First Things friend Francis Beckwith of Baylor University recently reprimanded a Facebook friend for sending him a secretly made video of a Mormon temple service. Professor Beckwith rightly described this violation of trust and act of disrespect for others as shameful. People of different faiths can, without compromising their own beliefs, treat people of other faiths with respect.

We do this “negatively,” as it were, by, for example, refraining from ridiculing beliefs, customs, or rituals of other faiths. We do it “positively” by, for example, addressing clergy of other faiths in the manner that is customary or prescribed within those faiths. So, for example, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, and others address Catholic and Eastern Orthodox clergy as “Father.” Christians and others address Jewish clergy as “Rabbi” and Muslim teachers of certain traditions as “Shaykh” (and Muslim clergy of certain traditions as “Imam”). Another way we do it positively is by facilitating each other’s religious observances when we can. For example, Jewish workers will sometimes offer to substitute for Christian co-workers on Christian holy days, and vice-versa. I myself and many other professors who are not Jewish make special arrangements for our Jewish students to make up classes they have to miss in order to observe the fall holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur when they fall on weekdays.

G.K. Chesterton, in chastising a liberal magazine for its criticisms of a Jewish industrialist who in his will had left money to his children conditional upon their maintaining the Jewish faith, put the point this way: “As an old-fashioned radical, I was brought up in the tradition of doing justice to a another man’s religion. But it is only his irreligion you moderns are disposed to respect.” Let’s not be like those whom Chesterton described as “you moderns.” This is one point on which all of us should, I believe, be “old-fashioned radicals.”

Articles by Robert P. George

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