The trouble is the “Discover what we share” line gives a very cosy view of inter-faith relations. And it tends to paper over the cracks of what is equally important -- that is, what makes them different. So there was no mention here of (for example) the Crusades, which were raging on when a number of the lovely manuscripts on show were produced? And what about anti-semitism? Never mind what horrible things the rival strands of Christianity have done to each other. This problem came out strongly when it came to the role of women – who by and large, historically, have not done well out of any of these faiths. Apart from a couple of rich female patrons behind the manuscripts, the only place that women were really visible in the exhibition was in a trio of wedding dresses (including, bizarrely, Jemima Khan’s outfit representing Islam). The idea, I guess, was to show that women get dressed up in funny clothes to get married in all three faiths. But as one of the panellists pointed out last night, marriage is actually a very different institution in these religions: a sacrament in Christianity, for example; a contract in Judaism. You need to know that too.She concludes the post with a meditation on tolerance:
I found myself reflecting how double-edged even the most virtuous of virtues are, when it comes to conflicting religions. Take the attitude of “tolerance” that we all think we should admire. Isn’t “tolerance” just another side of the problem, I mused out loud. After all, you only show “tolerance” to religions you disagree with and don’t much like, but have magnanimously decided not to persecute. It is, in other words, an alternative version of power and control – capable of being withdrawn at any minute (“I’m not tolerating this any longer”) and inherently unstable for that.
You can’t build world religious peace on tolerance, when it’s practised by those who “know” that those they are tolerating are “wrong”. Conflicting ideas of truth and falsehood are what’s at issue here.
Or is tolerance, as another panelist objected, at least better than intolerance?
What do you think? Do you believe that tolerance is possible? Desirable? What's the alternative? Have you ever seen this bumper sticker? Can the imperative "coexist" mean something broader and more fundamental than the noun tolerance? Doesn't coexist at least make judgment irrelevant to the question of living with?
PS Since we are talking divinity again, see also this post by Nicola.