Arizona Interfaith Movement with Rev. Larry Fultz - Conversation with the Rabbi

Episode 13

full
Published on:

29th Jul 2021

Arizona Interfaith Movement with Rev. Larry Fultz

Rabbi Michael Beyo and Dr. Adrian McIntyre talk with Rev. Larry Fultz about interfaith dialogue, the Golden Rule, and the rise of the "nones."

Rev. Larry Fultz is Executive Director of the Arizona Interfaith Movement, an organization comprised of over 22 different faith communities who have joined together in order to build bridges of understanding, respect and support among diverse people of faith through education, dialogue, service and implementation of the Golden Rule. The Arizona Interfaith Movement has been in existence since 1965 and been instrumental in making Arizona the first Golden Rule State in the nation. In addition, 13 cities have become Golden Rule cities and subscribed to treating their citizens with respect regardless of their faith, ethnicity or creed. A license plate was granted reading "Live the Golden Rule" was granted by the legislature in 2005, and there are now over 20,000 of these plates in existence. The proceeds goes to helping to provide Golden Rule education in the schools throughout the State of Arizona through the AGREE program that is non-religious and meets all the State requirements for use in the public school system.

Rev. Fultz is no stranger to the Arizona Interfaith Movement, having been a member from its very beginnings in 1995 and serving on various boards and committees up to the present time. Rev. Fultz became a minister in 1969 after receiving his BA, Masters in Theology, and Masters in Counseling. He retired in December 2005. Larry’s life is rich with interfaith activity and experience having been a part of the beginning of the InterFaith Action Coalition of Arizona (AZIFM’s prior name). He participated in the first “Experience Interfaith” event as a speaker and participant. He was active in helping organize and produce the first “Voices of Faith” concert and those afterwards. He was present in 2003 when the declaration was granted to make Arizona the First Golden Rule State in the Union. He participated in the campaign for the “Live the Golden Rule “License Plate and was present at the signing of the bill. Larry participated in the Interfaith Habitat for Humanity building project in Phoenix and has appeared on radio and television as part of the Arizona Interfaith Movement Speaker’s Bureau. In 2002 he traveled with the United Nations Committee of Religious NGOs delegation to Kosovo, Macedonia, and Albania to aid the Muslim refugees in their plight, helping build refugee camps, counseling and education. Larry’s life work has been devoted to bringing peace, understanding and the love of God to all people.

Additional Resources:

Conversation with the Rabbi is a project of the East Valley Jewish Community Center, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, neighborhood organization that has served individuals and families inclusive of all races, religions, and cultures since 1972. Visit us online at https://www.evjcc.org

The show is recorded and produced in the studio of PHX.fm, the leading independent B2B online radio station and podcast studio in Phoenix, Arizona. Learn more at https://phx.fm

Transcript
Announcer:

From PHX.fm, this is Conversation with the Rabbi, featuring open, honest dialogue, and sometimes unconventional perspectives on the world we all share.

Adrian McIntyre:

Welcome to another Conversation with the Rabbi, I'm Adrian McIntyre. Our guest for today's show is Larry Fultz, Executive Director of the Arizona Interfaith Movement. Reverend Fultz is no stranger to interfaith dialogues. He's been involved with the Arizona Interfaith Movement from its very beginnings in 1995. And prior to that, he served in ministry for many decades. I'm very much looking forward to this conversation. Our host of course, is Rabbi Michael Beyo, CEO of the East Valley Jewish Community Center. Hi, Rabbi.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Good morning, Adrian. How are you? And good morning, Reverend Fultz. Thank you so very much for joining us for another Conversation with the Rabbi. We're excited to have you here and I for sure look forward to have this dialogue with you.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

Thank you. It's been a joy to be here and meet you folk, and anticipating a great conversation.

Adrian McIntyre:

Why don't you start by giving us an introduction to the Arizona Interfaith Movement? I understand from the text on your website, that this is an organization of over 22 different faith communities, but sometimes in the written description, the richness gets lost. Tell us about the Arizona Interfaith Movement, who you are, what you do and why you do it?

