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Right Alliances: Proper Ecumenicism

Robert P. George

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The fact that Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox Christians are able to come together as we do tonight, in a spirit of fellowship and good will, is a tribute to our nation and to its great tradition of religious pluralism. Of course, it has taken us some time, we Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox Christians, to get to this point.

There are people in this room who can remember a time when hostility and mutual suspicion across the lines of religious division was very much the order of the day. My dear friend Hadley Arkes of Amherst College talks about growing up in the 1950s in a neighborhood of Chicago so rife with religious prejudice that when a Unitarian family moved into the neighborhood the Ku Klux Klan showed up to burn a question mark on the lawn. Thank goodness that sort of hostility and mutual suspicion has disappeared.

One thing seemed certain back in those days: The ecumenical action would be on the left wing of the various religious communities, not on the right. Traditional Catholics, conservative Protestants, and orthodox Jews were viewed as part of the problem, not part of the solution. After all, interfaith dialogue would require flexibility, openness, tolerance--virtues of the religious and sociopolitical left, it was supposed in those days, not the right. Indeed, the alleged rigidity, dogmatism, and authoritarianism of conservative religious believers would, it was thought, make them obstacles to what was known as "the dialogical enterprise."

Ecumenism would have to proceed despite anticipated conservative resistance. Then came the culture war.

Read the entire article on the Touchstone Magazine website.

Posted: 11/16/04



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