First Things - Religion and Public Life Donate to First Things
Login forgot password? | register Close

Ernest Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in six words, which he did. (I’ll get to what he wrote.) Black Book magazine issued the same challenge to a slew of well-known contemporary authors. Norman Mailer wrote this: "Satan ¯ Jehovah ¯ fifteen rounds. A draw." John Updike: "Forgive me!’ ‘What for?’ ‘Never mind.’" None of them come close to what Hemingway wrote: "For sale: baby shoes, never used."

Even if the number of adherents to non-Christian religions in America is not great, many Christians feel threatened or challenged by their presence. So says Robert Wuthnow of Princeton in America and the Challenges of Religious Diversity . Wuthnow is right, but the reason many Christians are uneasy is not because of the mere presence of non-Christians. Almost all Americans are very nice people and have no problem with the presence of Buddhists, Hindus, or even (with understandable qualifications) Muslims. What makes Christians uneasy is that the ideologues of multiculturalism and pseudo-pluralism use even a modest degree of religious diversity to marginalize or exclude the reality of an overwhelmingly Christian society. For instance, the Children’s Museum here in Manhattan has major celebrations of Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and Jewish festivals, but nothing for Christmas or Easter. And, of course, the exclusion of Christian observances or even references proceeds apace in many public schools. Christians are generally very welcoming of others, but they understandably resent being made to feel like strangers in their own country. Wuthnow follows a conventional line in depicting attitudes toward religious truth. There are the very tolerant Christian "inclusivists" who are really, really nice. Then there are the "exclusivists" who emphasize doctrine and think the difference between Christian and non-Christian religion makes a real difference. Finally, there are the "spiritual shoppers" who pick and choose from among religions. What this familiar but misleading approach overlooks is that a strong case can be made that Christians are tolerant because tolerance¯as in love of neighbor¯is required by Christian doctrine. Permit me to say it again: Christians do not kill people over disagreements about the will of God, because we agree that it is the will of God that we not kill people over disagreements about the will of God. What is so hard to understand about that?

There was Unitarianism, and then there was Universalism, and now there is "Universism." The last is the project of Ford Vox, an Alabama medical student who claims to have recruited eight thousand atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers who believe "there are no universal religious truths and that the meaning of existence must be determined by each individual." Why did it take so long for somebody to think of that? Vox calls the movement "neo-deist." In the 1930s there were the neo-orthodox, then came the neo-evangelicals, then, a couple of decades later, the neo-conservatives, and now the neo-deists. You don’t see something sinister afoot? Just connect the dots.

Show 0 comments



Filter Web Exclusive Articles

Related Articles