Communities of Faith and Covid-19

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Event Name: Communities of Faith and Covid-19
Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 10/27/2021
Transcript Version: 1

Transcript Text

I'm Nancy brick house and as Provost of

Baylor University in Waco Texas it's my

privilege to bring greetings on behalf

of the better administration to all of

you who are joining in unzoom for this

virtual conversation as a Christian

research university Baylor is committed

to creating solutions to the most

critical issues we face today fostering

a greater understanding of the

intersection of faith and public health

while squarely within our institutional

mission the fact that we are gathering

virtually and not in person underscores

the unusual predicament in which we find

ourselves as both social and religious

people with having been forced to cease

coming together to worship and engage in

spiritual development we miss holding

hands in prayer we Menace singing hymns

side-by-side we miss embracing one

another and sharing the peace tonight we

are fortunate to have some of America's

most prominent religious commentators

representing a diversity of religious

traditions to explore how we can

continue to thrive and serve the

surrounding world as believers and

communities of faith despite the new

reality forced upon us by the koban 19

public health crises these are truly

precarious times but tonight we will be

studying by truly remarkable speakers

two of whom dr. George and dr. West

recently engaged in a discussion about

civic discourse on our campus in Waco

last fall again welcome to each of you

and thank you for joining in wherever

you may be located to be a part of this

important conversation

I will now welcome in our moderator

sharee hardier president of the Trinity

for thank you so much Nancy I'll just

add my own welcome to all of you join us

for this important conversation on

communities of faith encoded 19 hosted

by Baylor and their Robert P George

Center on faith in public policy along

with the Trinity forum

we had over 2,600 people registered for

this event so there's clearly been a lot

of interest and we just so appreciate

your joining us I'm sure even harder

with eternity form and it's a particular

pleasure to be able to work with our

friends at Baylor in producing this

program tonight

I just want to give a special thanks and

shout out to both the visionaries and

the behind-the-scenes workers that made

this possible on Baylor's team including

David Cory Molly Moore Matthew Lee

Anderson and Nate Priscilla as Nancy

mentioned we are in anxious and

uncertain times

right now we're wrestling not only with

a public health crisis as infection and

fatalities continue to surge an economic

crisis as businesses shut down and jobs

are terminated but the resulting fear

suffering and in isolation along with

increased social distancing has put us

into a spiritual crisis as well and at

the very time that we most crave

connection and spiritual sustenance that

comes from corporate worship and meeting

together we instead have to practice

social distancing so we so appreciate

you joining us for in this conversation

as we seek to explore together how

communities of faith can offer guidance

support and encouragement to those

suffering and how the faithful can

creatively love their neighbor and

contribute to the common good we have an

extraordinary group of panelists for

this discussion as Nancy said but before

introducing them I wanted to offer just

a few thoughts and notes about what is

about to happen over the next 90 minutes

on the right hand of your screen you

will soon see a chat function which can

be used to provide additional

information and resources by our hosts

to supplement this discussion after

about an hour or so of madhuri a

conversation between our panelists we'll

take questions from you listening and if

you look at the bottom center of your

screen you'll see a Q&A button there

that you can use to type in your own

questions with 2,600 people on the line

we won't be able to get to all of them

but we'll take as many as we can and

then at the very end of our time

together you'll receive a survey we

would love to get your

feedback this is the first time that

Trinity forum and Baylor have done this

together so we would really covet and

welcome your suggestions on how we can

make this even more valuable to you in

the future our panelists tonight

represent a range of the faith

traditions including Catholic Protestant

Jewish and Muslim we are so glad to be

joined by each of them starting off with

Professor Robert George who is the

McCormack professor of jurisprudence and

the director of the James Madison

program in American ideals and

institutions at Princeton University as

well as the namesake of Baylor

University's Robert P George Institute

on faith ethics and public policy he's

also served as the chairman of the u.s.

Commission on International Religious

Freedom on the President's Council on

bioethics and the u.s. Commission on

civil rights he'll be joined by his good

friend dr. Cornel West who is the

professor of practice of public

philosophy at Harvard and professor

emeritus at Princeton University in

addition to teaching at Union

Theological Seminary Yale Harvard and

the University of Paris dr. West has

written more than 20 books and edited 13

including his classics race matters and

democracy matters and his memoir brother

West living and loving out loud we're

all so honored to be joined by dr. Hamza

Yusuf who is the president of his a tuna

College the first accredited Muslim

liberal arts university in the United

States and who was recently ranked by

the Muslim 500 as the 23rd most

influential Muslim nationwide

he's also the co-president of religions

for peace and an advocate for promoting

peace between Muslims and Christians

finally rounding out our panel will be

joined by Professor Danielle mark a

professor of politics and religion at

Villanova University a faculty member at

the Ryan Center for the Study of free

institutions in the public good who has

also served as the chairman of the u.s.

Commission on International Religious

Freedom robby cornell hamza and danielle

welcome so glad that's better


to begin with a fairly broad question

just to get us started Cobin 19 is

causing a lot of people to suffer right

now in all sorts of ways physical

illness financial loss food insecurity

loneliness and loss of purpose and so

much of the suffering at least P seems

so unjust so random or so pointless

so is there meaning and purpose

according to your faith tradition in

suffering and what are the resources

within your faith tradition to help

people cope with that suffering dr.

George why don't you start us off well

thank you so much

cherie not only for that question but

for moderating our conversation I'm

really grateful to Sheree for stepping

in no one does it better and it's really

harder does and so I was so delighted

when she accepted our invitation to a

serve as our moderator of course I want

to thank Baylor University president of

Bravo's brick house president Linda

Livingstone David Correy and the entire

staff the Washington DC team Molly Moore

for this and gosh I am so grateful to my

my great friends Cornel West

my dear brother Tom's a use of my dear

brother Daniel mark my star former

student who is now has embarked himself

on a very distinguished academic career

and has served as my successor actually

in chairman of the u.s. Commission on

International Religious Freedom this is

just a wonderful team of people to be

discussing this very important question

of the spiritual and moral dimensions of

the kovat 19 crisis and I'm grateful to

all of them to all of you for for

joining suffering the first

to say about it is we don't know why God

permits suffering we don't know why God

permits innocent people to suffer

innocent children poor people the

elderly afflicted in Scripture in the

Christian and Jewish traditions of

course sometimes suffering is associated

with God's will God causes suffering it

sometimes seems to say as punishment or

for instruction or as a blessing in

disguise theologians in my wing of the

Christian tradition in the Catholic

tradition have denied that God can

actually actively will suffering that's

incompatible with His infinite goodness

they instead say God permits suffering a

kind of willing we're talking about when

we talk about God's willing in this area

is permissive willing but why does God

permit it to happen that's a question we

cannot but ask but a question to which

we have no access to the answer if if if

someone says well this suffering that

we're experiencing now or in a war or in

an earthquake or other catastrophe is a

chastisement or a punishment from God as

Lincoln for example said of the Civil

War Lincoln said on more than one

occasion that the war came upon both the

north and south for the sin of slavery

if someone says that it's not something

that we can exclude nor is it something

though that we can claim to know rather

I think it falls to us to say how can we

meet the needs of our brothers and

sisters how can we serve those who are

suffering there is something there is an

answer to there's an answer to that for

each of us it's connected to what we in

the Catholic tradition call our

vocations and by vacations we don't

simply mean a religious vocation to the

priesthood or to be a

religious sister a nun we mean the

calling that every single human being

has by God calling from God himself to

serve to use the unique talents

abilities opportunities that each of us

has to serve our neighbors most

especially our neighbors in need our

neighbors who are suffering the final

thing I'll say about that is that in the

Christian tradition and you see this

most clearly in the witness of dr.