Rev. Larry Fultz:

Yeah. In order to do that, we probably need to go back to 1995, and the history of our organization. Dr. Paul Eppinger was the executive director of the Ecumenical Council at that time, which is a Christian organization of many Christian churches. One of the gentlemen from the church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints asked to become a member of that organization. At that time, the Christian community did not recognize them as a Christian organization and refused their membership. Some of us were quite concerned about that because we felt that that was not correct administration of our duties. And so we thought of developing an interfaith organization of many faiths coming together. And so we started with six faiths: Judaism, Islam, Latter-day Saints, Christianity, both Catholic and Protestant, and Hinduism, and Baha'i. And those were the face that we began with just to begin to dialogue and to talk, and to try to find common ground. It happened that the LDS representative was in band by the name of Darl Anderson. And Darl was a man who was big on the principle of the Golden Rule. And he wore suspenders that said Live the Golden Rule, and he was quite an interesting fellow. And at our first interfaith forum, or Experiencing Interfaith, where we met together and we talked about our faith, he mentioned the fact that one of the things we have in common is the Golden Rule. And we began to explore that, never gave any thought about it, and began to explore it. And that has become our common ground, our common principle. Our real desire is to build bridges of understanding amongst diverse people of faith, respect, and support. And so when one faith is being challenged, we come together because we see that as all of our faiths being challenged. So our role as we see ourselves, is that we know that behind many of the world's greatest challenges and conflicts is usually some kind of a religious misunderstanding. And so the bias and related issues that we deal with are the things that we try to explore and try to bring understanding and purpose to it.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Thank you very much Reverend Fultz for that description of your work and reason behind that. I have been involved in interfaith dialogue for the past, I would say 10 years. So much less time and much less experience than you have had. And I have to say that I always approach this work with trepidation. And every few months, or every few years, I asked myself, is it worth? Are we actually achieving what we are supposed to achieve? What we meant to achieve? And let me explain to you my perplexity, even in the work that I do in my small part of the world in interfaith. It seems to me that more often than not, we are speaking to the choir. We are dialoguing, we are creating commonalities among people that want to find those commonalities. And those people of all religions that are not interested in finding commonalities, they are never at a table. So are we just an equal chamber that we are saying to ourselves, "Yes. We're doing a great job, kumbaya." But then are we really affecting proper change, education, to those who should really be at the table, but they don't want to be at the table? Please explain to me and teach me your ways, oh, masterful one.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

[laughing] Oh, I wish you were so right. We are a movement and it's like pushing mud uphill sometimes. I recognize exactly what you're saying because every morning I wake up and I think, okay, how could I make a difference today? Did I make any difference yesterday? There are people that will never come to the table. You're aware of that. And I'm aware of that. It's the fringe people that I have to really work with. It's the people that I know are teetering and tottering and those are the ones that I really need to find a way to reach, and touch, and help them to try to find a way to join us, to make a difference. I don't spend much time with those who might know who've made it very vocal and have made it very clear that they're not going to be a part of this. They don't want any part of it. And as a result of that, they're part of the problem, unfortunately. But I do spend my time with people who are in places of power and position such as legislators, governors, et cetera. For instance, so we have made our state of Golden Rule state, we're in the process of getting our 13th city to come in as a Golden Rule city. And we're in the process of getting our schools coming in as Golden Rule schools, we have a number of them that have come in as Golden Rule schools, where they take our program that we have called AGREE, that is meets the standards of all the state standards for education and teaches the Golden Rule in a non-religious perspective. So those are the ways in which we see we make a difference. Now here's the highlight reel. There are times when we have people come forward who talk about how it's made a difference in their life, and how it's made a difference in their school, how it's made a difference in their city. Those are the things that keep us moving. Those are the things that keep us rolling along and doing what we're doing. So is it a perfect world? Absolutely not. I wish it were a Rabbi, but we don't stop doing what we know is right just because there are others who disagree with us.

Adrian McIntyre:

One of the things that strikes me having lived and worked in over 30 countries, having been exposed from a very young age through travel and time spent in other places is that if you really take an honest look at who's causing problems and who's advocating solutions in almost anywhere, what you find is less that this is between X tradition and Y tradition. And what you find instead is that within every tradition there are extremists and accommodationists.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

Yes, right.

Adrian McIntyre:

There are people spewing hateful rhetoric and people working for peace. Getting 22 religious communities around the table seems like it multiplies the problem in that every single one has to deal with themselves in their own communities of faith and practice with their intolerant extreme folks. In other words, to kind of take another tack on Rabbi's first question, are we ignoring the real problem by getting the good people together? And how do the good people who come together address the hate, and intolerance, and extremism in their own individual communities of faith?

