JANUARY 12, 2004
Martin E. Marty
No metropolis makes our mission of "sighting" religion in public life easier than Indianapolis. Decades ago, the BBC, for their classic world-religion TV series "The Long Search," chose the U.S. for its Protestant program (with me as the American consultant) and chose Indianapolis for the close-up. It was "the north of the South and the south of the North," where major North-South and East-West expressways met. It was typed as a very conservative city but it had a progressive civic leadership that was out to change things. And it offered a spectrum of mainline, evangelical, fundamentalist, African-American, pentecostal and other churches. Indianapolis offered lessons for other metro areas' leaders.
The same is true today. Kevin Armstrong of the Polis Center at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis conducted a six-year study of public religion in Indianapolis, the most extensive city study ever undertaken. Through his findings we learn that race remains a very big deal; that Indiana is the "nation's eighth most religiously diverse state;" that churches are the leaders in helping Hispanics make their transition to city life; and that, like elsewhere, the "mainline" suffers some decline and independent congregations prosper.
Fostered by the Lilly Endowment, many projects devoted to connecting religion to the various dimensions of civic life in Indianapolis have been established. One of these is a video series based on the Armstrong IUPUI study. This was an autochthonous Indianapolitan endeavor (declaration of interest: I was back again as an advisor and "bit player") that produced a very extensive, informative, and inspiring set of eleven videos. Issues covered: the religious landscape, religion in black and white, faith-based partnerships, crises, clergy, social leadership, health care, immigration, models of ministry, sacred spaces, and assessments of vitality.
The Indianapolis project, not just for Indianapolitans, is designed to be exemplary, to serve as a template, frame, model, and inspiration for civic, religious, and academic leaders in cities that, lacking Lilly funds, may need to do more modest versions. [Queries about 11 videos:].
It would be pleasant and instructive to linger over one or another of the eleven videos and project areas, but that is not what this column is about. It is written in a "go and do thou likewise" spirit to Lilly-less cities, many of which have philanthropic foundations that could do something similar, on some scale or other. And it suggests that leaders in various places can learn from the experiments of those in others.
Our zeal to keep your trust as this e-mail makes its way to your screen each week makes us diffident about plugging, playing favorites, and, especially, advertising. But I had to take risks because I knew of no other way to call attention to what I hope will be used and emulated widely.
"Advertise: vb. To make publicly and generally known." That's part of the mission of Sightings.