Martin Luther King there is the teaching

that unearned suffering undeserved

suffering is redemptive now this can

strike many years outside the Christian

tradition and even some within

Christianity as shocking people say well

that can't be true how can that be true

but in the Christian tradition our

understanding is that in our own

undeserved suffering we unite ourselves

by our acts of will our acts of faith

our acts of hope and of charity - the

redemptive suffering of Christ the

Christian story is about redemption

effected through Christ's willingness to

sacrifice himself to suffer and die on

the cross in atonement for sins and in

accepting our unearned or undeserved

suffering we unite ourselves with Jesus

in His redemptive mission that I believe

is what dr. King had in mind when he

stressed the redemptive nature of

suffering and that's something I think

that in the Christian tradition helps us

to understand what our own role is in it

we have no answer ultimately ultimately

to the question why does God permit it

and this of course is what gives rise to

that branch of theology called theodicy

it generates the so called problem of of

evil the question of whether God could

even exist how can an all good God exist

if they're suffering if he's all good

and all-powerful why doesn't he

eliminate the suffering their various

arguments that can be made I think some

persuasively for why

the reality of suffering should not

cause us to abandon our faith in God but

at the end of the day we don't really

have an answer to why God permits it but

we do have an answer to how we should

understand it and what we should do to

serve others who are suffering dr. West

even further thoughts well I just want

to thank my dear brother Robby for

getting us off a very good and high note

I want to salute you my dear sister

Sharif for your visionary and courageous

leadership of the Trinity forum

you've been added now year after year

and continue to bring together variety

of voices wrestling with very difficult

issues and of course sister Nancy and

Baylor on their facilitating our coming

and then of course by the hamsters but

then you're just always good to be in

conversation but I think you know

Beethoven raised the profound question

of how that we look at the world

unflinchingly and all of its suffering

and still must of the courage to love I

can love neighbor too most truth to love

beauty to love goodness

and they told herself had loved the

world in his own secular humanist way

and I think that's for me the

fundamental question I think brother

Robby is right we will never ever have a

rational coherent answer to the massive

forms of suffering including

the suffering taking place right now

Allah fellow human beings around the

world fellow citizens at the United

States having to do with this

coronavirus up so what do we do well you

do you do do justice you love mercy and

walk humbly with thy God you begin with

the spirit that brother Robby was

talking about of our financial ability

and our cue ability and the question

becomes how do we fortify ourselves to

be of service in solidarity to

bond to the suffering attempt to

alleviate as much of the suffering using

the best scientific weapon tree of

fallen human beings like ourselves and

yet viewing this as a way of bearing

witness to a love and to a mercy that we

associate me as a God that we serve a

set of stories about that God a

tradition that keeps a live reflection

and enactment of the love and mercy of

that love that God but knowing in the

end we don't have an answer to the why

question they'll say s key right about

this and brothers karamazov that there

is no human rational consistent coherent

answer to the why of suffering let alone

massive suffering and that way of

acknowledging how Shakespeare puts it is

it's above the question how do we

intervene in the world given the kind of

sources that are spiritual and moral

that we gain in light of the faith that

we have yes dr. Youcef dr. mark I want

to give you a chance to jump in here as

well thank you most compassionate I

would say that one of the most important

and fundamental aspects of religion that

it addresses the wise science addresses

the house but this really is the realm

of our religious traditions and the

Quran is I think very clear that

tribulation is part of life on earth and

there's a verse in the Quran that devout

Muslims recite every day which says

glory be to the one who created

everything in opposites and and one of

the ways that we know and appreciate

what we have is by experiencing the

opposite of what we have an Arab proverb

says that health is a crown on the

healthy that that only the sick can see

and so you know often we take blessings


for granted we don't really think about

what we have and it's it's the times of

tribulation that really causes us to to

remember what we had we're a very

complaining species we whine a lot we we

really forget to be grateful and and one

of the most important verses in the

entire Quran is that if if you're

grateful God will increase you in your

blessings but let the ingrates know that

blessings can be lost and chastisement

can be severe and the other thing that

in our tradition there's a there's a

person in the second chapter that says

God will test you with something of fear

and hunger and loss of wealth and

diminishment of lives so give glad

tidings to the people who are patient

who when they are afflicted they say we

belong to God and to God we return those

have mercy upon them and so when the

Prophet was asked about plagues he was

actually asked about plagues what were

they and he said that they are an

invasion of the unseen world upon you

and and then he said but there are mercy

for believers and I actually in these

days that that's because we've all got

more time than we usually have I mean my

brother who's a lawyer for the state of

California suddenly he said I've got two

hours every day because he was commuting

to San Francisco so a lot of people are

finding time so I read a book that was

written in the 14th century by a

Palestinian scholar called the virtues

of plagues and epidemics and it was all

about the blessings that come with these

grave tribulations and one of our great

scholars said it's important in every

tribulation to see three blessings it

could be worse it's in your worldly

matters and not your other worldly

matters and it's this in this life and

not in the next life and that's reason

to be grateful hmm well I have to agree

with much of that has been said I think

maybe one thing that I can add from the

Jewish tradition but

hardly unique to it is seeing this time

of trouble as a call to repentance which

is a extremely important Jewish value at

all times

Maimonides borrow a contemporary phrase

said that we should never let a crisis

go to waste in agreeing of course that

we don't know why or even though we

don't know why or especially because we

don't know why we have to take every

crisis as a call it's repentance a

crisis in olden times supposed to be met

with the blowing of the shofar of

trumpets which is also something we do

during the High Holidays a season of

repentance I remember when I did a gap

year of intensive religious study

between high school and college and my

rabbi teacher was also the school medic

and one of the things that he was a

stern man I guess one of the things he

was famous for was if you went in with a

medical problem his first response was

repent and then after that you know he

might go into the medical issue itself

there was a cartoon in The New Yorker

just a few weeks ago actually I mean it

was it was a cartoon of Mike Pence

standing in front of a podium with the

seal when everything like that it's Mike

Pence speaking to the audience saying

and the best protection in this time is

washing your hands and repentance you

know we live in a country now where you

know for half the country that's a punch

line but the other half of the country

it's an absolute truth and I saw I think

that one thing that Judaism would

certainly counsel and this time is even

though we don't know why why this is

occurring even though we have less of an

emphasis than Christianity does on

redemptive suffering that's certainly

the suffering that we experience or that

we see others experience it's supposed

to be a call for for us to repent to

mend our own ways and that's both in our

relationship to God and relationship to

our fellow human beings Danielle I think

that is such a powerful and important

point I would never be as bold as

Lincoln in identifying any human

catastrophe whether it's the Civil War

even the Holocaust earthquakes tsunamis

viral pandemics I would never say

this or that particular one is a

punishment but one needn't say that to

recognize the great truth that you just

propounded from the Jewish tradition

they should always be reminders of the

importance of repentance we do fall

short even the best of us human beings

even the best cultures even the best

nations even the most virtuous are not

perfect we fall short of God's standards

in the Christian tradition we refer to

that as original sin but all traditions

have this notion of human imperfection

of falling short and where we fall short

we need and Lincoln again pointed out

that that's not just something for

individuals though it's very important

for individuals to repent it's even true

for nations so during the Civil War he

asked the people to observe a day of

humiliation I believe it was April 30th

1863 that he asked people to to respect

a day of prayer and fasting and

humiliation humbling ourselves

humiliation in the sense of humbling

ourselves and asking God's forgiveness

he had in mind of course particularly

the sin of slavery but anytime like life

is lost I think it seems to be one thing

we should be thinking about and

repenting for is our own carelessness

with human life to what extent have we

as a culture or as individuals failed in

respect of honoring the profound

inherent and equal dignity of each human

life of each human being of each member

of the human family it's never out of

season to be raising that question and

repenting for wherever we have fallen

short and we do all fall short so I

think you've really brought to us from

the Jewish tradition of powerful point

yeah I think I would add to and it goes

back to Hebrew Scripture Libra ham

having the audacity to question God that

there is a space and there is a

tradition in the legacies of Jerusalem

um Judaism and Christianity and Islam of

being angry at God questioning God I


why in the world could this kind of

suffering become so massive and we look

at just a history of a species you see

not just plays but you've seen the

various you know massive attacks and

massacres and catastrophes and Holocaust

and slavery and we'd go on and on and on

and so I think there's nothing wrong

with acknowledge especially myself as

just Christian buddy a Christian who

comes out of the left wing of the

Reformation so it's both a Protestant

but a particular kind of Protestant of

course bayless Bastard like myself so

I'm just collecting my Baptist identity

for a second year I where do my God my

God why hast thou forsaken me that even

Jesus Jesus itself the fresh avocation

of God it's willing to raise that kind

of question but raising that question in

such a way that it feel linked to a

righteous indignation it's not just a

raw rage there's a spiritual content to

the anger and the questioning so it's

Socratic in some sense because it's it

is raising the most unsettling question

but it is prophetic because at the

center of it is this deep sensitivity

hyper sensitivity to the suffering and

what are we going to do about it

and as brother Ravi says uh you know

what was in place so that we question

God we question ourselves our own greed

our own indifference our own callousness

we question our society how come we were

not more prepared to deal with this kind

of massive suffering as it relates to

our healthcare system and so forth as a

relates to the distributions of power

and resources and wealth in the society

all of these are ways in which is both

humility and tenacity it is an

acknowledgment of a call for repentance

but also a call for very intense witness

do all that we can to minimize the

suffering in place yeah you know the

great the great scripture scholar the

great New Testament scholar NT Wright

Tom Wright had a piece up either

yesterday or today I saw it this morning

in which he began by pointing out that

we just can't know and therefore we

should never claim that the sand so

plague or war catastrophe as a divine

chastisement or divine punishment but he

said what this catastrophe this pandemic

like other great causes of suffering

should provoke in us is the tradition

and now he's going back to what

Christians call the Old Testament to the

Hebrew Scripture the tradition of

lamentation lamentation it's not wrong

to lament to cry out to God as Jesus

does from the cross from the cross in

that passage that Cornell was quoting

Jesus on Jesus himself was quoting the

opening to one of the Psalms Danielle

you will recognize that Loa Loa lama

sabachthani my God my God why have you

forsaken me but of course what jesus'

