Something is afoot

I’ve been in an email conversation with Nathan regarding the Secular Cafe and our need to make some changes in what we do, when, etc. Nathan has indicated that a minister that he knows in town has expressed interest in having a public discussion with a panel made up of both religious and non-religious members. The panel would be moderated in some fashion and would be held at the minister’s church rather than in a more secular location like the library. At least this is the plan as I understand it based on feedback from Nathan. I’ve have suggested that I meet with the minister before we go any further so I can better assess what outcome would be expected from this activity and whether it would be consistent with our mission.

My hope is that the minister would not try to turn it into a debate and Nathan is of the same mind. He says the pastor isn’t planning on a debate either. However, it’s not clear what the role of theĀ moderator would be or who would act as the moderator. That is something to be clarified. At this point it sounds like members of the panel might make prepared remarks on some topic that could be very general or rather specific; nothing has been decided or discussed on that as yet. The moderator might then entertain questions from the audience and direct those to who ever seems appropriate on the panel and might also seek to limit the length of comments or replies or make sure that the speaker stays on topic. It would also be necessary to keep audience members from making speeches or preaching rather than being specific.

If this can be organized, it would be a very visible step into the light for GRAF and put us more squarely on the “radar” for the religious community. If it went well, I would hope that we could arrange similar events at other churches and make a stronger case that we can share in goals with the religious community.

Based on my reading of current blogs and viewing recent videos, a shared interest ought to exist in maintaining a secular society and acting to reinforce the separation of church and state. While that may seem in opposition to the religious agenda, it shouldn’t be that way. We need to remember that the separationĀ goal is for the protection of the churches as well as the non-believers. We both have a vested interest in keeping any particular faith from gaining an upper hand in setting government policy or in gaining permission to advance their particular beliefs against those of all the others. I think some churches lose perspective on this as they get caught up in the certainty that their’s is the only true faith and the only real christianity or whatever. Enlisting them as partners in advancing the separation issue would be a significant step and interesting if we can win any of them over to our side in this argument not because they have to give up their faith, but because they have to defend their right to have it as we have to defend our right to have none. Maybe we lose track of the importance of this for the faithful as well.

At any rate, I will post any updates on this effort as they become available. I haven’t met with the pastor yet, but will keep trying to make that connection until I hear that the deal is off. Post your thoughts and comments on this.

9 thoughts on “Something is afoot

  1. I’m wondering just why the apparent insistence on the church rather than a secular meeting area.
    I assume there will be further discussion tonight at the monthly meeting.

    • I don’t mind their church as a meeting place. It makes me feel invited and welcomed. Perhaps it is expected that there will be a greater chance of civility while sitting in a pew.

    • I explained further at the VFW that I think they want to present this as their event to the rest of the church community. Perhaps hoping for some prestige for being “brave” and a bit out in front somehow. If it were to go well, maybe the more liberal churches would act to bring us into their sanctuaries to keep up with the Presbyterians. I don’t think I’ll know much until I meet with the pastor, but it is fun to speculate.

      • I like the supposition that the Presbyterians might want to show their humanistic side to the rest of the community by inviting us for a panel discussion. This is why I think it’s a good idea to meet them in their own setting, as being invited. As you say, if it goes well, others may follow, and this would be a wonderful opportunity for us.

  2. I find this sentence of the utmost meaning for all of us: “Enlisting them as partners in advancing the separation issue would be a significant step and interesting if we can win any of them over to our side in this argument NOT BECAUSE THEY HAVE TO GIVE UP THEIR FAITH, BUT BECAUSE THEY HAVE TO DEFEND THEIR RIGHT TO HAVE IT AS WE HAVE TO DEFEND OUR RIGHT TO HAVE NONE.

  3. I ran out of patience waiting for the pastor to contact me and asked Nathan if it would be okay if I opened the conversation. Now I have to see how long my patience lasts waiting for Nathan to respond. Maybe I should kick off the dialog by being a pushy jerk with everyone? Good strategy?

  4. I think you’re kidding about being a pushy jerk! There are enough of those types around – another one is not needed. Patience is said to be a virtue. Never heard of jerkiness being a virtue. Well, who cares about virtues, anyway!!! Persistence through your patience might be the best strategy.

  5. Patience rewarded at least partly. Nathan got back to me after he attended the service at the church this past Sunday and said he was sure that the pastor was ready to go forward. I’ve written her, but haven’t heard back yet. Nathan describes the church service as mostly progressive and humanistic with only a few odd goddy things thrown in. I may have to go to a service myself to see it first hand. But I will wait until I have a face to face with the minister.

    I’ve started reading up a bit on the Presbyterian church and what they believe. Found it interesting that they seem staunchly in favor of separation of church and state on a level that most of GRAF would agree with. However, they didn’t mention where they stand on the parsonage exemption or the exemption from filing the 990 tax form required of all other non-profits. I’ve heard that churches of all stripes are fighting to keep their favored status on both of those issues since it hits them where the money is. I guess that’s to be expected. If you suddenly fined yourself having to pay on something you have always taken for granted, it can be tough figuring out how you will make it with less money or more public review of what you are doing with the money. FFRF is leading the challenge to those on the basis of being a 501-c3 themseleves.

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