Accessibility Tools

Skip to main content

Paul Raushenbush Addresses the Crisis Plenary

Paul Raushenbush addressed the Crisis Plenary at the 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago, USA.

It is an honor to be with you here at the Parliament of the World’s Religions. I come to this podium raised in an interfaith family led by an interfaith heart and having spent the last 25 years serving as a Christian minister largely in interfaith settings and promoting interfaith work.

As I look out at this amazing gathering of beautiful souls, I have to ask, what are we doing here? Each of us comes guided by our own interests to learn more about other traditions, to build bridges, to find common ground, to share the richness of our spiritual practice. These are some of the central activities of interfaith work since the Parliament began. 

However, when I look at all of you who come not only as yourselves, but also represent hundreds, thousands, perhaps even millions of others in places both far and near, I see power, the power of people, the power of ideas, the organizational, spiritual, and moral power of religion that the world needs to meet the crisis that we face.

And what is that crisis? Across the world, authoritarian movements are gaining control. They are headed by would-be dictators, but we must also acknowledge that too often they are legitimized and sanctified by religious leaders consolidating their own power for their own tradition and restricting the religious, social, and political liberty of those who are different and therefore labeled in their own country as the other, with second and third class status.

Our particular threat in the United States is white Christian nationalism that claims the mantle of both faith and flag. But at its core is a crusade for power that betrays our nation and degrades my faith. They are guided by a Christian and white supremacist narrative that defines who can be a true American, a true Christian, and who really belongs in the country.

As we are holding this Parliament, Christian nationalists are attacking churches that do not agree with them. They are attempting to rewrite our history. They are banning our books. They are restricting voting and women’s rights and targeting minority faiths. 

I come to this Parliament with a particular vantage point. As a gay man who is married to my husband and we have two precious children, my own family is a target. As books about LGBT people are among those that are most banned in this nation, not saying gay has become the law of the land in Florida. And there are millions of my fellow Americans who do not believe I should be married or have children or even exist. Recently, the Supreme Court in the United States has ruled that people who provide services to the public can turn my family away. And here’s the kicker. People point to religious beliefs for the inspiration and rationale behind these attacks. Worse, there are right-wing activists from different faiths who have traditionally attacked one another, who are now banding together to target me and my family and other LGBTQ people under the misuse of the principles of religious freedom, to which I respond whose religion and whose freedom. So I ask again, what are we doing here?

To do interfaith work is by definition to perform the radical act of refusing to insist on our own way, even as our own traditions might invite us to such an impulse. Instead, the very genesis of the interfaith movement is to publicly declare that we will refrain from acting on those dogmas within each of our traditions that continues to provide a rationale to hate and to murder one another.

The real difference among religions today is not between traditions, but how we understand our religions’ mandate to act in the world. Does our tradition inspire us to celebrate or to discriminate? Do our beliefs prompt us to liberate or subjugate? Will we interpret our scripture and teachings in such a way that our religion is a bridge or a bludgeon? What are we doing here?

Parliament of the World’s Religions, we are here to love one another and to love the world. We are here to collectively and politically and publicly say no to the fascists of our time. And we will be guided by the ethos and the tactic of love that has guided so many great movements in the past. Gandhi, King, Mandela, Malala, and so many others across the world, each of them tapped into the deepest wells of the spirit and practiced a powerful, nonviolent resistance against the forces of cruelty and tyranny. 

Parliament of the World’s Religions, let us join together in a love that refuses to hate, a love that diffuses lies, a love that targets no one, a love that casts a vision for a future in which everyone has dignity and worth.

Parliament of the world’s religions, let us join together with a love that resists the fist with an open hand that reaches to our neighbors for their hand and creates an ever-expanding circle of diverse people, faiths, races, backgrounds, and makes the irresistible invitation. 

Join us, together we will be powerful, together we will meet this global crisis of authoritarianism, together we will be guided by love, together we will win. Thank you so much.

Latest Videos