listeners his jewish listeners in any

event those who heard him who knew the

psalm would have known was the rest of

the psalm so it begins my god my god why

have you forsaken me llama

lolol lama sabachthani but then it goes

on and gradually builds hopefulness and

it the psalm concludes with an

affirmation that God is in charge and

that God can be trusted and that

ultimately God will bring about my

Redemption so when Jesus's hearers

Jewish hearers heard those words heard

that Psalm they knew that it was the

opening cry of despair that ends in the

affirmation of hope and I think that is

something that is a model for us yes

lemonade cry out into our despair but

never forget at the end of the day God

is in charge we need to place our trust

in him that's a really good point

because that was it not I don't disagree

of course we found with brother Wes that

I have this idea of Abraham challenging

God is something very deep in the Jewish

tradition and calling out but whether it

says something more theological the more

sociological reporting from on the

ground in the Jewish community certainly

there has been much less of the anger at

God and the righteous indignation and

much more of the message this needs to

be a reminder of trusting in God I think

one of the most one of my favorite

things that I read from a rabbi during

this crisis is a rabbi well of course

it's a longer message but to distill it

down to one line he said we shouldn't

think of this crisis as placing us in

radical uncertainty and I know of course

we all feel that and we have a lot of

anxiety over that but it's actually

unveiling the uncertainty that's always

a part of our life being the radical

uncertainty of every day and the radical

dependence we have on every day and so

while there's certainly a place to

wonder at the suffering and question the

suffering but what we're seeing now on

the ground in the Jewish community at

least the ones that I'm a part of is

really a message of as this crisis as an

impetus to redouble our trust in God and

to recognize that the the deep anxiety

uncertainty uncertainty we feel now is

actually something we should carry with

us all the time so that were constantly

reminded of how deeply we depends on God

for it for every moment for every breath

for every beat of our heart and so I

think from from the Islamic tradition

it's probably closer to the book of Joe

which is a good book to read for people

these days because Joe was a good and

righteous man and yet God tested him

because the the challenge was that he

was only good and righteous because he

had all these blessings so if the

blessings are taken away then let's see

how he behaved and and Joe and this is

one of the the purposes that my

tradition gives for tribulation is that

it's for you to see who you are and to

reveal yourself during those times

one of the most important things I think

that Rabi talked about was that was

humility that this should be a time and

this one of the purposes of suffering is

that it engenders and it activates these

virtues within us and one of them is

virtue of vulnerability and how we

respond to that by being humbled and and

recognizing that Helen Keller said that

the world is indeed filled with

suffering but we can never forget that

it's also filled with the overcoming of

suffering and so that's one of the

things that we're seeing that they said

there's an unprecedented coalition of

doctors all over the world working

together which is amazing and and I

think one of the things about these

situations is that you really see the

best and sometimes the worst of humanity

but you know people talk about the

social isolation but there's actually a

lot of connectedness that's happening

now people are calling people they

haven't called in a long time and

checking on how people are who have

elderly neighbors I've been called

several times because now I'm elderly I

guess but people called me I'm asking

you know you're one of our elders do you

need any help do you need I think that's

one of the the benefits of times like

these and so that's a good point we were

physically required to be more distant

from each other but that also provides

an opportunity for us to be spiritually

closer to each other and at a time of

such harsh polarization when citizens

are not treating each other as fellow

citizens but as enemies because of their

political disagreements maybe it's not a

bad thing God always brings good out of

evil maybe a good that will come out of

this is a little more spiritual

closeness even across the lines of

political or ideological division people

will recognize each other's humanity

feel that bond of kinship that comes

from being fellow members of this of

this species fellow human beings those

of us and our traditions of course

recognize all of us as God's family in

the Jewish and Christian traditions we

have the idea of man being made in the

very image and likeness of God and that

there's no more profound common bond

than that so why can't we at least be

gracious to each other decent toward

each other maybe

this will be an occasion when some of us

will become a bit more generous toward

each other both in terms of what we

normally think of as generosity

philanthropy but also more generous in

understanding each other being willing

to listen to each other not read

somebody out of the out of the human

race because they happen to disagree

with us about politics or or philosophy

or religion or anything else it's a

great point I'd love to hear other

people's thoughts as well isolation is

its own form of suffering and of course

one of the things that has been most

difficult about this crisis is that

we've had to physically distance

ourselves from each other so in addition

to some of Robby's suggestions how can

we pursue spiritual connection in


mystics love nothing more than isolation

we have an entire edition of anchorites

who actually left the world in order to

be more contemplative and and we have

wonderful stories of the Church Fathers

Thomas Merton talks about these church

fathers out in caves in Egypt that fled

the world one of the in our tradition

the Prophet Muhammad said towards the

latter days cling to your homes because

there would be so much found us and one

of the things that I've noted here is

the air has just cleared up wonderfully

and it's it's quite stunning we've had

rain since the quarantine started we

haven't had rain for months and we just

got all this rain and the first day of

the quartet I went out and saw the most

extraordinary double rainbow that I've

ever seen and I just felt expanded by

that experience of just hope so I think

there's a lot of blessings that will

come out of this I have the same

concerns that everybody else does I

think there are people that are

suffering the people that don't have the

the wherewithal to afford a week out of

work let alone two months three months

so I mean that's undeniably a very

serious consideration

just a little brother Robbie mentioned

this notion of lament that I just want

to touch on briefly because I think it

feeds into the kind of concern to sister

sharee is pushing us on because the man

a very different analogy the myth really

provides no consolation or redemption

you know their early essays the book of

Gershom Scholem and Walter Benjamin

Becker just have a have a graduate

student Sarah Corrigan's write the

magnificent dissertation on lamentations

readings of the book of lamentations and

how that's worked through the harding to

shakespeare's and the others so the

lament going back to hebrew scripture

again in some ways linked the wisdom

literature Ecclesiastes there's his

naked moment in which God seems to be so

thoroughly absent

soap in which it looks as if we have to

lead candidly acknowledge the degree to

which the possibilities of consolation

and redemption are held at arm's length

you remember that wonderful moment and

gesture till he talks about how

Christians actually have a God who

hasn't experienced this atheism for VOC

because God is the king and a rebel at

the same time back against the wall

fighting God calling God in the question

and so forth we think that dimension is

something that has to go hand-in-hand

with what I think brother Robbie and

brother Ham son and brother Daniel were

talking about position read that our

engagement in the service in the love in

the mercy even in the trust is always

over against this profound grimness and

and so that even even st. francis of

assisi a Chester Chesterton says he was

able to be such a good aesthetic because

he loves so intensely so his isolation

will goes hand in hand with this

profound sensitivity to the suffering of

creatures human beings and others and

we're in a situation where I

our isolations not chosen the way it was

was a Francis or the months in some is

forced and we're in a moment of such

spiritual decaying wall deterioration

with the greed and the indifference and

corruption simply running a but

everywhere we look throughout our

institution to our everyday life from

the White House to the the tooth to Town

Hall to the black in the corner so that

the rimless becomes even more intense

and hence the need for more

fortification which is spiritual and

moral you know Cornell I I think this

crisis like all great crises in history

is also going to show us true human

heroism and even absolute absolutely

holiness I read a story today we're

already trained it would say that among

fellow citizens about bouncing back in

wonderful ways and save us screwing

around the world but know already and

I'm Sonia well I heard a story today

about an elderly woman not here in the

United States elsewhere who is in need

of a ventilator because of the kovat 19

a virus for breathing but she declined

it in order that it not be withheld from

a younger person so that the younger

person who had not of course yet lived a

full life as the older woman had would

have an opportunity of life now I say

this as a firm supporter of the idea

that there must be no discrimination

including age based or disability-based

discrimination in health care allocation

even though we have shortages so I do

not want the government or the health

care system to discriminate on the basis

of age or on the basis of disability and

I think there's going to be a lot of

temptation to do that to involve

ourselves in that kind of invidious

discrimination I worry about our

