April 27, 2023 | by Hallie Fryd
In the United States, much of the conversation around faith is dominated by conservative voices, voices that often argue for policies that restrict the rights of, or hurt the people in our communities. Through Progressive Voices of Faith, Pacific School of Religion (PSR) seeks to amplify the faith-based perspectives of progressives on politically and culturally relevant issues.
This month we asked the PSR community about how their vocational and spiritual goals connect with PSR’s mission: to prepare a diverse cadre of spiritually rooted leaders with the vision, resilience, and skill to create a world where all can thrive.
What does a world where all can thrive look like? A common thread that arose was viewing all people with love and fellowship and taking responsibility for each other’s wellbeing.
Current student Elizabeth Preston described a world where “quality of life increases when the fundamental human needs of everyone are met. Thus, an individual’s quality of life would not increase by earning wealth…instead, quality of life would increase by knowing that one’s neighbors are safely and securely housed, have medical care, are safe from random violence, and are food secure.”
Doctor of Ministry student Chynaah Maryoung-Cooke agreed, describing a world, “based on the African Philosophy of Ubuntu which states, ‘I am therefore we are; we are therefore I am.’” Saying, “It is necessarily the ways in which we engage and communicate with one another as human beings that the plausibility of thriving might be possible.”
Murry Evans, PSR’s VP of Enrollment added, “At PSR, we believe that when those on the margins of society thrive, everyone thrives. Our tagline, ‘Unafraid since 1866,’ speaks to our commitment to fearlessly stand up for justice and equity through the lens of progressive Christian faith. We are called to actively love and serve one another, to listen to the voices of those most affected by injustice, and to work towards a world where everyone’s fundamental needs are met. This is the world we envision, and this is the world we are committed to creating.”
Rev. Roland Stringfellow, managing director of the Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies in Religion (CLGS) and a PSR alumnx, focused on promoting our common humanity, saying, “I am committed to challenging all forces that would strip us of our basic human rights and alienate us into separate camps.”
Stringfellow credited his educational experience at PSR for making him, “a better sacred activist to do this work from my spiritual and socially conscience convictions.”
Fellow alumnx Jeffery Spencer said, “My education (both formal and informal) at PSR…built the foundation that has allowed me to grow to better see privilege and injustice and interrelationships, all in the context of the Christian call to love — which, in public, looks like justice, as Dr. Cornel West would say.”
When asked about the obstacles we face in creating a world where all can thrive, PSR students, alumnx, and staff mentioned a wide range of issues including income inequality, structural racism, the climate crisis, gender inequality, lack of acceptance and inclusion of LGBTQ+ people, ableism, housing and food insecurity, xenophobia, Eurocentricity, and more.
Many pointed out how these issues intersect and compound each other. Spencer used the example of climate change saying, “Climate change will make income inequality worse; it will make environmental racism worse; it will make inequitable access to health care worse; it will make housing insecurity worse; it will make inaccessibility for people with disabilities worse. The fact of the matter is that all of these injustices that keep some people from thriving intersect with each other, and they all must be addressed at the same time.”
In finding solutions for these interconnected issues, current student D. L. Lopez stressed the importance of listening to those who are actively affected by an issue, not just experts and pundits.
Creating a world where all can thrive by actively loving and working for the safety and liberation of all is deeply rooted in faith for the PSR community.
Ignite Institute at PSR staff member Cindy Liu cited Galatians 5:13 as a verse that informs this worldview, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”
Stringfellow pointed to 1 John 4:20-21, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” He added, “The command we have from Christ is blunt: loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both.”
D.L. Lopez shared Matthew 25:40, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Describing why our mission is more important now than ever, PSR’s President, Rev. David Vásquez-Levy said, “In the face of global uncertainty and rising Christian nationalism, PSR shapes a counter-narrative of grace and inclusion that brings about a world where all can thrive. In this vision of the world — God’s dream for the world — conviction does not equate to division, and our safety and well-being is not dependent on the exclusion of others. Rather, in a world where all can thrive, we ALL thrive.”
Read Past Editions of Pacific School of Religion’s Progressive Voices of Change: Creating a World Where All Can Thrive, Climate Crisis, Rights for Transgender and Gender Nonconforming People, Religion and Politics, Reproductive Rights
Hallie Fryd, she/her, serves as Director of Communications with the Pacific School of Religion