A Private and Public Faith

A Private and Public Faith

A Private and Public Faith

A Private and Public Faith

Excerpt

This is a tract. It consists of four essays about the status of religion in contemporary American society and about the condition of the churches of American Protestantism.

It is a tract, which means that it is polemical. It invites argument and controversy, not, however, for the sake of mere dispute, nor because of any overconfidence on my part in the observations made in the essays, but because of conviction that religion is, in principle, not only a very private matter but also a public issue, and because of conviction that the health and eventual maturity of the churches of American Protestantism depend upon getting some issues stated openly and discussed widely--by both clergy and laity and by the unchurched public as well.

It is a tract, which also means that it is in some degree a merely personal statement, based upon my own experiences and observations as a layman. I speak as a member of one of the churches, and as one who has had some glimpses of other churches in ecumenical activities and in other ways, but still as one without any specific vested interest in the enterprise of the churches, any of the churches, in America. That is to say, my livelihood does not depend upon the popularity or prosperity or good reputation of religion in any of its forms. My only interest in the subject--in the content and integrity of religion and of the churches--is not my livelihood, but my life. I care about the subject only insofar as it addresses my own life significantly, that is, at the level of my work as a lawyer and my participation in politics and my personal and private life. It is only if that is so that it becomes believable to me that the subject of religion bears significantly upon the lives and experiences of other men, and, therefore, of course, upon the relationships in which other men and I are exposed to each other both personally and in society.

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