cognitively or physically disabled two

brothers and sisters people with Down

syndrome or with addictions or with

bipolar disease

not in being given equal treatment and

fair treatment in the allocation of

resources but laying that issue aside as

important as it is I just want to point

to that one little act of heroism or

self-sacrifice real christ-like

self-sacrifice on the part of somebody

who turned down a ventilator so that

someone else could have it my dear

friend Mariana Orlandi who is an Italian

visiting fellow at the Madison program

here at Princeton told me that already

65 or 70 Catholic priests and Italy have

themselves died of kovat 19 priests who

were ministering to people who were

desperately ill with with the disease

again christ-like self-sacrifice

carrying out their vocation their

service their mission to others and

giving their their own lives and we of

course are deeply saddened by this loss

of life at the same time we cannot but

be inspired by the courage and by the

heroism and by the willingness to deny

and even sacrifice self for the sake of

of others just on your question of

isolation specifically and I think two

points that are worth making one is if I

think we've all been quoting from the

Catholic Church at some point tonight so

I'll add to theirs there's a pretty

recent book by Robert Cardinal Sarathy

a very famous African Cardinal about the

power of silence it's the subtitle

something like against the Cato ship of

noise and of course I mean we need to

reach out to and be compassionate to

people in isolation people who are

suffering from the psychological effects

of quarantine but for those of us who

are healthy and with resources I think

it's worth taking the opportunity for us

to reflect on how silence can be a good


Hasan's can be a blessing a cardinal


in the book you know that we learn in

the Hebrew prophets that our God is not

in the fund or the earthquake right but

in the still small voice and you know we

in an age in which no one can even go to

the gym or take a job without earbuds

but whether we're just afraid if our

thoughts oh we're just afraid to be

alone I think it's I think I think we

can take this opportunity as others were

saying before as a blessing in disguise

that the opportunity to rediscover the

benefits I like actually you subset of

in the mystic tradition of how great

that can be and as a counterpoint to

that though not in contradiction in any

way it's interesting that a requirement

to be silent and a requirement or to be

separate and a requirement to distance

from each other is actually we

establishing human connections of the

great Jewish humanists one of the great

Jewish teachers in this country Leon

Kass who taught at University of Chicago

for many decades I just said to me the

other day that one effect pc's here our

hopes for here has seen it a little bit

is the the rehumanize

our public space and that you know and

depending on where you live in the

country admittedly but you can walk down

the street and no one will make eye

contact no acknowledge each other and

now you can have two people pass by and

the wearing masks and they'll be wearing

gloves and someone will be you know

walking out of their way to keep 6 feet

apart and yet they'll make eye contact

or maybe if there's no masks you'll see

a smile or something like that because

there's something of the sense that

we're all in it together and I think we

can all hope for in a world in which we

all have iPods either or our air buds

either because we're afraid of our own

thoughts or because we don't want to

interact with other people this

situation may be something where the

isolation can actually help us rebuild

human connections thanks Danielle I'd

love to ask you all about trust and that

Trust is vital for leadership in really

any realm whether it's religious

political or organizational and by many

measures many faith communities have

lost credibility and Trust in recent

years for a whole variety of reasons I

wanted to ask you what you saw as the

opportunities for the restoration of

trust through our response as members of

a community of faith to this pandemic

well the you know in the Quran it says

that the human being was created in a

state of anxiety and we see that with

the child when it first comes in the

world it was in the nice womb everything

was wonderful nice temperature the food

was coming in and suddenly it's in this

terrifying place but then the breast

comes and the child's at peace and one

of the things that that I used to do

with my children I have five boys but I

used to throw them up in the air and and

they would love it until it got to the

point where gravity came in and they and

they and they well it was always acting

on but the point when they right before

they came down they would suddenly be in

this complete panic then when they saw

they were coming back to me they they

they kind of suddenly became happy and

cheerful again and and times like these

are those moments of panic where you

have to remind yourself that we're in

good hands and and that is trust in God

and I think for people of faith this is

really our practice and I know Robby and

and and dr. Cornell I'm sure the rabbi

people that practice their faith every

day that's the exercise for times like

these just like an athlete exercises for

the competition these are the times when

when our faith is tested and and that's

why the preparation is so important and

so for people who who don't have a

practice I think these can become very

very difficult times but trusting God

it's every day we our prophet said if

you wake up in the morning don't expect

to see the evening and if you go to

sleep at night don't expect to see the

morning because we're all in a state of

uncertainty and and and the point the

readiness is Hamlet said is all the

point is is to be vigilant and be be

aware that life is temporal and it's

very fragile and we have to really

appreciate it while we have it be

grateful for it and honor it and honor

it in others I mean my own tradition

always talked about by your fruits you

shall know them

and fruits of love have to do with joy

it has to do with kindness and sweetness

it has to do with service to the weak

and vulnerable and so one of the reasons

why so many have lost trust in

leadership political leadership economic

leadership in this case we'll talk about

religious leadership is because when

they look at the fruit they see too much

obsession with worldly success too much

obsession with status can with up

session with money to what accommodation

to do unjust status close and so the

hunger for love the hunger for justice

remained unfulfilled

so we people end up pressing with

spiritual malnutrition and in a moment

in which we can now at our best prove

ourselves by our fault

and say look there are in fact Jews

Muslims Catholics Protestants we can say

the same thing about Buddhists and

Confucian followers and Hindus at their

best and so forth who are concerned

about something other than the dominant

ways of the world and whether we need

this challenge of course is still an

open question but it becomes an occasion

for us to actually show these genuine

fruits of our trusting God our love of

justice are concerned about mercy our

willingness to acknowledge when we're

wrong and most importantly the way in

which we can fuse forms of solidarity

rooted in a love that it's bigger than

each and every one of you know cornellà

and I professor West and I teach

together and it's a great blessing

certainly in my life our teaching

together has been such a wonder if my

life - my life - but but you know

teaching at Harvard and at Princeton we

have an opportunity to teach

extraordinary students that are so

gifted so brilliant so accomplished and

they're great kids they really are good

kids but I would say in Cornell you can

tell me whether the strikes you

correct based on your experience

certainly my experience is perhaps the

most important thing we do is to teach

them to question what they are placing

the emphasis on the in their lives on at

the moment they've got bright futures

ahead of them the world is their oyster

so very often they are focused on what

David Brooks calls the CV values the

curriculum vitae values academic success

good grades a career prospect perhaps

going on to Goldman Sachs or Morgan

Stanley getting going on to Harvard Law

School and to cravats Wayne and more the

status the prestige that comes with that

of course the money the compensation

that that comes with that now as brother

less than I say to students those things

are not bad we're not asking you to

throw them away

in fact Harvard and Princeton in places

like that rather depend on your going

out and being very successful and making

a lot of money and giving a percentage

of it back to prints that are Harvard

and yet those we need to remind our

students we do remind our students I

think the most important thing we do

really is remind them those CV values

are secondary they matter but they don't

ultimately matter the things that matter

more our faith family virtue solidarity

with others compassion what David Brooks

calls the I believe I remember calling

him correctly tombstone virtues uh and

it's not too early even as a 19 year old

or 23 year old it's not too early to be

thinking as you proceed through life and

making your judgments about what you're

gonna do in life and where you're gonna

place the emphasis in life it's not too

early even at those tender ages to be

thinking what against the horizon of my

death which will come sooner rather than

later life on Earth is short

but in light of that horizon should I

consider important and I think if we get

people focused on that on the tombstone

virtues ultimately what matters then

they will see that it's not so much

money it's not so much power it's not so

much influence or prestige status it is

faith it is family

it is solidarity with those or others it

is friendship

it is compassion it is reaching out to

those who are in need it's serving those

are what really matter before we turn to

audience questions I want to ask each of

you about love one of the callings of

the believer is to embody and to reflect

the love of God for his creation for our

neighbors what opportunities do you see

from your own faith perspective and

embodying that loved to our neighbors at

