One America Voices Interview: Dave Carlson

The One America Movement is excited to launch a new initiative called One America Voices. Once a week, we will publish short interviews with Americans from all walks of life. By hearing each other’s stories, we can begin to reduce the divisiveness and polarization in our society. Enjoy – share with your networks and on social media using the hashtag: #1AmericaVoices

Dave Carlson

Dearborn, MI

Campus Pastor: Woodside Bible Church

1. You’re a new dad. How is that going? 

A: Being a Father has been an amazing experience. My little girl is 8 months old, and it has been special to watch her grow. The Bible talks a lot about God’s love as a Father, and in these past 8 months I’ve gotten to know God in a new way as I’ve experienced the love I have for this little girl. I have so much joy in her joy and so much pain in her pain.

I’ve also experienced the extreme limitations to control my environment, and my desperate needfulness for God that goes along with that. I can’t control whether she gets sick, or her teeth hurt her, or if she’ll grow up to know and love God. I can influence some of those things, but ultimately they’re out of my control. It’s been hard but good to sense the end of my self, and be forced to trust the loving and powerful hand of God to care for my little girl where I cannot.

2. Explain to us St. Augustine’s take on prioritizing what we love appropriately: 
A: In City of God, St. Augustine defines virtue as “rightly ordered love.” I think this is a powerful way of understanding both virtue and sin. When we love things in their right order, it leads to a virtuous life, and when we love something more or less than we should it leads to sin.

Augustine gives examples of both physical beauty and gold as good things that are created by God, but when loved out of order can lead to sin. When gold (or wealth) is loved more than people, it leads to sinning against people and taking human life for granted. When physical beauty is loved more than the person beneath, it leads to vanity or one human using another. When either are loved more than God, we lose sight of true hope, satisfaction and glory.

Augustine said it well, but Jesus said it best a few centuries earlier when he was asked to identify the greatest commandment, and he responded by saying, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus puts in order the 2 greatest virtues, first that we would love God, and second that we would love people. When we practice this love in its proper order, God-glorifying virtue is the inescapable result.

3. What is it like to be a pastor in a city known for its high population of Muslim-Americans?

A: I love our city. As best as I can guess from the 2010 census numbers, Dearborn is about 55% Arab Muslim (the 2020 census will be the first census that actually counts Arab as a distinct nationality from white). This means we can get some of the best Arab food in the country (If anyone is in town they need to check out Al Ameer, Al Masri and Hamido!), and in my experience it seems to mean that people are more aware of cultural and religious identity. This hyper-awareness has resulted in some of the best and worst moments in our city’s recent history.

Those moments are why I think the time is ripe for a movement like One America in our city. We need to understand each other; we need to understand our similarities and differences; we need to know each other as people and not categories; we need to choose to love and respect each other enough that when we disagree we can have a civil discussion rather than a civil war.

What makes our religious communities distinct is how they answer differently some of the most important questions humans face. Living and pastoring in a city where my religious convictions are in the minority has reaffirmed my commitment to and belief in the idea that we as humans need to strive to discuss these most important questions about God, truth, life and spirituality honestly and openly, praying that God would lead us to truth.

To learn more about the One America Movement, Click Here. 

To invest in our work to fight back against polarization, division and hate, Click Here. 

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