Rev. Larry Fultz:

Very good question. And I think one of the things is that you have to make a fashionable. In our culture when things become fashionable, everybody gets on the train. So we have to help the politicians. We have to help religious leaders. We have to help the man and the few, we have to help that person, those people understand that it's not fashionable to be a, not an interfaith person. And so it's a little by little progress, as I say, it's like pushing mud up hill, but it's something we have to do. And whether we don't always see what we want to see, it doesn't mean that we stop. But as I say, culture is changed by people who make things fashionable to be in the right place at the right time.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

You're saying that this is work that we have to do. Why? I mean, why? And I'll give you an example of why my question even. I come from a religion, and particularly from a tradition within my religion, that says don't do interfaith, don't legitimize those that don't believe there is one God. Don't legitimize those that even of our tradition are different than us. Now I am different so I chose to split from the way that I was raised and my background. And I do engage, and I do create a lot of interfaith programs. But you have so many Orthodox Jews, for example, that are against any form of interfaith, or against even any form of intra-faith within Jews, right?

Rev. Larry Fultz:

Yeah, exactly.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

And case in point is, for example, in your organization, as far as I know you do not have Orthodox Jews representing Judaism, you have Conservative and Reform Jews representing Judaism, which leads me to two questions. One is why should we engage in interfaith as there's many that don't want to, and maybe they're right? And second, do you feel that your organization represents well Judaism as an interfaith organization, even if you don't have representative of Orthodoxy?

Rev. Larry Fultz:

No. And we don't represent anything. The people that are part of us are the representatives.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Okay.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

And this is what I always tell our people, be as strong in your faith as you can, because then we are as strong as you are strong in your faith. We're only as strong as you are in your faith. But to answer your first question is we live in a different world today than we lived 100 years ago. You wake up tomorrow morning and your neighbor is going to be somebody from a different part of the world, with a different language, with a different set of rules and a different religion.

Adrian McIntyre:

Can I just interject that I wake up every morning hoping that that would actually be true? But it turns out my neighbors are still the ones that I went to sleep with the night before.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

And their dog still comes in your yard. (Laughter)

Adrian McIntyre:

I'm sorry to interrupt, Larry. Go ahead.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

No, that's great. But we cannot continue to ignore the fact that that's a reality. So we believe that it's essential for a people to understand each other's faith, and culture, ethnicity in order to be able to live in a world that's going to have some semblance of peace and hope for the future. So you say, why do we do this? Why? Well, to me, it's pretty simple because, why does anybody work for peace when we know that there's so many obstacles against peace? Because it's the right thing to do. And it's never wrong to do the right thing. Even how minimal appears to be.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

There was a word that came out several years ago, and the word was tolerance. And so we'll just tolerate. And I have always said that whatever we're willing to tolerate will never change. So if we're willing to tolerate certain things that are wrong and we'll never change that. And so I don't use the word tolerance at all. I don't think it's a good term. I use the word respect, and I want to be able to respect you for your beliefs though I may disagree. I respect you. I'm a Baptist. We have 120 different Baptists. Why? Because we can't agree on anything. So we have our own intra-faith problem too.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

So I completely agree with you that the word tolerance is problematic. And I also don't use it.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

Yeah, good.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Also when I do my work, and all across education work, I never used the word tolerance. I can tolerate a pimple on my tuchus, I don't want to tolerate another human being. I want to respect.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

Absolutely.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

And to give dignity to another human being. But the question that I have, and again, I'm asking this question not because I want to challenge you, but because these are the questions that I ask myself and not always, I have good answers, is what should we do when you have two or multiple faiths that in their faith, in their core faith is against your faith?

Rev. Larry Fultz:

I understand. I lived with it all my life in the Baptist world.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Right.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

You do the same thing that you do with other people's faith. You do the same, you respect them, you listen to them, you try to bring them ...