this time well we could certainly see in

my community just an unbelievable

outpouring of what we call cresset or

loving kindness we're supposed to

supposed to mimic the loving kindness

that God displays to us an outpouring of

love to our fellow neighbors there's a

there's a website I think it's I'm not

advertising on it but I think it's

Corona I said that went up right away

which allowed people in a lot of New

York metro area communities you go there

and they they click on a link that puts

them in a whatsapp group but it's

pairing people who have needs that

people can meet the needs and the the

speed with which the community has

snapped into action with Passover coming

which adds a whole other level of need

on top of ordinarily it's just

remarkable but I do also want to mention

that in the context of what chef Youssef

said a few moments ago about the way our

kind of our everyday religious lives I

don't get the way you said it just right

but our everyday religious lives are

training for moments like these I think

one of the things we've seen which is

obvious and obvious in any crisis is

that you don't build community in the

crisis that you need that religious

communities and all your communities

need to think about the importance

nations local communities a building

community all along I mean it is true

that people are called

- they're better angels in times of

crisis people step outside of themselves

and do extraordinary things but to

really meet the day-to-day needs of

everyone to make sure people are our

housed and fed and clothed and taken

care of just in all the ways all the

ways you don't even think of until the

crisis hits it's really important that

there be very strong communities in

place myself as a as an Orthodox Jew

we're blessed to have something

Catholics had a long time ago before

parishes went suburban but we all

because we can't drive on the Sabbath we

all have to live within walking distance

on the synagogue which means I'm that I

and my fellow congregants all live

within walking distance of each other

now don't do a lot of good now and we

can't you know can't go over to each

other's houses like this but it does

mean that so many people are close at

hand you know to check on neighbors and

to help check on neighbors remotely and

to help them you know dropping packages

at the door or whatever it is and just

you know that's that's the kind of thing

that is a blessing because of our

Sabbath but more broadly the very very

close knit community that we live in

also means that in times of crisis thank

God people are are already so well

connected and really have a spirit of

giving on that that's extremely

beneficial you know building on what the

daniel said doing moving toward

spiritual giant like Rabbi Abraham

Joshua Heschel that the charity and the

philanthropy that we are seeing is a

marvelous thing but it's not the same as

the relation of HESA to the justice that

amos talks about and it seems to me part

of the genius of scripture and this is

from which we Christians and Muslims

flow is this notion of acknowledging how

catastrophe was always already in place

before we even come to terms with the

next catastrophe because justice has to

do with the way things are structured

not just in a society but the way our


structured in such a way that the Hesed

is not at the center of the way at all

something else is there and that's where

we're wrestling with that Civil War

within each and every one of us would

degreed and the status and the

indifference and the callousness and so

forth and so I think even in this

situation part of the anxiety and the

insecurity has to do with the fact that

you know we got almost 40 percent of our

fellow citizens who live check to check

and so once they can't go to work

there's nothing to fall back on

we got a healthcare system that has not

been able to provide for everybody for a

significant number of us and that's well

but it feels much more tired to market

in it ought to be public good and common

good and these are political and

ideological discussions that we have a

brother Robby and I go back and forth in

and against a loving way clinics but I

think this is also what it needs to take

seriously these the prophetic legacy of

truth well I think it's important to

remember I mean my grandfather told me

about the 1906 earthquake which he lived

through the 1918 flu epidemic the

depression World War one and two I think

we've had a long run here in the West

and and I think our our parents and

grandparents had seen a lot more of

these types of crises but around the

world there aren't healthcare systems I

lived with Bedouins in West Africa if

you got sick there was no 911 to call

you either got well or he died and I and

I think we have to be immensely grateful

because we've got weaker internment

camps we've got the Kashmir ease in shut

down I mean there's a lot of places

where the suffering this is not new to

them that what we're going through you

know is far less than what many many

places have been going through for quite

some time and many of us have been blind

to it so I think it's a time also to

remind ourselves I think this is a great

opportunity one to recognize how out of

balance we are in our lives

I think people don't realize just how

stressful a lot of modern life is in the

United States this is a time to really

it's like I told a rabbi a friend of

mine alone who called me the other day

that this is like a two-month Sabbath

for us so I mean there really is

something to think deeply about I want

to respond to Cherise question about

love and this is an issue that again

comes up in the teaching that Cornell

and I do together it's very clear that

people today we certainly see it in our

students when they hear the word love

word love when they think about love

when they use the term love tend to

reduce love to its emotional component

they see love as emotional fundamentally

a feeling and emotion and there is an

effect of dimension to loving that's

that's certainly true but what we try to

teach our students and show our students

is that that's an impoverished view of

love it's reflective of I think the kind

of spiritual blackout that culturally we

have been experiencing for quite some

time that Cornell referred to love

properly understood CS Lewis teaches us

this in his wonderful book the four

loves love properly understood is more

fundamentally volitional than it is

emotional as affective content but even

more fundamentally it's volitional it is

the act of willing of the good of the

other for the sake of the other love is

an activity it's a verb it's not just a

feeling and it's hard to get through to

people today with that because we've

become so accustomed in our spiritual

condition our impoverished spiritual

condition the thinking of love is

fundamentally just a feeling now true

love the act of bullying is good or the

other for the sake of the other means

reaching out to people reaching out yes

it's good to contribute money and I hope

that everyone is

whether you're contributing to a

particular person who's in need perhaps

through one of the online GoFundMe type

options that that they have I know

individual people have been reaching out

for help and and some of us have been

trying to help individual people or

contributing money to philanthropic

organizations which may even be very

large but that do a lot of good and one

of the things of course we try to do is

to identify the right ones where the

money's used well to actually meet human

needs and you know there that it's

important not to just you know give

money to anybody who asks for money

because you don't know whether it's

actually going to get to the people in

need but even more important than that I

think is calling somebody up who could

use a phone call because they're in

isolation or send an email message

establish human contact money's good and

money's important and especially for

people who living check to check money

is very important and the work being

done by the great philanthropist as well

as a go fund me accounts all that's

really important but let's not forget

that if we're really actively willing

the good of the other for the sake of

the other we're not just in a kind of

impersonal way contributing this

fungible good money

we're actually reaching out there may be

a neighbor it could be an elderly

neighbor who's living on her own we we

have the neighbors on each side of us

have to be having both to be elderly

widows you McCall you know reach out to

them see if they need anything maybe

could use a little help they probably

don't need the help

they probably need a voice somebody to

talk to have a conversation there may be

somebody that you haven't been in touch

with for a very very long time

you've been meaning to make that phone

call are you been meaning to send the

email message and be in touch well then

we have a little extra time most of us

why not take advantage of that so make

the love really effective in fact yeah

just very briefly I think one thing that

brings us back to the question of

religious communities is that religion

whether West had mentioned you know the

problem of people living paycheck to

paycheck well a one thing that

communities can do really well and often


and when it's not a huge crisis where

you know where so many people are

unemployed but if someone a community

loses the job and it's living paycheck

to paycheck and the community steps in

and make sure those bills can be paid in

certainly religious communities in

America aren't the only groups that do

something like that but I would hazard a

guess that religious communities that

churches synagogues and mosques and

others are the best at doing that of

rallying together to meet the needs of

people in times of need in times of

crisis and again those communities need

to be in place before the community

happened before the crisis happens as I

mentioned but it's really it shows the

power of religious communities in times

of crisis like this one they can be the

first responders to the non-medical

needs as you might know you won't be

surprised to hear that the questions

have been piling up so we're gonna turn

our attention this last half hour to

asking some of the questions that are

coming in over the transom I see there's

like quite a long list of questions so

we'll try to get through what we can the

first question comes to us my question

