Paul Elisha: This Broken Reed

In 2001, after receiving a solicitation letter in the mail and then viewing a TV interview of Walter Cronkite, Honorary National Chairman of the Interfaith Alliance, this commentator became a member.  The idea of religious and lay leaders of many faiths joining together to ensure utmost support for the constitutional certainty of both religious freedom and church/state separation was an irresistible inducement.  When I later learned of the formation of an affiliated unit, in New York State, I became an avid supporter.

Last week, I received a letter from the President of the Interfaith Impact of New York State, that both encouraged and disturbed me.  So much so, I felt it worthy of the widest and most immediate attention possible.  The letter from IINYS President, Dick Gilbert, requested urgently needed financial support and then reported on a number of important activities the IINYS alliance had undertaken.  These included lobbying support for affordable health care and independent legislative redistricting, opposition to legalized gambling and hydrofracking, plus continued support for reproductive and related gender-justice issues.  All eminently praiseworthy endeavors.  As Sextus Propertius noted, sometime after 54 B.C.: “Boldness is certain to win praise.  In mighty enterprises, it’s enough to have made the effort.”

While all of these were worthy and laudable endeavors, it’s disturbing to note that in a report from an alliance boasting forty-five assorted clergy from various Christian and Jewish denominations, plus a number of lay leaders, not a single mention was made of an effort, in behalf of the principal reason for this organization’s  existence.   And this noticeable omission, at a time when the executive, legislative and judicial branches of our government are under greater theocratic pressure, for selfish political purposes, than ever before in our history.  Also, the “unbreachable” Constitutional wall our founders deliberately erected between church and state has become a target of incessant incursive erosion.  It’s as though the Interfaith Impact’s clerical leaders have gone out of their way, to come to grips with every issue but the most primal on their organizational conscience.  Each of these has its own appropriate advocate and all are rightly appreciative of additional support but what of IINYS’s own now abandoned issues?  As the Biblical Prophet Isaiah once asked: “Who will now be a witness for them?”

For all concerned Americans, these issues remain essentially important.  Perhaps now more-so than ever before.  Thus, for Interfaith Impact President, Dick Gilbert and his clerical and lay membership, the incisive admonition of Isaiah, to “…set thine house in order,” is more pertinent than ever.  This commentator and all those who ardently believe in and support these now imperiled Constitutional issues, also need to be able to repeat the words of Isaiah: “Thou trusteth in the staff of this broken reed…” with honestly earned confidence.

All of these clerical representatives, not only the Jewish members but those of various Christian faiths should be cognizant of the challenging credo expressed by the great Biblical teacher, Hillel who, in ‘The Wisdom of The Fathers,’ preached: “When I am for myself what am I?” and “If not now, when?”  In the inspiring volume – “A Poet’s Bible” David Rosenberg has given special emphasis to the unforgettable words of Isaiah: “…….I heard the voice of my Creator saying    who will I send to be a witness---   Here am I   send me   I heard myself saying   and He said  go and say to this people     Hear over and over   and understand nothing   look again and again   and so be moved to become wholly human again. 

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