All posts by David Hoffman

Ideology vs. Compassion

Ideology vs. Compassion

by David Hoffman — January 23, 2015

One of the deepest areas of uncertainty I have, in my efforts to advance peace and humane justice through interfaith engagement, is the question “What does it mean, that some people knowingly prioritize ideology above Compassion?” The two most common instances I see of this perspective are the subordination of Compassion to some construct of Righteousness, and the subordination of Compassion to some construct of Obedience.

These patterns of thought and behavior are widespread. They produce both explicit cruelties by some, and the acceptance (or even active condoning) of cruelties by many other people who probably wouldn’t initiate those cruelties themselves. The prospect of so many people prioritizing ideology above Compassion leaves me fearful that my and others’ best efforts to establish more humane local and global social and cultural orders will be swept away by inhumane and draconian forces and groups.

The widespread prioritization of ideology above Compassion sometimes leaves me wondering whether I’m in denial regarding the realities of human nature and human relations. When I insistently maintain that Compassion is an essential and all-pervasive aspect of the nature, intentions and will of our Creator, am I over-generalizing a sanitized, “feel-good” set of assumptions? When I repeatedly remind myself and tell others that

“G-d* is all-merciful, and that Compassion is an essential aspect of our Creator’s very nature and being, and therefore every truly spiritual endeavor is – in some sense – aimed at embracing and implementing humane values”,

Is this merely wishful thinking on my part?

Are there valid spiritualities which prioritize ideology over Compassion? Is it sometimes valid and consistent with G-d’s nature and intention, to prioritizing Obedience, Righteousness, or some other value over Compassion? Or am I correct in saying that elevating other values above Compassion is an invalid human construct, which mis-comprehends the ultimate essence of spirituality,and the ultimate nature of G-d*?

What do others here think about this question?

* NOTE: I use the spelling “G-d” out of respect for those who consider it a sacrilege to spell out the full name of our Creator. I do not consider spelling out the Creator’s name to be a sacrilege, but I recognize and honor the integrity of those who do.

Introducing NBOP’s Education Justice Task Force

North Bay Organizing  Project’s*
Education Justice Task Force

Drawing-girl embracing tree  with many books for leaves.   Caption: in Spanish and English: "Education Justice"


The North Bay Organizing Project’s*  Education Justice Task Force advocates for Education Equity in Sonoma County schools.  Through empowerment based community organizing we are creating a democratic, grass-roots means for working class, immigrant and low-income families and students to secure positive changes in school policy and practices.


Based on a three-month community listening campaign, we have created three working groups:

Our Ethnic Studies Working Group works to establish an Ethnic Studies course as a standard component of the curricula at all Sonoma County high schools.  This working group is also considering advocacy on other issues of cultural sensitivity and awareness among teachers and students.   Contact:  Omar Medina  –  –  (707) 318-6631

Our Restorative Discipline Working Group is monitoring the implementation of Santa Rosa City Schools’ new restorative discipline program at its High School and Middle School campuses.  In 2014, the creation of district-wide restorative school discipline was a major victory for our task force.  We are committed to making sure the program gains teacher buy-in, and uses truly restorative methods.   Contact David Hoffman  –  –  (707) 206-2650

The Algebra Project is a methodology for teaching Algebra to students who do not readily learn Algebra via conventional math curricula. It also involves parent and student organizing strategies.  Our Algebra Project Working Group is in consultation with Project founder Bob Moses, former director of S.N.C.C. civil rights organizing in Mississippi during the 1960s.  They are hosting a study group on the Second and Fourth Thursday of each month, to read and discuss the book Radical Equations: Civil Rights from Mississippi to the Algebra Project, by Bob Moses and Charles E. Cobb, Jr.  For  information about joining to this study group contact Paul Robbins   –    or John Williams   –

Photo of Martin Luther King, Jr. with quote:  "The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.  Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education."

*  The North Bay Organizing Project (“NBOP”) is a coalition of more than  twenty religious congregations and community action groups in Sonoma County, California.  NBOP advocates for racial, economic, gender and environmental justice.



Our Legacy of Slavery

Text:  "Juneteenth" below a drawing of the chain breaking, between two manacled, black hands .

 Our Legacy of Slavery

Soon it will again be June 19 ( “Juneteenth”) — the day we remember the legacy of US slavery, and celebrate the liberation of African Americans from that enslavement. How many of us will remember?

People of faith need to wrestle with the slaveholding histories of our predecessors: Devout adherents of every major spiritual tradition have held slaves.

  •  How do we account for these rationalizations, and these violations of the humane imperative at the core of our founding prophets and avatars teachings?
  •  What is it, in our various traditions, that allowed — or even enabled — such inhumane conduct and thought?
  • Does that potential to condone violence and oppression remain in place?
  •  Do we understand what it is?

What are we doing (if anything) to guard against other inhumane misapplications of our faith traditions, in the future?

Slavery existed when our ancient prophets walked the earth.  Few of them directly called for universal emancipation, although early followers may have been inspired to liberate their own slaves.  In most cases, movements for emancipation developed centuries afterward, premised on longstanding, but imperfectly implemented, spiritual teachings of justice, mercy and universal human solidarity.

But not at the time. In fact, the movement for universal emancipation was driven more decisively by secular ethical and political awakening grounded in science and modernity, than by spiritual tradition. Are we willing to be honest with ourselves about this history?

Sonoma County Interfaith Gathering and Dinner – Sunday August 30, 2015

An invitation to all people of faith
in Sonoma County, California

We want you to know about the upcoming annual Sonoma County Interfaith Gathering and Dinner.   From 2005 until 2011, up to 140 people, from as many as 15 faith communities, came together for an annual Sonoma County interfaith program and dinner. The Interfaith Council of Sonoma County plans to renew that annual interfaith gathering. This year’s event will be on Sunday, August 30, 2015 at Congregation Ner Shalom in Cotati, California.

We are planning workshops, group presentations, and a potluck dinner with discussion. We hope to build bridges, foster community support, and create dialogue among different religious communities. The event will be free and open to all ages.

We are seeking sponsors and endorsements from a wide variety of religious and spiritual groups in or near Sonoma County, California.

If you have questions, please contact

David Hoffman
(707) 206-2650

Cyndi Norwitz
(707) 775-4475.

Thank you!

Cyndi Norwitz and David Hoffman
Interfaith Council of Sonoma County