The making of a terrorist … postponed

July 21, 2003

We’re enjoying thirty-plus degree holiday weather (90+ degree fahrenheit) so Wisdom (personified in my wife) has prevailed upon me to postpone for a week the fourth in the series, Christian Hope in an age of pax Americana.

Instead let a me share a paragraph or two from my holiday reading, related to our subject.

From Jonathan Sacks, “The Dignity of Difference” (Continuum Books, London, 2002), p.42-3:

“Religion and politics are different enterprises. They arose in response to different needs: in the one case to bind people together in their commonality, in the other to mediate peaceably between their differences. The great tragedies of the twentieth century came when politics was turned into a religion, when the nation ( in the case of fascism) or system (communism) was absolutized and turned into a god. The single greatest risk of the twenty-first century is that the opposite may occur: not when politics is religionized but when religion is politicized. What makes religion incapable of being politics is what led Aristotle to criticize the republic of Plato. Plato in ‘The Republic’ sought to invest the state with the characteristics of a religion. Aristotle replied by saying that without difference there can be no politics. Politics is the space we make for what individual religions seek to overcome – diversity of views, conflicting interests, multiplicity. And whereas once we needed these things at a local level, we now need them globally.

“Religions were humanity’s first global phenomena. The great faiths of the axial age – especially the monotheisms, Judaism, Christianity and Islam – were born when mankind first lifted its sights beyond the tribe, the city and the nation and thought of humanity as a whole. To this day, more than any other actor on the international stage, they fulfil the twenty-first century imperative: ‘think globally, act locally’. Their vision is global but their setting is local – the congregation, the synagogue, the church, the mosque. The question is: are religions ready for the greatest challenge they have ever faced, namely a world in which even local conflict can have global repercussions? It was one thing for Christians and Muslims to fight one another in the age of the Crusades; quite another to do so in an age of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. It was one thing for wars of religion to take place on a battlefield, another when anywhere – a plane, a bus, an office-block – can become the frontline and a scene of terror.”

Enough for now,

Till next week,

Jeff Fountain

Till next week,

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