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

I was having a conversation the other day, a private conversation the other day with Adrian. And I mentioned to Adrian that I don't do interfaith work with representatives of Christian faith that they tell me that their religious goal or desire is that I convert and accept Jesus.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

Yeah.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

If somebody tells me, "yes, if I had a magic wand, you Michael, would accept Jesus as a savior," then I don't want to engage with that person. Because I feel that by stating that they don't respect who I am.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

Yeah. Yeah.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

And they actually would like me not to exist as a Jew. They would like me to exist as a Christian. And therefore there cannot be any basis for a dialogue, but then telling me, please, am I wrong? Meaning because in your position, I am sure there are some of the 20 plus faiths that maybe their theological basis is to disregard somebody else. So how do you work with that?

Rev. Larry Fultz:

We do not allow any plagiarism. I mean, we do not allow any proselyting, for one thing, that is the number one rule in our organization. We do not allow that number one. Number two, I approach it and to say you're right or wrong I would never do that. That's ...

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

You leave that to my wife.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

That's something to your own conscience that I can try to persuade, but to me, I take it as a plus thing if somebody says to me, they would like for me to become part of their faith. I'd say, "Bravo to you for thinking that your faith is that wonderful. Bravo to you." I don't get problematic with that at all. But because I guess of who I am, and where I'm at in my life, I'm 81 years old, I've been there, I've seen it. I know who I am and what I want to be, but I respect those who are zealous about their faith and zealous enough to love me enough, that they believe that they would love for me to be a part of that faith. So that's the approach that I take with it. I don't take it as an affront that they disrespect me. I just take it as a plus sign that they are very zealous for their faith. And I accept that, and I respect it.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Yeah, maybe I work two different ways is also part of our historical DNA.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

Yes, exactly.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

That as a Jew we add to confront forced conversions. And maybe that is partially why it's in my DNA so to speak, that I feel that way, but maybe not. Maybe it's just me.

Adrian McIntyre:

I would remind you Rabbi of one of the things you also said to me in another conversation, which I think illuminates something about this, which is you say, "Adrian, we have become friends, we respect each other. We have such different points of view on many core issues, but I enjoy talking to you, and I'm learning from you, and you from me, and so on. And I would like to say that that appreciation for you means I would be okay if you had a daughter that my son would marry your daughter. And I'm not okay with that, because if I was okay with that, it would mean the end of my people."

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Right. Yeah.

Adrian McIntyre:

In other words, your primary concern, Michael, if I can represent what I've taken from these things ...

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Yeah, yeah please.

Adrian McIntyre:

... is a vigilance for anything, whether it's rhetoric or action that if played out to its extreme would mean the end of the Jewish people as the Jewish people.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

100%.

Adrian McIntyre:

So whether that's conversion, or marriage, or any other thing, that's, I just wanted to add I've picked that up in these conversations.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

100% you could not be more correct. And let me just tell you something that happened to me a few years ago when I became the chaplain for Jews students at Boston University and the executive director for Boston University, Hillel. Hillel, as you know, is an organization on campus that is open to all Jews, any student, regardless of their faith, lack of faith, political association. And we're open to everybody, even non-Jewish students can participate at Hillel's programs and events on campus. So while I was being interviewed in my interview process, I also interviewed with the student leaders. And I remember they asked me if I, as an Orthodox Rabbi would work differently with Orthodox students or not Orthodox students. Would I have a preference with one over the other? Or would I have a prayer or how would I, and Larry this was the question, how would I treat a Reform student who's a mother is not Jewish, father's Jewish. So according to Orthodoxy, that student is not Jewish, but according to Reform Judaism, that student is Jewish. How would I interacted with that student? So I remember my answer very clear, and I was actually proud of my answer. And I said, if I am a disposition at Hillel, every person that self identifies as a Jew and is accepted by the major denomination as a Jew is a Jew, period. No question asked. A different question is, if when my son is 25 years old and comes home and tells me, "Papa, I want to marry a non-Jewish girl." That is a private matter between me, my son, his girlfriend, my wife, and we'll sit around a table and we'll figure that out as a family, that's a private matter. Nothing to do, how I will engage with a student at Hillel. And that's a similar to what I do here at the JCC. We treat everybody equally. We are open to everybody. Whether you believe, whether you don't believe, we don't ask, I don't care. Differently is how I, what is my belief? And what I teach my kids at home. So yes, I, on a personal private level, I want my kids to marry Jewish girls. But that does not mean that I don't like you, or don't respect you, or don't want to be friends with you.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

Absolutely. And I understand that entire, let me give you a real life scenario. I'm a Baptist. I wanted my daughter to grow up to marry a Baptist boy. She came home one and said, "I'm in love with a Jewish boy."

