THE STRUGGLE FOR COMMON IDEALS

As many of the present blogs indicate, religious leaders from every tradition, both Christian and not, are beginning to gather together–as distinct from the usual denominational gatherings of religious leaders common to most election seasons before this one-to articulate a common spiritual ideal for a nation in crisis at home and in question abroad.

The very fact that religious leaders would attempt to do such a thing together has, in itself, the hint of revolution about it. It certainly carries the undertone of the American pluralistic vision. It has in it even a spark of real religion. This kind of common spiritual approach to a common social question sees the world as one and sets out together to make it so.

The more ordinary insertion of religion into election campaigns in recent times has regularly confused two major issues: First, they have often been prone to equate religion with denominationalism and so set out to use elections to impose particular sectarian creeds, canons and culture on the rest of the society. Second, it has then come close to risking the creation of a contest within a contest-religious conservatives of every ilk against liberals of every ilk, including from their own traditions. This kind of political proselytizing does more than fuel the contest between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, between one candidate and another. It creates the more dangerous but unspoken question for a democracy that is founded upon separation of church and state: Which ‘religion’ will prevail in one election or another?

Silently, secretly, the question becomes: Is religion part of the solution to this era’s social complexities or is it part of the problem? The question carries with it the haunting smell of the Wars of Religion all over again.

Instead, the growing willingness of this era’s spiritual leaders to speak together in favor of an administration committed to the needs of the poor, the rights of minorities, and the good of the entire world as well as our own, is, in itself, an impacting religious witness worldwide. It moves the use of religion beyond both parochialism and nationalism. It takes responsibility for teaching morality to its own rather than demanding that the government legislate it. Finally, it gives universal witness to the very thing religions everywhere say they believe: that God loves the whole world, not simply the United States.

 

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