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Bruce Springsteen is so essential to the American character that if he did not exist, we would have to invent him. I’ve never believed that more than when watching his new film, Letter to You.

In the film’s closing monologue, Springsteen reflects on what it means to be closer to the end than to the beginning. He knows that there are only so many snowfalls left, only so many star-filled nights and brisk fall days. When he was young, music was his metaphor for prayer. Now, prayer is his metaphor for music. In Letter to You, he plays Virgil to our Dante in this spirit-filled universe.

All around us, he insists, there are blessings to be had. Benedictions when we are buttering our toast. The hand of God gently resting upon our shoulder, even as we are simply getting dressed. We realize how lucky we are, “lucky to be alive, lucky to be breathing in this world of beauty, horror and hope.”

What we are given is a chance, a chance to love and to be loved. We go, we try to make sense of things, we do the best we can, knowing all the while that “how we conduct ourselves and do our work matters.”

If you listen closely, you can hear echoes of Springsteen in the victory speeches of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris last month. There is the realization that life is hard and still full of wonder. We are given the steady presence of God, the glory of the natural world, each other and a chance to make things better. There is the possibility of sacredness in the everyday, in the work we do, in the plans we make and especially in how we treat the people around us. It is the America of William Carlos Williams and Gwendolyn Brooks and Marilynne Robinson. In the language of Islam, it is the meeting point of din and dunya, the spirit world and the material world.

The last four years have felt like flying a plane in a tornado, a whirlwind of grotesque bigotry, gross incompetence and gratuitous meanness that emanated from the highest office in the land on a daily basis.

And still, IFYC managed to make progress. Not only have our core programs (student interfaith leadership, faculty-based interfaith studies curriculum, strategic planning with campus administrations) all experienced impressive growth, we have built partnerships with unlikely allies: the Charles Koch Foundation, evangelical Christian campuses, scholars at conservative think tanks.

Such partnerships were more than countercultural over the past four years, they were unpopular with just about everybody. In this new American moment, we hope that they flourish and scale, indeed, become the order of the day. We believe, along with Springsteen and President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris, that America is about embracing our differences, bridging our divides, highlighting our shared values, engaging in practical projects and nurturing a common life together.

This is the way we at IFYC conduct ourselves. This is the work that we believe matters.

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