The links throughout this blog post were selected as worthy of engaging on their own merits. However, rather than presenting separate threads in a weekly list of interesting links, they have been woven together into a thoughtful tapestry which highlights insights and connections so that together the links and the post enhance and support one another. Welcome to Good Links. -Ed.
I once wrote that while the Great Reformation led opposing followers of Christ to literally kill one another, we have at least limited ourselves to violent language during our own reformation which some have called the Great Emergence. But, focusing only on my Christian context is too small a thing. I wasn’t thinking broadly enough. We actually are killing one another--through war in astonishing numbers and through terrorism at an accelerating rate.
Some point to mass casualties and spreading violence as evidence that a reformation is required. The specifics of this call to reformation vary widely from inspiring 'moderates' to become reformists and engage in reinterpreting religious texts to delegitimizing the religious motivation of extremists, to even erasing the very idea of God. However, these responses miss the true significance of fundamentalism and religious violence.
As during the Great Reformation, the current retrenchment into fundamentalism and the proliferation of violent extremists is a reaction against and a revelation of reformation which is already in progress. Reformations occur as current authority is brought into question by scientific revolution, sociological disruption, political upheaval, philosophical bombshells, and technological surges. All of these spheres have undergone meteoric transformations around the globe in just the last century or two. As a result, not only Christians but religious believers and nonbelievers of all types have been unmoored and we are grasping at the void for new anchors of authority.
All of the proposed reformations and more are already in progress and, far from being the cure, they are a catalyst for increasing fundamentalist extremism. Fear of the unknown causes many to cling ever more tightly to the disintegrating sources of traditional authority and kick against the pricks with rhetoric and acts of violence. What then is the cure?
Given the complexity of the situation, there is no single cure. However, Reza Aslan echoes the wisdom that perfect love drives out fear when he suggests, “the key to all of this is relationships.” When we realize that people from multiple religious faiths, and people with no faith at all share identical values, similar struggles, common hopes, and complementary aspirations, not only have we alleviated our sense of unmoored isolation but the communities that emerge might even help us find new sources of shared authority.
In his recent TED talk, Aziz Abu Sarah suggests a related though admittedly unusual approach to peace-making: Be a tourist. Interestingly, Samir Selmanović, an Adventist pastor in New York City, is offering similar immersion tours in a religious context. Or, if tourism is not your thing, each of us can at least follow William Johnsson’s advice at the close of his Sabbath sermon at the 2014 Spectrum/AF conference to befriend someone from another religion, “Not just a casual acquaintance but to get to know them at the deep level of our shared humanity.”
Brenton Reading is a pediatric interventional radiologist practicing at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6598