is how to stay spiritually motivated

during long periods of isolation as we

so often derive spiritual strength from

the presence of others who wants to

tackle that I defer to you doctor well

you couldn't okay no but I think just

based on my own very less than

imaginative example that I have tried to

connect both with family and family and

friends we just had senator Isaac

Robinson and died on Monday as a result

of this virus he'd invited me and Danny

Glover out to Detroit just three weeks

ago for brother Bernie's campaign we

didn't have an event with him and so

this notion of the ways of which we are

connected and we never know just how

intense the interdependence he is and so

you we have to reach out and lift up

people's names who have already been

taken away

and try to be in solidarity with the

folk who have to deal with those losses

then I listen to Beethoven opens 1/35

the greatest dream quartet the history

of classical musical it occurred as

Mayfield and Aretha listened to Brahms

does a piano concerto number two I find

myself reading because I have so much

I'm now it used to be just two hours a

night I can put in five hours a night so

I can commune with Shakespeare I can

commune with Toni Morrison I can compare

them with check off in ways that I've

been hungry to do for a long time so in

that sense there's ways in which we can

sustain community and solidarity even

though it's not always tied to physical

proximity this question is for honza who

our listener writes as a Muslim prayers

and especially Friday prayers were

attendance at which is under normal

circumstances and obligation for most

Muslims the close proximity of

worshipers makes the spread of

coronavirus and near certainty can hamza

use of comment honest about this in

times like this it's it's permitted to

to cancel because preservation of life

is one of the five universal with

actually Robbie George wrote about this

in a wonderful essay about the purposes

of religion and he pointed out that

preservation of life which concurs with

our tradition is one of the most

important and fundamental ideas and and

also that in for the greater good the

individual will sacrifice so for Muslims

now most of the countries are saying not

to congregate there are some scholars

there's always going to be difference of

opinion like the Jewish tradition you

get three rabbis or three Imams you have

four opinions truth to that so there are

some dissenters that want people to go

to Juma but we the Quran says ask X

birds and so in this case we have to

defer religiously to the epidemiologists

who are telling us what to do this one I

think is for Danielle and Robbie or any

of the presenters concerned with

religious liberty impact as a result of

current restrictions on gathering in

other words since religious gatherings

have been restricted by the current


well governments now find other quote

reasonable reasons to restrict religious

gatherings in the future well so those

are certainly two separate questions one

is what is the what is the legal status

of restrictions that we have now and is

this a danger for the future I'll take

the second one first and I guess partly

acknowledge the premise of the question

that we do have to be really careful

emergency times call for emergency

measures but they're not good precedence

you know we saw this in the debate over

the stimulus and there may be that the

bailout whatever you want to call the

big bill but people said wait a second I

thought you weren't in favor of big

government spending and you know whoever

they were saying whichever people they

were saying that and I said well I'm not

but this is an exceptional emergency and

requires exceptional measures that I

ordinarily would approve of and so I

think there is room for those kinds of

things I that doesn't rule on all of

technologies but it also means that you

have to recognize that that doesn't set

a precedent for other things and so we

have to be very vigilant and we have to

be very vigilant with all of our rights

and and you know all of our rights have

qualifications there's freedom of the

press but the press can't print nuclear

secrets you know is that going to be and

that's always true is that going to be

an excuse for the government to limit

freedom of the press at other times well

it could be and so we have to be

vigilant and I would add that we have to

visually not book just book I'll do

values of freedom but because we value

the underlying good that the freedom is

protecting religious freedom isn't good

ultimately because because we believe

people should be allowed to do whatever

the heck they want our religious freedom

is ultimately good because religion is

good it's good for the people who

practice it and it's good for the

country in which it's practiced in so

many ways that we don't have time to get

into now and and if we don't value

underlying good then when the freedom is

restricted under special circumstances

it's much easier for those quote unquote

reasonable terms to be extended


the first question about out of will

probably already gone on too long but is

that I think there needs to be a very

careful balance on one hand the

government absolutely has the right to

regulate for public health especially

extreme situations like this but I think

the government needs to and what has

traditionally been understood as a fall

for a compelling reason which certainly

we have here and with least restrictive

means so the government should go as far

as it needs to go but no further and

make sure that it's not trembling on the

ability of religion to practice as much

as I can without endangering there are

issues here this is a serious business

and I think it has to be handled

carefully and handled properly

Danielle's right the standard in our law

and I think the morally correct standard

is what sometimes called the compelling

state interest least restrictive means

test the law must be a neutral law of

general applicability it has to apply to

all institutions equally it cannot

single out religious institutions or the

institutions of a particular religion

for special restrictions that's

discriminatory that's wrong that's

illegal but with respect to general

neutral laws neutral laws of general

applicability government can restrict

practice including religious practice

incidentally where the interest is

compelling and certainly the prevention

of life-threatening disease is a

compelling state interest and using as

daniel said the least restrictive means

in other words if there are ways of

pursuing or protecting that compelling

state interest short of restricting

religious liberty then we have to prefer

those means to the means that would

involve restricting religious liberty

but if there are another me no other

means then yes you can say that

institutions including churches that

aren't themselves institutions that

aren't themselves in the business of

doing the life-saving like hospitals and

so forth doing hospital not elective

procedures of course but life-preserving


then the government can legitimately

place that restriction and churches

should observe it now there's you know

there's questions about whether it's

really neutral whether everything's

being handled in an even-handed way

they're serious questions in some states

where the governors have allowed

abortion clinics to continue to operate

but not allow churches to continue to

operate well that's going to raise some

very serious questions about whether we

really have neutrality here a general

neutral law and there is the question of

whether this could then be abused

whether precedents could be said that

are then abused by people who are not

too sensitive or concerned about or

respectful of religious liberty to

trample religious liberty the mayor of

New York said something very very

unfortunate when he threatened to

permanently close synagogues that

violated his order to to not hold

services I mean it's one thing to say

you know we're going to subject you to

exactly the same punishments under the

law that other institutions would be

subjected to if they violated this

neutral law of general applicability

it's another thing to go so far as to

say we're gonna threaten so we're going

to actually close you down forever if

you fail to comply or if you breach this

this this rule so this is next question

I'll direct to Cornell and then whoever

else would like to jump in that would be

great a questioner asked koban 19 has

exposed a lot of economic divisions in

new ways such as the allocation of

resources and exposure examples

including those who can access testing

typically those with wealth and better

healthcare and between those who can

stay home with a salary and those who

have to go out to make a minimum wage

trunk and faith communities address this

point of pain and division without

divulging in two political parties or

tropes well it's a wonderful question I

think we've touched it touched on it in

a number of different ways I think again

though we must always put a primacy on

the moral and the spiritual so we don't

degenerate into narrow partisan on

noise-making and what I mean by this is

that this this crisis is the kind of

crisis that on the one hand

to acknowledge our common humanity and

allow us to see very clearly the

hierarchies in place the economic

hierarchy the racial hierarchy the

gender hierarchies and so forth the

regional hierarchies Anna as was pointed

out the international context in which

America visa the other countries given

our richness and given our resources we

can see those kinds of hierarchies as

well so the question becomes how do we

become more morally and spiritually

vigilant to generate some political

consequences and by political I'm not

talking about democratic republic apart

I got it could you come over I'm talking

about Public Interest common good forms

of solidarity that have moral content

and spiritual substance to them that's

the only way to keep alive fragile

experiments and debacles there's no

democracy of was talking about without

healthy public life common good moral

and spiritual dimensions that keep track

of our humanity as opposed to other

identities that we may have and so I

think this is a matter of raising our

voices it's a matter of trying to forge

conversations discourses for most forces

and institutions that can't just I'm a

sea of the moral and spiritual as it

