Monday, December 11, 2006


Two unhelpful approaches are dominating debates about the role of faith in public life right now. One is the increasingly assertive voice of organised religion defending its privileges and questioning cultural freedom – everything from what plays we should watch to who ‘owns’ Christmas. The other resides in the anxious criticism of many ‘cultured despisers’, who see public religious expression only as a problem to be contained.

Ironically, these opposing approaches do not cancel each other out, they egg each other on. The more religious communities try to assert themselves in controlling ways, the more strident secularist voices become. Likewise, when non-religious advocates say that faith should be abolished from the public square, it only increases the sense of grievance and anger among some religious people.

This is a deeply unproductive antagonism. Rather than enriching public life with a range of perspectives, we are in danger of retrenching further into “competitive grievances”, a war of position between vested interests trying to assert themselves through a narrow interpretation of their own self-understanding.

But there is another way. Ekklesia has been arguing for some time that it is possible for both the religiously committed and for advocates of a plural, secular society to find a place of mutual accommodation. We don’t have to choose one ‘camp’ over the other. We can be in both. Continued. [Graphic courtesy of LICC's secular-sacred divide debate page]

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