighbors, thrown together by outrage, drawn together by concern. People of different races, religions, nationalities and even political parties remembered what is important in life: Each other.

Let's make this year a time to mark our progress, honor our first responders, remember courageous acts and, above all, work for peace for peace, not hostility, for all of God's children!

Wilson pastors First Christian Church, 118 W. Washington St., Shelbyville, blogs at and reads e-mail sent to

Sunday, July 24, 2011

PGC Basketball

Last week I was part of a very solid educational event -- about basketball. It was a PGC basketball course, and it was very strong. I recommend their courses.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Shelbyville IN City Track Meet

Congrats to all competitors in this past week's citywide elementary school track meet!

Read about it here.

View pics here.

See results here.

Congrats to all!