America's New Export

America's New Export

Michael reflects on his recent trip to Luton, England, the possibilities of interfaith partnership, and Donald Trump's unhelpful contribution to the fight against violent extremism.

President Obama Nominates Rabbi David Saperstein to Advance Religious Freedom as Ambassador

Yesterday, President Obama nominated Rabbi David Saperstein to serve as the United States' Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom. Saperstein would be the first non-Christian to serve in the role.

Today, Joshua DuBois really lays out in The Daily Beast why this appointment is so important, and why Saperstein is such a great pick for the job:

Saperstein, a lawyer by training, is known as a political powerhouse, someone who has the ears of top White House officials and a fair number of members of Congress as well. (Republican Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia called Saperstein’s nod “a good nomination” and urged quick Senate confirmation, and Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida, the leading Democrat on the House’s Mid-East Subcommittee, tweeted his congratulations). Saperstein helped pass the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993, was founding chair of the Congressionally-chartered U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in 1999, and Newsweek named him the country’s most influential rabbi in 2009. As one of the Jewish community’s top policy advocates on Capitol Hill, his hands have been in debates from immigration to Obamacare.

But what’s perhaps most interesting about Saperstein is the depth of support for him from diverse leaders across the American faith spectrum, outside of his own progressive Jewish community.
— Joshua DuBois for The Daily Beast

DuBois' full piece is well worth your time.

These are perilous times for religious freedom. The threats to religious freedom are widespread, and represent a crushing blow to human dignity everywhere. The displacement of religious people and communities is at an all-time high. Religious minorities in various parts of the world live in fear of unjust economic punishment, violence and even death.

What is perhaps ironic, is that the faith of the aggressor in religious freedom abuses in one part of the world is often the faith of the victim of abuses in another.  Religious oppression begets religious oppression. This fact is in our newspapers and on our television screens even today.

What should also be clear to us is that religious freedom only works if it is for everyone--including those of no faith at all. Religious freedom for all must be the cause of all.

It is a testament to America's commitment to religious freedom that no matter the faith of our Ambassador, he or she advocates for the religious freedom of all.

David Saperstein has spent his life doing this. He will make America proud by bringing this lifelong commitment of his to this new role, in service of his country and of all people who seek to live according to their beliefs.

The Senate should move to confirm Rabbi Saperstein immediately.

Dispatches from Europe #3 (UK): My Remarks on Faith, Government and Society

Michael Wear third blog post related to his trip to UK/France. This post includes his remarks from events with government and religious leaders in the UK.

Dispatches from Europe #2 (UK)

The second post in a series of reflections on travel to the UK and Paris by Michael Wear

Dispatches from Europe #1 (UK)

Hello from London!

Melissa and I landed here from our red-eye flight yesterday, and took full advantage (should note that "full advantage" includes an afternoon nap in my book) of our day to properly acquaint ourselves. 

I have already had two english breakfasts, and I must say that any country that considers tomatoes and mushrooms a morning necessity is OK in my book! 

As per usual, Melissa's opinion has proven correct when it comes to this incredible city. Everywhere you turn is a symbol of power, much more so than in D.C. because London is a city with history. Real History.  

Sure, D.C. went through some hard times in the early 19th century (I'm looking at you, Britain...no, seriously, I'm literally looking at Trafalgar Square right now), but London has been tested like few other places. 

This was clear to Melissa and I as we visited the Churchill War Rooms yesterday, the underground bunker from which Churchill directed the war against Germany in the last century. The bunker was only a block or so from 10 Downing and fairly exposed. Though a concrete slab was placed over the bunker to protect it, there was great doubt as to whether it could withstand a direct hit from a German missile. The safety of this bunker was not something you wanted to have in question when it frequently held Britain's entire wartime leadership from Churchill on down. 

The rooms were humble, The hallways narrow and the ceilings low. There was only one properly working toilet (and that was reserved for Churchill). Moreover, when the Cabinetmembers' secretaries would emerge from the bunker, they would find a city with more wounded people, and more greatly damaged infrastructure than when they had last seen it. 

Everywhere in London there are reminders of that time. There are people walking the streets today who remember what it was like to hear the sirens go off, and know that their safety was no longer in their hands. London, Melissa reminded me, uniquely combines the old and the new; what was intended and what was built over the broken places.

We protect what we can. We rebuild where we must. 

How did London rise from the ashes? It can only be through character. It can only be through sheer will and conviction. 

For all of the resources and power in the world, they are mere expressions of those matters of the heart.

London is not great for its buildings or its history. London is great for her convictions. London is great because when it is broken, it simply makes way for restoration.

Let us be the same way.