connects to the least of these as it

connects to often widowed fatherless

motherless and so forth so we've had two

or three people riding with a question

about what you were reading or

recommending for reading in these times

of isolation we'd love to hear from each

of you right now well I have a

scriptural amount that I read every day

just as a practice I continue to do that

like I said I read a book on the virtues

or the benefits of plague which was very

interesting and by a man who'd lived

through a few plagues

I'm also rereading some Jane Austen

right now she's she's a very firm

she's an analogical writer she's she's a

deeply spiritual writer a lot of people

miss that aspect of gain but so and then

I just reread finished Moby Dick again

which was an incredibly rewarding

experience I think people wanted one of

the tragedies of having to read things

in high school and colleges that you're

really not ready for them so it's very

important to read them when you have

enough life experience and Moby Dick was

a complete eye opener for me about the

very things with dr. Cornell was talking

about earlier about the hierarchy and

social injustice and and this madness

that the head of this ship which is

going to take everybody to destruction

and I found out because I want to know

where he got the name Moby Dick and I

actually found out that it was after

Austin Beale who was who had a ship

called the Moby Dick and he was

smuggling slaves on this ship out of out

of the south and he was doing this in

the 1850s in Boston so I thought that

was a shame can I just make an on with

this I I just want to make a correction

I think dr. Cornel mentioned Islam with

the idea of being angry at God and I

just I just wanted to say that in our

tradition there's a verse in the Quran

God will not be asked about what God

does but you will be asked about what

you do so as Muslim devout Muslims never

question the judgment of God or the

circumstances that God puts us in we're

just told to respond in the best way

no no I appreciate that though brother

that that's one of the differences

between these precious Muslims and we we

we wanna left-wing of the Reformation

Baptist you know got a whole lot of feel

you know I on readings if I can jump in

on on readings Thomas's reference to

Moby Dick just reminds me that gosh this

is a great opportunity to do something

that many of us have wanted to do for a

long time but didn't think we have the

time which is take on a big reading

project like Moby Dick that's a big

project to read Moby Dick or one of the

great Russian novels right probably

they're probably a lot of people out

there who know they should at some point

read something by Dostoyevsky or perhaps

one of the greats so some instant novels

there's something by tolls for but just

don't have the time to do something like

that well maybe now's the opportunity is

in a certain sense it's a gift the

opportunity to to do that to take on a

project like that I was saying to an

interviewer for the Catholic News Agency

recently in a similar vein now's the

time to do things that you've always

wanted to do or take up something you've

always wanted to take up but I've been

putting off ever had time maybe you'd

really like to take piano lessons now

you can't actually go to a teacher or

have a teacher come to you but guess

what in this age of the Internet

there are wonder I'm a musician myself

there are wonderful lessons for any

instrument you can think of online you

can learn piano with online lessons or

guitar or banjo or whatever it is you

offering Angeles yeah yeah I'll give you

that and then if I can go back just very

quickly to an earlier question Cherie

about what do we do with our time

spiritual sustenance let's not forget

that in all of our traditions there are

spiritual practices there are spiritual

practices that are promoted like in

Catholicism the saying of the rose or

or certain prayers or meditations maybe

maybe many of us don't do those on a

regular basis as much as we would like

to well now is a time to do that also if

I could just urge something for

religious folk out there you probably

have a prayer list a list of people

you're praying for because they're

especially close to you your children

your grandparents or because they're

people you know or in need perhaps

they're recently bereaved or they're

suffering from an illness or an

infirmity of some sort or they have a

special cause or something that's coming

up in their lives and you're praying for

them because of that they're they've got

a got a bar exam to pass or they are

trying to finish school but because

we're a limited time you know the the

prayer list has to be fairly fairly

short we rotate people on or often now's

the time you can actually expand your

prayer list right you can you can take

the time to to pray by name for more

people than you ordinarily what you can

take up each other's cause us in prayer

that's just something occurred to me

that it would be nice for us all to do

yeah I know what are you reading almost

hoping you wouldn't ask me I have an

embarrassing confession but since we're

here with our eleven hundred closest

friends yeah twenty-six hundred closest

friends and friends so dear that they

may have taken time out of Tiger King to

join us so I'll say that the truth is I

I don't have any big reading projects

right now we have thank God so far two

very small children a two-year-old and

the 10 month old in that occasion also

to thank my dear wife who's doing

overtime childcare right now so I could

be here but you know in addition to that

I'm trying to steal every moments I can

to work on my own writing a book not

related to this I'm trying to finish but

I I do admit that in between all of that

and the little extra moments I'm

stealing from the quarantine beyond the

normal duties I've been trying to read

as much as I can about the coronavirus

to be honest I mean I'm interested in

the medical and the scientific aspect

from the debates that are going on now

but also I mean this is you know one way

or another this is something that's

going to stay with us for a while

lots of ramifications and a lot of

articles about the political economic

and social consequences of the of the

pandemic and of the crisis though my

go-to place I if I may since we're

naming names of the Witherspoon

Institute in Princeton has a website a

journal called public discourse and it's

an amazing resource during these weeks

for articles on the humane aspect of the

crisis about what it means to be a human

being at a time like this and to live

through it as well as things relate to

economics and politics and so on that's

just that's just one source but of

course the Internet has as many good

articles and you know for someone like

me who who teaches in a political

science department at his job it is to

think about the way we organize the

world and the way we live together in

communities you know I think about that

professionally it's a really good

opportunity to take these extra moments

to think deeply about what this crisis

means for us as a society in addition to

you know how to stay safe when I go to

the grocery store and all of that on

that dr. George's about prayer I

personally have a lot of friends who are

physicians I was once a registered nurse

so I know what it's like I worked in

intensive care and then ER in burn unit

so I think to pray for our first the

people my own son is is working in an

ambulance taking older people so he

worries about just being a you know

infecting anybody so I think praying for

these people because they really are the

heroes in this situation and dr. Aisha

Subhani who dr. George knows I mean he's

in some of her colleagues to come just

because they've been expired

yeah and just keeping them in it just

you know in our hearts and prayers

because they really are extraordinary

people many of them are going above and

beyond and and so praying for them I

think means a lot to them as well as

hopefully God hears our prayers yes

that's so that's so important Tom so

thank you for bringing that out and

while we're at it let's pray for anybody

who's out there on the

lines taking risks this this includes

you know the the people who are at the

checkout counter in the grocery stores

because the grocery stores are still

operating sanitation workers clergy

anybody who doesn't have the luxury

because of their vocation doesn't have

the luxury that I for example happen

just being able to stay in my house and

occasionally go out for a nice walk in

the in the open air there are people out

there who have to have human contact

because they're serving human needs and

gosh do they deserve and need or prayers

I think you thought the series point

above read reading as a form of

empowerment not just individually but

allowing us to use our imaginations in

such a way that we are not paralyzed in

wheel when it comes to serving others

when it comes to forging bonds of

solidarity and this is the kind of thing

that Bill O'Reilly and I have talked

together for 15 years Paideia the deep

education tied to reading so that when

somebody is invoked Melville and

brightly throne I just haven't be greedy

not there be a chart so great lectures

1950 on on a hat the second section the

first sections on Don Quixote

it's the enchant fleur that when you

read a mail real or Cervantes when you

read hell God adds up the meaning of

Shakespeare the greatest lectures

probably in the history of the United

States on the greatest Bardon English

language from swath for brother Robert

is from as well more than 30 years

teaching it allows more boy died that

these are ways of actually allowing us

to become more fortified given the

grimness that were wrestling with

because these profound tech have already

provided in their own context ways of

understanding engaging overwhelming

catastrophe and all of us form desk

dread despair disappointment this is

chance and what have you and so I think

your question to those system should be

about reading it's very important very

important indeed one of my teachers

Mortimer Adler

used to say that reading is the most

revolutionary act so we have 78 it looks

like questions lined up and time is

running out so what I want to try to do

is combine two particularly good ones

into one last question you can address

it either one that you want but both

really had to do with isolation one

