I am an avid listener to radio podcasts such as Speaking of Faith and Interfaith Voices. I learn a great deal from their interviews with religious leaders, theologians, and scientists with a deep interest in spirituality. Yet, I wish they would broaden their scope.
It is comforting to have Krista Tippett interview a Moslem cleric who insists that terror done in the name of Allah perverts Islam, which is really a religion of peace. Yet it is also less than satisfying. What would she say to a believer in terror as a legitimate tactic against the Great Satan?
I enjoy listening to her speak with a scholar of Judaism who reminds me of how deep the stories of Exodus are, yet I long for her to confront an ultra–orthodox Jew who thinks that woman are unclean and Gentiles lack higher souls.
Why should we assume that the liberal end of the religious spectrum is truer than the ultra¬–conservative end?
I am on my way to a conference on religion and the environment. Speaker after speaker will step up the podium to recite some version of “My religion loves the earth.” Do I really need to pollute the atmosphere with jet fuel to hear this? Do I really learn anything from “we love the earth” pabulum? [So why am I going? Because these are my friends and I love them and wish to be supportive. And, besides, American Airlines was flying to LAX with or without me.]
I want to talk with a scholar who says, “The earth is ours to exploit as we wish.” At least then I would have something to talk about.
Interfaith gatherings are too nice. Even when we really think the other person is going to hell for his or her beliefs, we refrain from saying so. If religion was really as kind and enlightened as interfaith conferences make them sound, the world would be a much better place for all living things.
I am beginning to suspect that religious liberals like myself are cowards. We shill for our respective faiths rather than confront them. I only hope someone on the panel will speak the whole truth and model an honest assessment of their religion and how it is lived. I can assure you it won’t be me.