The Rapidian Home

Ethics and Religion Talk: Give me your best elevator pitch for your religion!

In an elevator pitch, what would you offer as the most important points of your faith? Let's say you have two minutes max to make your case.

What is Ethics and Religion Talk?

“Ethics and Religion Talk,” answers questions of ethics or religion from a multi-faith perspective. Each post contains three or four responses to a reader question from a panel of nine diverse clergy from different religious perspectives, all based in the Grand Rapids area. It is the only column of its kind. No other news site, religious or otherwise, publishes a similar column.

The first five years of columns, published in the Grand Rapids Press and MLive, are archived at More recent columns can be found on by searching for the tag “ethics and religion talk.”

We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

For more resources on interfaith dialogue and understanding, see the Kaufman Interfaith Institute page and their weekly Interfaith Insight column at

Linda Knieriemen, a retired pastor of the Presbyterian Church (USA), responds:

One the years my ‘statement of faith’ has condensed from several pages to four words: Love God. Love Neighbor. The elevator door has barely closed so I will flesh out both.

Trying to Love of God compels me to worship God, to talk with God, to be with others who are doing the same. Love of God compels me to love Creation, that is to tend and protect it and to enjoy and celebrate it. 

Trying to Love Neighbor compels me to advocate for fairness and equality for all God’s people. God’s call to hospitality is all-inclusive. The Biblical story illustrating this intention is the Good Samaritan—everyone is your neighbor, especially those who [you] think are not. Since there is so much inequality and oppression, this is easier to say than to practice. It leads me to support programs to empower those whose power has been limited—those who are unhoused, hungry or sick and those who are marginalized by age, gender, orientation [and] racial bias. 

Fred Stella, the Pracharak (Outreach Minister) for the West Michigan Hindu Temple, responds:

OK, start timing….NOW. Believe it or not, my organization (Hindu American Foundation) actually gives us cards to pass out. “Hinduism-2-Go” offers exactly what you are asking. It includes a definition of Brahman, which is the Absolute (or “God”). It is the all-pervading reality that is beyond description. It may be worshiped in various forms, male or female. It may also be acknowledged as being without form.

Dharma is the highest mode of conduct that we are to observe in our lives. It takes into account our stages in life and personal circumstances. For instance, the dharma for a monk or nun would be different from the dharma of one in the family pattern.

Karma is the law of action/reaction. Everything we do (inspired by our state of consciousness) will have a reaction either later in this current life or in a future one. This is not blind fatalism. If we change our thoughts and actions, we change our karma.

Samsara is the “wheel of birth and death.” Hinduism acknowledges the doctrine of rebirth; a cycle that continues until enlightenment when the soul is freed and merges into Bliss.

It is important to note that Hinduism is very pluralistic. That is, while some religions posit that only their path is ordained by God, Hinduism isn’t very concerned about what people believe. Within the religion are multiple theologies that are not always aligned. But we look mainly at the behavior of people. As long as one is compassionate, generous, peaceful, etc., we are confident that God “approves” of whatever tradition one identifies with. This includes secularists.

There. And by my watch I have another 15 seconds to go. 

The Reverend Colleen Squires, minister at All Souls Community Church of West Michigan, a Unitarian Universalist Congregation, responds:

We say we are a Unitarian Universalist congregationan inclusive religious community that celebrates theological diversity. We welcome every person exactly as they are. I think it would also be important to say that it is not what we individually believe that is important as much as how we treat one another. It is our relationship to one another that is most important.

The Rev. Sandra Nikkel, head pastor of Conklin Reformed Church, responds:

- I am a sinner separated from God by my own sin.

- My righteous acts are not enough to save me from Eternal damnation.

- I am in need of Grace in order to be saved.

- That Grace is given to us in Jesus Christ who died in my place so I can be saved, equipped and sanctified to live in heaven for Eternity.

- All I have to do is believe and receive it and give thanks to God for such an indescribable gift.

"But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in[h] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." (Romans 3:21-24)

Rev. Ray Lanning, a retired minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, responds:

First, let me record my protest against our American habit of reducing everything to simple formulas and slogans, or “elevator pitches.” An elevator is no place for serious conversations. That said, here are some texts from the Bible that come to mind. First: “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1); “God created man in His own image; in the image of God created He him; male and female He created them (Genesis 21:27). Second: “By one man sin entered the word, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12); “They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good” (Psalm 14:1). Third: “Christ came into the world to save sinners” (I Timothy 1:15); “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Finally: "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16); “Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him” (Psalm 2:12). To that I will add that great command given by our Lord: “Repent ye, and believe the gospel!” (Mark 1:15). 

My response:

I’ll quote the early Jewish sage, Hillel: What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole Torah; all the rest of commentary – go and learn!


This column answers questions of Ethics and Religion by submitting them to a multi-faith panel of spiritual leaders in the Grand Rapids area. We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up in the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.