23 Feb Choose Your Own Adventure
By Makena Schoene
Blog & Social Media Coordinator, The Drake Community Press
As a child, Luke Elzinga was obsessed with ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books. “I especially like the Goosebumps ones and I used to make my own. One time, I even programmed a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ game on a TI-83 calculator.” Needless to say, Luke has always had an interest in all the different paths that life can take. Since joining the team at the Des Moines Area Religious Council (DMARC) as Communications Manager, he has had the chance to further his adventure by gaining experience in several fields, all while helping others create their own opportunities in the process.
Hometown: Wausau, Wisconsin
Words to Live by: Always Question Everything
MS: How did you first get involved with DMARC?
LE: After serving a year with the Americorps VISTA program at Montana Legal Services Association in Helena, Montana, I returned to Iowa to look for a job in the nonprofit sector. I saw an opening at DMARC and it seemed like the perfect fit for me. I’ve been working here since April 2014 and love everything I get to do at DMARC.
MS: What drew you to become involved in this project with DCP?
LE: now, DMARC does not have a full-time interfaith staff position, and I serve on DMARC’s Interfaith Engagement committee and have helped organize interfaith events before. Most of my work is centered around DMARC’s Food Pantry Network, so I always jump at the opportunity to get involved more in the interfaith side of our work.
MS: What do you look forward to most about working with the Interfaith Committee?
LE: I believe interfaith engagement and dialogue is extremely important in our state, country and world, especially in our current political and social climate. I love getting to learn more about other faiths and cultures, as well as meeting people and communities in Greater Des Moines that are often overlooked.
MS: What challenges have you encountered while working with the Press?
LE: We’ve had a few situations with short deadlines that needed to be met, and coordinating those has been a learning experience. Overall, the time I’ve spend with Drake Community Press has been an incredible opportunity to learn from some very talented people and make new connections with religious communities in Greater Des Moines.
MS: What faith, religion or belief system do you adhere to? How has working on this project opened your eyes to other cultures?
LE: I was raised in the Reformed Church of America (RCA). In fact, my father is an RCA minister. Over time, I’ve lost or discarded a lot of Christian dogma, and these days consider myself an agnostic (or an atheist – it depends on who I’m talking to). I think the word ‘atheist’ has such negative connotations surrounding it, when in fact all it means is that I don’t believe in the existence of any god. I believe I have one life to live in this world – and I should focus my beliefs and actions around leaving this planet and its inhabitants in better shape than when I arrived.
MS: The latest DCP project explores the religious cultures of Des Moines. As an agnostic, how does this affect your perspective on faith and religion?
LE: I think atheists and agnostics have gotten a bad reputation, mostly due to some outspoken anti-theists like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Bill Maher and Christopher Hitchens. These ‘new atheists’ view religion as an inherently bad thing. In a lot of ways, they are the ‘religious fundamentalists’ of atheism. However, there is a much larger number of atheists and agnostics who harbor no antipathy towards religion, but rather choose not to follow any. Just because I don’t believe in a particular god or goddess does not keep me from wanting to learn more about them and the people who worship them.
MS: Any upcoming news or events from DMARC to share with our readers?
LE: This spring, we’ll hold our third annual Spring Into Action event, a week of volunteer activities for our Food Pantry Network. This year the event will be held April 23-29. We hope to make this year’s event the most successful yet!
Follow Luke and the Des Moines Area Religious Council on social media!
Twitter: @LukeElzinga and @dmreligious
Facebook: Luke Elzinga and Des Moines Area Religious Council
Photo provided by Luke Elzinga