"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Building, not Burning, Bridges between Faiths

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.
This “Serenity Prayer” as it is popularly called, is generally attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, one of America’s most distinguished theologians. There is some doubt over the exact history of the prayer, when and where and why it first appeared. Reinhold himself wrote, in the January, 1950 copy of Grapevine, that the prayer "may have been spooking around for years, even centuries, but I don't think so. I honestly do believe that I wrote it myself."
In its Christian prayer form, quoted in The New York Times Book Review, for August 13, 1950, p. 19, it reads as follows:
“O God and Heavenly Father, Grant to us the serenity of mind to accept that which cannot be changed; courage to change that which can be changed, and wisdom to know the one from the other, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”

Now Niebuhr’s great nephew, Gustav Niebuhr, Associate Professor of Religion and the Media, has written an excellent book, Beyond Tolerance: How People across America are Building Bridges Between Faiths.

To quote from the back cover “blurb”: At a time when religious conflict seems to dominate the media, Gustav Niebuhr travelled across America to find people- Buddhists, Catholics, Jews, Baptists, Muslims, Episcopalians – who are all reaching out to find common ground between their faiths.”
And what he found gives us all hope, “a boost of much needed optimism.”

And this is not just about America. The issue is global and the message throughout the book, and the methods used through the different inter-religious organizations, (1000 across America in 2004 and rising), many of which he describes, are of interest and relevance to us all.

“This is such an interesting, well- researched and important book on such a vital topic; it always saddens me that gems such as this seem to command so little interest as compared with the mass of best selling trivia so widely available. We should all care more about the serious issues that are going to affect the future of our families and our world… This should be compulsory reading and on the book- shelf of all those who have an interest in furthering peaceful relationship between faiths, for the building of a healed and better world for us all.” 

This last paragraph is from my full review that can be read at Amazon.com as well as at Amazon.co.uk. Do read the book, whatever your faith or indeed if you have no faith. Despite the dreams of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and others, denouncing religion is as futile as King Canute trying to stop the encroaching waves. Far better to forge understanding and respect, beyond mere tolerance.

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