Good News in Religions

January 4, 2019 in Rabbi Greg Harris

Sacred texts at the US Capitol

I want to share good news.  I expect some will read this blog and respond as doubters and find exceptions – it is the times we live in today.  Good news is just that… good news, not perfect news.  Sometimes it is appropriate to see fears and divisions but we cannot lose the ability to see good things around us as well.  Good news feels increasingly rare.

So let’s remember religious diversity is lived in beautiful ways.

The picture above was shared with me by someone at CNN.  It is a table at Capitol Hill covered by the diverse sacred texts upon which the newest members of Congress were sworn into office for the 116th Congress.  There were Bibles, Koran, Buddhist Sutra, Hindu, Eastern Orthodox and an African Heritage Bible.  Senator Kyrsten Sinema did not use a religious text but rather a copy of the Constitution.

The good news is there is now greater religious diversity in Congress than ever before.  While the religious makeup of our representatives is still not in line with the general population (click here to learn more) our leaders symbolically lift up Americans’ diverse religious and cultural voices.

Religious diversity is core to American values.  As an example, Federalist Paper #10 speaks extensively about the concern of our country breaking down into factions.  It is a powerful piece relevant in many ways to today. (click here to read)  In the penultimate paragraph, James Madison wrote about the diversity of States and of religions as a natural bulwark against overpowering factions.

“The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source.”

Thus, greater diversity of religious faiths held by our nation’s leaders will help guard against oppression by the majority.  Increasing religious traditions in the halls of Congress is good news. Factionalism is still pervasive but maybe this will help in slight ways.

Recently I experienced the celebration of religious diversity in other ways.  While in Israel on the Sorkin Israel Youth Trip last week, the 18 Confirmation Class students (16 tenth graders and 2 eleventh graders), stopped in Haifa for the ‘Holiday of Holidays’  החג של החגים  celebrations.


Haifa is a city of mixed faiths.  For the past 25 years, they have celebrated their religious and cultural diversity through this festival.  You can see in the picture that at the center of the celebration is the Christian cross on the tree, the Chanukiah on the Star of David and the Islamic crescent. All of this takes place under the Bahai Shrine which is to the right in the picture.

I am not deluded; this is not a panacea.  But, it feels good to be hopeful.  There are places and moments in our lives where we can let good news catch our attention.  The work in Congress and in Israel is fraught with difficulties.  I am not concerned that we will lack concerns.  I am concerned though that it is too easy to overlook the glimpses of goodness which we are surrounded by each and every day.

The blessing upon hearing good news is:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעולָם הַטּוב וְהַמֵּטִיב

Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu meleach ha’olam hatov v’ha’meitiv.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who is good and causes good.

May we find many reason to use this blessing!


PS – If you are interested in the next Beth El trip to Israel, families are signing up now to join me this summer – July 7-18, 2019.  Let me know if you want to go to Israel together! (