Wednesday, November 15, 2006


I have had occasion before to praise CrossCurrents, the journal of the Association for Religion & Intellectual Life. The latest issue (Fall 2006) is on the theme of Religious Language: Its Uses and Misuses [pictured]. Charles Henderson kindly gave permission for Ekklesia to reproduce a fine and challenging editorial by Catherine Madsen - which we've titled Learning to converse like grown-ups. This is where she ends up, but it is worth reading the whole piece - especially for those of us involved in contestations about theology and politics, faith and reason:

One of the few legitimate uses of religious language, surely, is to bring everyone along beyond the emotional age of fifteen. In the end, there are things you don't do even if you have been insulted; you don't do them because nothing is worth the kind of instability it would cause to your own equilibrium and to the world's. One of the marks of adult thinking is the recognition that things can get very much worse.

To grow up politically is to understand that there are other points of view, and that you cannot erase them; that there are no shortcuts to respect, and that one must earn one's dignity; that our obligation to our fellow humans is to make our own point of view not unassailable but intelligible. What do you want so badly that you have to develop an impenetrable and threatening rhetoric to talk about it, or blow yourself and the bystanders to bloody shreds rather than ask for it sanely?

[P]ainstaking thinkers of all cultures know each other intuitively across the boundaries of opposition. Totalitarians do not like them; indeed they are always at risk from the totalitarians in their own culture as well as those in the enemy's. In spite of this—or because of it—they are determined to construct a trustworthy language, a language dense and durable enough to resist the corruptions of politics. That language, if any, is religious. We will be lucky if it ever finds its way into prayer.

Subscription details for CrossCurrents are here, by the way. ARIL is a not-for-profit organization located at 475 Riverside Drive in New York City, USA.

Comment on this post: FaithInSociety

No comments: