For the past several months, I have been exploring the concept that faith is, or should be, a dimension of diversity that is highly valued — particularly in the public square. The first freedoms established in the First Amendment are central to the vitality and vibrancy of the American experience. More than just tolerating differences, we should be celebrating such differences and encouraging people to bring their diversity of faith into our businesses and communities.
I was recently in New York and had the opportunity to listen to Rabbi Dr. Meir Y. Soloveichik speak on the need for faith to be taken into the public square. He said, "When the state demands disloyalty to one's faith as the price for entering society, that is an assault on the human soul, and that is intolerable, because 'the soul of man is the candle of God.'"
Rabbi Soloveichik continued, "'The soul of man is the candle of God.' It is a powerful and enduring image. The human soul is a candle kindled by the Creator. Like a candle's flame, the soul's sanctity is so easily extinguished when buffeted by the winds of change, by the zeitgeist, by social pressure or by persecution. And yet like a flame, the soul, if protected, if sustained, if fueled by freedom, by faith, by courage, contains within it an infinite amount of power that can spark and inspire. …"
What we bring to the public square as individuals is so much more than our physical presence. We should be bringing our whole, authentic self to work and to our communities — including our religious beliefs. Leaving our deeply held beliefs at home, in the mosque, synagogue or church is to leave a portion of self behind and accept a smaller portion of the illuminating light that emanates from the soul of every man and every woman.
I have written previously about Salesforce, the world's leading provider of customer relationship management systems, and its array of diversity programs ranging from Latinos, LGBTQ and Asian groups to veterans, women and those with unique abilities within their disabilities. Each is a "force" within the company — as in AbilityForce, Latinoforce, Outforce, etc.
Salesforce has discovered the power of faith in the lives and performance of its employees. In 2017, the company took a leap into faith as part of its diversity opportunities when Faithforce was officially organized.
The company's website describes Faithforce this way, "We acknowledge, celebrate, and foster understanding of our global faith and religious diversity across Salesforce. With the goal of inclusion and empowering our employees to bring their authentic selves to work, Faithforce is open to all people of faith and allies who wish to learn about the different traditions that are integrated into our global communities.
No employee should feel pressured or coerced to participate in a faith program. But for far too long citizens have been told that they can have their individual faith and religion — but don't bring it to work or into the public square. When people feel they have to disconnect who they are from what they do each day, they tend to feel isolated, marginalized or unappreciated.
Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stated, "all voices need to be heard in the public square. Neither religious nor secular voices should be silenced." When each individual can share their authentic, best self with the community or group, all will experience the power of meaningful contribution and personal fulfillment. As Marianne Williamson said, "As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same."
Rabbi Soloveichik concluded, "Originally, until recent times and in Jerusalem today, Hanukkah lights were kindled not inside but outside the door of Jewish homes, right outside the door. … Lighting candles outside the doors of our homes expresses that when people of faith leave their homes and enter the world, they take their beliefs and their religious identity with them. They do not check their beliefs at the door when they enter the public square. Their souls, the candle within each person, illuminates their path wherever they may lead."
Valuing the light of belief within each soul adds fuel to the fire of freedom and brightens the beacon of hope America holds out to the world.