Dr. Godsey discusses interfaith, religions


On Sept. 15, Dr. R. Kirby Godsey, author of the best-selling books When We Talk About God Let’s Be Honest, The Courage Factor, and Centering Our Souls, spoke to students and faculty in Newton Chapel about his latest book, Is God a Christian?. Dr. Godsey served as Mercer’s 17th  president for 27 years, from 1979 to 2006.  He now serves as the university’s chancellor.
The speech was a part of both Mercer’s university-wide Lyceum program, and President Obama’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge.  The goal of Mercer’s Lyceum initiative is to center campus events around a single theme, with in-depth learning and discussion across disciplines.  The first theme on which the Lyceum will focus is “Rebuilding Democracy.”  This theme will continue until spring 2013, and it will allow students to examine the problems facing American democracy today and explore solutions to these problems.
Through his Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, President Obama “invites institutions of higher education to commit to a year of interfaith cooperation and community service programming on campus.” Through interfaith service, people of all backgrounds, both religious and non-religious, work together to tackle the challenges facing their communities. Mercer is one of about 250 college campuses across the nation to commit to the Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge.
Dr. Godsey’s speech focused on the world’s three most widely practiced religions; Judaism, Christianity and Islam. He addressed the problem of religious hostility as a stumbling block to achieving world peace. Dr. Godsey encouraged members of all three faiths not to merely tolerate one another, but to accept and appreciate the beliefs of the other religions. He warned against nationalism and isolationism because they serve as barriers to religious cooperation.
In light of recent religious violence around the world, Dr. Godsey said, “The stakes for religion, the stakes for civilization, and the stakes for achieving interfaith reconciliation have never been higher.”  He spoke out against this violence and denounced the use of God as a reason for war.  He also stated that developing new and more lethal weapons is not the way to solve problems, and that “more efficiency in killing will not lead to more effectiveness in living.”
Dr. Godsey identified fear and ignorance as the two problems that contribute most greatly to religious hostility. He said, “Fear is eroding the integrity of all our faiths.” He also stated that religious fundamentalism is a product of fear. He warned against fundamentalism because he said it makes it difficult to communicate among faiths. With regard to ignorance, Dr. Godsey said that it will “leave us morally, religiously, and economically bankrupt.”  He also stated that religion uses ignorance to control and manipulate believers.
Dr. Godsey ended his speech with suggestions for how Muslims, Jews, and Christians can work together to foster a spirit of religious cooperation.  He spoke against believers who judge and denounce other religions, saying that, “The truth of our religion does not depend upon the untruth of others.”  He also said, “You and I are neither wise nor good enough to judge another’s religion.”  Dr. Godsey stated that religious gatherings should become forums for religious discussion rather than preachments. He spoke of showing kindness to every person, regardless of his or her religious background because “those from whom we differ were also created in the image of God.”  Dr. Godsey said that God is bigger than just one religion, that He “lifts us above our partisan religions,” and that our ultimate hope rests solely in God.