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Not everybody's perfect.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

We have embraced him. And he's a beautiful part of our family. I couldn't be happy for a wonderful son-in-law. He's a fabulous young man. And we love him dearly, have given us two great grandchildren. And they go between the Baptist church and the Jewish synagogue. And they're happy. And we're happy. But now let me ask you a question Rabbi, as my understanding of the Jewish Bible, there is a Abrahamic covenant and a Davidic covenant, that have promised the seed of those to continue on forever and ever. How is it that you're concerned that they would, the marriage would wipe out the Jewish nation?

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

It's a good question.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

And that's not a challenge. It's just, I'm clear ...

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

No, no, no, no, no. It's a great, it's a good question, period. And I don't take it as a challenge. Nobody's ever asked me this question, so I'm glad that you did so it will give me your opportunity to think about it and answer you to the best.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

It may give you some perspective in terms of hope that that would not happen.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Yeah. So first of all, I'll start with a joke or a semi joke. There is a saying out there that we Jews are the chosen people.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

Right.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

You have no idea how many times I have prayed to God, to please for a period of time choose somebody else. Because if being the chosen people means to go through what Jews have gone through, at least in the last 2000 years, do me a favor, choose somebody else. It doesn't have to be forever, but for a few thousands of years or hundreds of years, do me a favor, choose somebody else. That just as a joke, that ...

Rev. Larry Fultz:

I understand that. That's a great truth.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Just choose somebody, whatever. But as Adrian correctly described, my passion is the Jewish people. And everything that I do is to continue the Jewish people. Yes, there is a covenant with Abraham and a covenant with David, but then we have freedom of choice.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

Yes we do.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

So if for all the Jews of today were to decide not to continue their connection with Judaism, Judaism will die.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

Oh, sure. Of course. Same is true with my faith.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

And the same is true with any tradition. So I need to do what I need to do from a human perspective. And I let God do what God needs to do from his, her, it perspective. I don't claim to know God's understanding. And I do what I think I need to do. If we look statistics, even the latest pure report that have came out about Jewish population in America, Jewish population in the world, unfortunately we see a huge decline in a Jewish self-commitment and affiliation with the Jewish people among Conservative and Reform denominations. The only place where we see growth is in the Orthodox denomination, that denomination is growing both because of internal growth, because of having more kids on average than the Conservative and Reformed families, but also because their commitment to Judaism is different. I'm not saying better. I'm not saying worse, but it's different than the commitment of Conservative and Reform Jews. We see so many Reform and Conservative Jews that their children or grandchildren don't care, they've become the "nones." They don't care anymore.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

They're the "nones," yes.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

They're the "nones". And that happens, is happening in many traditions. And for sure it's happening in Judaism and they just don't care. We as religious leaders, we messed up that we are losing them. And there isn't yet found the magical wand that, and a magic solution, how to bring them back. Nobody has that yet. And so if we project these for the next 50, 100 years, you will have less total number of Jewish people in America. And those that will still identify as Jews will be predominantly Orthodox. But that's that that's sad. That's sad that so many people are choosing not to identify anymore with our tradition that it's thousands and thousands of year long. And it's one of the most wonderful and beautiful tradition and history in humankind. So that's very sad.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

If it's any consolation to you, Rabbi, and probably won't be because it's none to us, it's happening in my faith. It's happening in all faiths.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Oh for sure.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

Faith is becoming ... more people are becoming "nones," as you said, yes.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Yeah. And so just to end this thought, therefore I want to do everything that I can both in my private life, and in my work, and in my public life to strengthen the connection with Judaism from all walks of life. And that is what really keeps me up at night.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

I hear you.

Adrian McIntyre:

Now let me weigh in on this because I think this, first of all affects me directly. I am someone who would check the "none" box. And it's very clear, the demographic trends that you've both addressed. That Pew study, for example, showed that 50 years ago, 5% of Americans claimed that they were non-religious, it's grown to 23% or more. So the question then becomes what's the place for engaging with the secular folks in an interfaith forum? If you only keep talking to believers, but borrowing, in some ways I would assert some of the humanistic values and so on which you might find floating around and being called secular values. I'm a particularly problematic person in that regard because I am an anti-humanist, but that's a philosophical point we could discuss another time. Where does secularism fit into an interfaith framework? Do they have a seat at the table? How does that play out?