listener asked how can we handle our

grief in response to the peculiar way we

are dying or a loved ones are dying

another person asks what about our

upcoming religious festivals how does

one recognize the most important

liturgies which of course are embodied

in person practices or our faith under

these circumstances so we'd love to hear

from each of you on either question as

we wrap this up Robbie

you'll actually start us off yes well we

can pray together again this technology

makes that possible

just to give you one example there are

countless out there those of us who are

in the Christian community both

Protestant and Catholic who in be Stern

Orthodox who are associated with the

politics department at Princeton and the

James Madison program which I have the

honor of directing I got together at

noon every Tuesday for prayer session

and one of the things we do at the

beginning of each of the sessions is

have a reading from the Psalms it's

become our custom to have the great

Civil War historian Alan gales Oh who's

a new member of the Princeton community

we're so delighted to have him who is

very distinguished scholar of Lincoln in

the Civil War read us a psalm select a

psalm and read us a psalm and that's a

great comfort a because the Psalms are

such powerful inspirers of hope and

trust in God that's ultimately what they

are about and they're so beautiful the

Psalms indeed they are so beautiful that

it's very uplifting it's it's

spiritually enriching just to hear them

read and to contemplate them and to

meditate on them and to do it as a group

we can't be together physically but we

can be together virtually and of course

faith communities in all the traditions

are getting together masses for

Catholics are being live-streamed I

think that's more complicated at least

with Sabbath services for the Jewish

tradition because of the use of

technology I think Hamza mentioned did

you mention Hamza that there's some use

of technology to enable Muslims to pray

together surely that's happening in

other traditions as well so I think

that's something important that we can

all do and as far as the desolation is

concerned you cannot beat the zones

yes yes yes yes I think I think again I

love the arts I think of Dorothy love

coats up and listening to I'm just

holding on and I won't let go my faith

she and the Harman axis classic text

I've been living to Tchaikovsky's

Symphony number six the pathetique one

of the saddest and grimace works of the

classical music that we that we know

think of spiritual by Coltrane 1961 all

of these are works of art in the musical

way that helped us come to terms with

our grief but we just want to make sure

that grief does not become so

melancholic that it becomes something we

can never get a distance from we want to

go through the stages of mourning so in

the end we can come out fortify but if

the grief is not adequately wrestled

with then it leaves for the paralysis

and one of the ways in which music at

its deepest level helps us is that allow

us to objectified our creaks to get

enough distance from it so we can come

out strong even though the memory of

their loss is something that will haunt

us until we ourselves die I think also

if poets have a lot to offer us there's

there's there's a poem by Rumi where he

says this being human is a guesthouse

every morning a new arrival a joy a


meanness some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected guest welcome and

entertain them all even if they are a

crowd of sorrows who violently sweep

your house empty a bit of its furniture

still treat each guest honorably

maybe clearing you out for some new

delight the dark thought the shame the

malice meet them all at the door

laughing and invite them in be grateful

for whatever comes because each has been

sent as a guide from beyond and I think

there's an immense amount of truth to

that is to recognize the gifts that come

with the trials also I'm glad that the

all the other panelists are far greater

than I am because that first question

certainly is way above my pay grade I do

just want to acknowledge that question

though and say you know the questioner

made a reference I think in the unique

way in which people are dying I mean I

think there's so many overlooked aspects

of this in their heart or aspects that

are easy to overlook you know the idea

that people are not that just people are

dying you know who don't have to be

dying now or wouldn't be dying otherwise

but they're dying alone because they can

have by definition it can have visitors

in the hospital and what a what a sad

and tragic thing that is that people

suffering from this by definition have

to suffer alone because of the danger of

transmission and what a what a terrible

thing that is and so but some I'm glad

the questioner brought it up it's just

such a hard thing on the you know we are

we are thinking about Passover full-time

now in the Jewish community there's I

think I could say without without

controversy that the Passover Seder that

our our liturgy and celebration on here

in the United States on the first

evenings of Passover is the most

family-oriented aspect of our liturgical

year I mean there's no such thing as a

seder without without family without

guests and when there is including this

year especially this year it's it's

really a tragedy

the rabbi's the rabbi's serving the

communities that I'm a part of have said


that everyone has to stay home even if

that means being alone and I think I

think we have to don't want to end this

on such a such a sour note but I think

we actually have there's a lot of ways

to find meaning in that of course there

are many beautiful stories about grand

rabbis who have celebrated a Passover

Seder alone under difficult

circumstances and we can draw a lot of

inspiration from that but at the end of

the day it's a tragedy . not the tragedy

of death of course that we were speaking

about before but it's a tragedy . and we

have to just acknowledge that and just

recognize that this means and again I'd

rather have a Passover Seder alone then

lose my job I'd rather hoped Passover

Seder alone than lose my life and you

know fortunately I'll be able to be home

with my wife and my young children

that's that's an incredible blessing but

we won't necessarily be able to visit

you know our extended family as we would

have otherwise and that's really really

hard and I just hope and it's it's kind

of a lame comfort but I hope people can

find see a new angle that they never

would have seen in the holiday except

for these circumstances you know we

celebrate because we were slaves in

Egypt and we were redeemed and they in

the liturgy each year that we're

supposed to see ourselves as though we

left slavery and it's hard and are very

comfortable American lives certainly

among people here to imagine ourselves

suffering and this is not the sober

suffering like Egyptian slavery let me

be clear

and nevertheless it's a little bit

easier to put ourselves and in shoes of

dislocation and difficulty and so on and

so I think we need to take that take the

lessons but also just accept the fact

that this is a real loss having these

holidays come up without the normal

gatherings and there's just no way

around that

you know I was so struck by what Cornell

was saying about music and what homes I

was saying about poetry and it reminded

me of this this this very morning

because some of our great hymns are

really combinations of music and poetry

as you know Sharia although my Catholic

I grew up in West Virginia among

evangelicals and I learned to love the

old hymns that I grew up with and this

morning as I was just reflecting on our

condition or current crisis and all the

sadness associated with it and the

dangers what came flooding into my mind

was that wonderful old hymn I wonder if

you know it called we're drifting or I'm

drifting too far from the shore you're

drifting too far from the shore and

here's the poetry of it it's out on the

perilous out on the I guess perilous

deep where danger silently creep and

storms violently sweep you're drifting

too far from the shore you're drifting

too far from the shore drifting too far

from the shore come to Jesus today he

will show you the way you're drifting

too far from the shore that's a sort of

Christian reflection on what we do in

the face of the dangers that inevitably

come in life especially when we are

distracted and concerned with everything

else and not with what ultimately

matters but there is always the coming

back come to Jesus today he will show

you the way even though we're drifting

too far from the shore

Robby thank you there are so many

questions that have been asked there's

so much more that could be discussed but

this has been such a rich time and just

really appreciate each of our panelists

your generosity with your time and with

your wisdom as we wrap up just one more

note to all of our listeners we will be

sending out a survey immediately after

this broadcast and really would just

covet and welcome your thoughts on how

we can continue to do this better and

enhance this as an offering of both for

Trinity form and for Baylor and we just

thank you for joining us today as we

wrap up given that I think each of our

panelists have mentioned this it seems

only fitting to close in prayer so

Cornell would you close us out with

prayer indeed indeed dear God we come

humble hearts sincere souls even in this

grimness we acknowledged the gift of

life like each day is a gift and each

breath is a breakthrough and we hope

that this time we spent together for the

robbing sister sister she read brother

Hamza brother Daniel to be a moment that

would provide some inspiration some

empowerment to help somebody as they are

wrestling with this crisis that we know

will crack vessels we know we are

inadequate we know we are finite

we represent very very rich and profile

traditions of people down to the years

trying to make sense of overwhelming

suffering in massive misery and we know

as we come together whatever our

differences that there's a source of

solidarity which is moral and spiritual

that allows us to be the forces for good

we can be in the midst of this

overwhelming catastrophe amen

thank you again to each of our panelists

on behalf of both Baylor and Baylor in

Washington program and all of us at the

Trinity forum thank you so much for

joining us good night