Here is what the latest Gallup polling on religious attitudes tells us:
Most Christians want better relations between Christianity and Islam but believe most Muslims don’t. Most Muslims want better relations but believe most Christians don’t. Most Americans think most Muslims do not accept other religions. Actually most Muslims say they want greater and not lesser interaction between religions.
Reading that reminded me of the first stanza in William Stafford’s poem, “A Ritual to Read to Each Other”
If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.
One hundred years ago, the great African American scholar W.E.B. DuBois famously said that “the problem of the twentieth century will be the problem of the color line”
Most people assumed that the color line divided black and white. But Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came around 60 years later and changed the paradigm. He suggested that the real dividing line wasn’t between black and white, but between those who wanted to live together as brothers and those who wanted to perish together as fools.
I believe the 21st century will be dominated by the question of the faith line.
Our first and most important challenge is to recognize that the faith line does not divide Muslims and Christians, Hindus and Buddhists or secularists from the faithful.
The faith line separates religious totalitarians and religious pluralists.
Religious totalitarians want a society where their group dominates and everyone else suffocates.
Religious pluralists want a society where people from different backgrounds live in equal dignity and mutual loyalty.
These recent Gallup poll numbers tell us what we already know: that the pluralists are in the majority, and yet the totalitarians have succeeded in convincing us to be afraid of each other.
Which brings up the second challenge of the faith line: for those of us in the majority to stand up for our pluralist vision, to tell our story, to put the extremists back in their place: on the extremes.
“Pluralism is an intentional commitment that is imprinted through action. It requires deliberate engagement with difference, outspoken loyalty to others, and proactive protection in the breach. You have to choose to step off the faith line onto the side of pluralism, and then you have to make your voice heard.”