Rev. Larry Fultz:

Glad you asked Adrian, because we have atheists, we have humanists, we have secularists, we have Native Americans. We have all of the above who participate and become a part of us because they have that common ground of the Golden Rule. The principle of treating each other with respect and dignity. They want that in their life to be respected. We have weakened. So they want that respect. And they found an organization that gives them that respect and will advance their thoughts of their own discipline and the right to determine their own destiny. And so, as a result of that, they love our organization.

Adrian McIntyre:

Do you have anyone from the Church of Satan?

Rev. Larry Fultz:

The Church of Satan, we have not, we have not had anyone from them.

Adrian McIntyre:

I don't know a lot about it, by the way. I grew up listening to heavy metal and enjoying heavy music, and so on.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

So that's his problem, Rabbi!

Adrian McIntyre:

But I am struck by the fact that so-called Satanists, while they freak a lot of Christians out, are actually really just humanists who like growing their hair long and freaking Christians out. There's a core of ethics and morality, which is probably lost, and I think they love that.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

Here is our measure. We go by the IRS standards and if you meet the IRS standards as a nonprofit 501(c)3 religious organization, or non-religious organization, you can be a part of us.

Adrian McIntyre:

It makes sense.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

We have not been approached by Satanists.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

So more than an interfaith organization, is an inter-people organization.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

Oh, beautiful. I love it.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Because as Adrian rightly mentioned, if you accept atheism, secularists, and humanists, then maybe it's not interfaith any more, is intra-people, intra-cultural.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

Although they see themselves, humanists would see themselves and help me out of Adrian. But I think they would see themselves as a religious organization.

Adrian McIntyre:

The Satanists or the humanists?

Rev. Larry Fultz:

No, the humanists.

Adrian McIntyre:

Probably not. I guess it depends on which ones you're talking to. I think there's another dynamic here. Go ahead.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

I've spoken to them on several occasions in their meetings and so forth. And they meet on a regular basis, which is one of the requirements. They have their own ministers, people who talk about the humanists program. So from the perspective of what the IRS says, they would consider themselves a religion.

Adrian McIntyre:

Yeah, fair enough. It gets into this question at some point, I guess, of what the boundaries of the distinction are? Does it apply to any values-based not-for-profit organization, et cetera, et cetera?

Rev. Larry Fultz:

No. It has to meet the religious requirements, that they have the 501(c)3.

Adrian McIntyre:

I understand. Here's the dynamic that I find also interesting, and I think we should talk about, and that is the rise of the "nones" -- the non-religiously identified -- is playing out very differently, depending on where in the world one looks. And the same Pew research that tells us that on average, most people would agree that a belief in God is necessary for moral and ethical actions in the world, it's 51-49 or something like that. But if you actually dig in and you look closer, you realize this is not the same in the developed countries. And in the developing countries, if you're talking about the U.S, Canada and Europe, the vast majority of people would tell you that a belief in God is not required to be a moral person. If you're looking in Indonesia, the Philippines, India, et cetera, et cetera, you find that the vast majority of people will say that yes, a belief in God is necessary to be a moral person. So I don't want secularism to be taken as some sort of vague universal that's the same everywhere. It's clearly not. And yet these secular values, which I'm not sure what they are to be quite honest. I think at some level it's be a good person and do no harm. If that's the only commonality, doesn't the interfaith dialogue then participate in the erasing of the difference that makes each community unique? In other words, how do you strike that balance between the things you have in common and the things that are different? So that focusing on the Golden Rule, for example, doesn't just erase the differences, which are what makes each community what it is? How do you keep the separation at the same time as you find the unity?

Rev. Larry Fultz:

Well, it's a work in progress to be sure. I think one of the things that there is still in the heart of every individual, I think the desire to know eternity. What is there? And so when secularism cannot provide that answer, at some point in time there is a turn to the religious community to find an answer. That to me is the one hope, one of the hopes that I have that as we grow older in our life, and what you're referring to Adrian is a group of young people, our generation, and each generation has to find their own definition of God. And I think that as that generation begins to grow older and begin to think about eternal things, last things that's when they turn to the religious institutions to find some answers. That's my hope.

