Academic journal article Journal of Ecumenical Studies

Authenticity without Demonization: Introduction to the Presentation by the Abrahamic Accord

Academic journal article Journal of Ecumenical Studies

Authenticity without Demonization: Introduction to the Presentation by the Abrahamic Accord

Article excerpt

Among the convictions that many, if not most of us, at the Fifteenth National Workshop hold in common is the belief that our world desperately needs religiously committed men and women -- persons for whom care of the widow and the orphan are more important than accumulation of material goods and ego-striving, persons who reject violence and work for peace. Religion, because it mobilizes passion rather than merely appealing to reason, is a potent force for good in a society too often under the sway of principalities and powers.(1)

Precisely because religion mobilizes passion, however, it is always susceptible to fanaticism. Tragically, religious commitments can be pathological, as both the daily paper and history provide ample evidence. We have only to bring to mind, for example, such oxymorons as "Christian" hate groups or "Christian" supremacists, who illustrate all too vividly the possibility of religious commitments that mutate into zealotry, bigotry, fascism, and violence -- what David Tracy calls the "appalling litany of murder, inquisitions, holy wars, obscurantisms, and exclusivisms."(2)

Hence, our respective communities of faith need to be clear about the sort of religious commitment they desire, lest they form persons who ground their identity as Christians or Jews in opposition to another's. Oppositional identity typically involves caricaturing the other and too frequently develops into demonizing the other. We believe that authentic religious commitments preclude both caricature and demonization, and in these presentations we will identify some of the causes and consequences of caricature and demonization. Each of us will also propose ways in which our communities might form persons for commitments that are authentic.

In order that you might follow our thought, let me provide a brief orientation to our presentations. Anthony Saldarini will begin with an analysis of the way polemics by the fledgling Christian community hardened into anti-Judaism and Antisemitism. He will suggest the imperative for Christians and Jews to know one another concretely, in all our particularity and peculiarity. …

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