Adrian McIntyre:

I'm curious about your backstory, Reverend, because you, at some point embraced interfaith dialogue, participation, collaboration, and so on as the way forward, was it clear if we were to go back in time to a young theology student, divinity student, that this was where you're going to end up, or did you have a turning point in your own thinking?

Rev. Larry Fultz:

Oh, absolutely not. I was the antithesis to all of what I own today. I think in terms of our stories, but life has a way of bringing about lessons that theology schools and seminaries can't teach you. And I think the turning point in my life was when Darl Anderson was turned away from the Christian community. And I realized that here's a group of people who hold a lot in common with what we believe as Christians, but are being put away, cast away from my Christian humidity. And that was a turning point for me when I began to realize there's something wrong here and I need to investigate more. And I was one of those who really started the Arizona Interfaith Movement. I was one of the six.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Reverend, you mentioned that when people get older the quest for the infinite, for lasting things. And you mentioned that it's your hope that that will happen also maybe to the "none" of this generation when they will grow older.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

Yeah. And I think it will.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

That's sad too, seeing that religion can only be for older people.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

I guess it is. It is sad. It is sad that, but it speaks to two things. It speaks to how we have been non-relevant in terms of our faith to the present generation. And it speaks to the fact that we have not done very, very job in helping that generation explain God and explain the religious part of their life. There's a religious part of everybody's life. Whether they like to admit it or not, there is. And somewhere, somehow it comes up and I believe it will, but yes, you're right. It's an indictment against us as a religious organizations, unfortunately.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

We started saying that religions often are at primordial core for many conflicts. And I presume that one of the reasons that you are engaged in interfaith ease in order to dissipate those conflicts.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

Absolutely. That's the whole purpose of what we do, is to dispel misunderstandings and myths. And we do that in a number of ways. We have what we call experience interfaith, and you've been there. You've seen us, where we bring all faiths together. We have a table of faith fair where people can get religious literature and just ask questions of people who themselves are practitioners of that faith or clergy of that faith. And then we have a meal, a common meal, where we take our shoes off, and we sit down, and the sick community from India feeds us a meal. And then we get up and we sit in a circle of 10, and we discuss our faith. It's a safe, free zone where you can talk about your faith in any way you want to talk about it. You can answer the questions and you can be very open and honest, and about your faith. So that's one of the ways in which we try to dispel the myths, the misunderstandings that... And the people have come really, really enjoy it and find a lot of help in terms of that. One of the great challenges that we have, one of the beautiful things that we have, we have a lot of college students, a lot of university students that come. And the sick community is there and they're tying turbans on their heads. And the Jewish community is there teaching them how to blow the shofar. And there's just a lot of wonderful things that happen at this event that young people would never experience any other way. And so in terms of time to deal with the "nones" we have interfaith movements in the universities, on the college campuses at Arizona University, and at University of Arizona. And we have some clubs in the high schools. So we're trying to teach young people what it means to be respectful and have interfaith dialogue, and it's working, we enjoy it. But yes, that's the whole purpose of what we're trying to do. Another way in which we do it is we have faith forums and we'll take a topic, of an interesting topic for instance of the day that's related to the news. And we'll have four or five panelists who'll discuss that topic in relationship to their own faith, so that people can understand how somebody thinks about some social issue or political issue from the perspective of Judaism, or Islam, or Christianity, or Hinduism, Hare Krishna, so forth.

Adrian McIntyre:

One of the things that unites folks advocating for the importance of religion in contemporary life is service. It's one thing to talk about your faith, and it's another to put it to work, whether it's serving a meal or serving in a community, picking up the trash, engaging in a prison ministry, whatever form it takes. And I think there's no question that many people, whether religious or secular would agree that service can play an important role in opening the eyes, the hearts, the minds, to the realities of our world, which are so often obscured by the sources of information people consume on a daily basis. Just simply getting out of your comfort zone, going somewhere and doing something. As we close the conversation, just share a little bit about this idea of service and how it plays out in your organization and for your members.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

Service is one of the things in which we use as our dialogue service and implementation of the Golden Rule to complete our mission. Service has been a very difficult thing because most of our people are involved in their own faith, in their different kinds of service activities. And we've tried to do something once a year in terms of a service. We built a home for Habitat for Humanity, one year, were also doing some homes in Mexico now. There are some ways in which we do it as an organization, but it's very difficult because it does require a strenuous amount of time. And we like to encourage our people to be active in their own faith, in the kinds of service activities that they're doing. We do have a young squad, a young people squad, and we do go over to the LDS Center where they pack food boxes and so forth. Once a year, we try to do that, but the service is a very difficult thing for us because of the, as I said, the fact that our people are very active and we encourage them to be active in their own service projects within their own faith.

Adrian McIntyre:

Larry Fultz is executive director of the Arizona Interfaith Movement. He's been involved with the organization since its very beginnings in 1995, and continues to the present day, bringing folks together to discuss, to engage, to eat together, to share, and to learn from each other. Reverend Fultz, thanks so much for joining us for this conversation.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

Thank you for the opportunity.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Thank you very much for being with us.

Rev. Larry Fultz:

Thank you. Appreciate it so much.

Adrian McIntyre:

If you enjoyed today's show, please subscribe to Conversation with the Rabbi on your favorite podcast app. You can also find the latest episodes online at ConversationWithTheRabbi.com. For all of us here at PHX.fm, I'm Adrian McIntyre. Thanks for listening, and please join us for the next Conversation with the Rabbi.

Show artwork for Conversation with the Rabbi

About the Podcast

Conversation with the Rabbi
Rabbi Michael Beyo, CEO of the East Valley Jewish Community Center, talks with an eclectic mix of faith-based and secular leaders from around the world.
In an era of political division and polarized debate, we are losing our ability to hear each other. The volume of our disagreements is at an all-time high, while our ability to communicate with kindness and empathy is at an all-time low. This podcast seeks to change that by engaging people from different backgrounds and beliefs in good old-fashioned conversation.

Listen in as Rabbi Michael Beyo and anthropologist Dr. Adrian McIntyre spend time listening, sharing, and discovering common ground in an effort to understand and appreciate the wondrous diversity of our human family. From interfaith dialogues to discussions with business and nonprofit leaders, this podcast shines a spotlight on the different ways we can learn to live, work, and worship together in a contentious and conflicted world.

We invite you to use these conversations as a lens to open up new understandings of self and the other, to develop empathy for diverse viewpoints, and to explore what is possible when we listen to others with respect.

Conversation with the Rabbi is a project of the East Valley Jewish Community Center, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, neighborhood organization that has served individuals and families inclusive of all races, religions, and cultures since 1972. Visit us online at https://www.evjcc.org

The show is recorded and produced in the studio of PHX.fm, the leading independent B2B online radio station and podcast studio in Phoenix, Arizona. Learn more at https://phx.fm

About your hosts

Rabbi Michael Beyo

Profile picture for Rabbi Michael Beyo
Rabbi Michael Beyo is CEO of the East Valley Jewish Community Center in Chandler, Arizona. He was born in Milan, Italy and has lived in Italy, England, France, Israel, and the United States. An Orthodox Jewish scholar with a successful career providing religious guidance to all the Jewish denominations, he was ordained as a rabbi in Israel, where he earned three Rabbinical Ordinations of the highest honor. In 2015 Rabbi Beyo moved to Arizona from Atlanta, where he had served as the Chief Development Officer for Hillel of Georgia, overseeing 12 colleges and universities. Prior to that he served as the Executive Director and Rabbi of Boston University Hillel, as well as the Jewish Chaplain for Boston University. Rabbi Beyo brings over 25 years of professional, entrepreneurial and non-profit experience in education, cultural, humanitarian, social and religious sectors. He successfully ran several start-ups in Israel before dedicating his career to the nonprofit world.

Adrian McIntyre, PhD

Profile picture for Adrian McIntyre, PhD
Dr. Adrian McIntyre is a social scientist, storytelling strategist, and internationally recognized authority on effective communication. His on-air experience began in 1978 at the age of five as a co-host of "The Happy Day Express," the longest-running children's radio program in California history. Adrian earned his PhD in cultural anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was a Fulbright scholar and National Science Foundation research fellow. He spent nearly a decade in the Middle East and Africa as a researcher, journalist, and media spokesperson for two of the largest humanitarian relief agencies in the world. Today he advises and trains entrepreneurs, executives, and corporate teams on high-performance communication, the power of storytelling, and how to leverage digital media to build a personal leadership brand.